31 July 2019
( a destination to journey towards)
continuing on with Patanjali
Vairagya is usually interpreted as being 'detached' about things: thoughts, feelings, events. And sadly, I have also witnessed many cases when it was practiced as a coldness, an uncaring. I found, during my spiritual odyssey, that I became more and more caring about people, all creatures, all of nature, and the environment.
Maybe we had it all wrong? Maybe the 'detachment' was supposed to be from getting involved in the internal and external chitter chatter? I would define the external chitter chatter as things that aren't helpful to our life, such as events and people that cause us angst, and other such similar things. Remember, this comes near the front of Patanjali's Sutras, so at this stage, we are not yet enlightened, we are just starting out on our spiritual journey.
As we progress, though, we do move into more and more sublime states, and a deeper, truer form of vairagya does manifest. We simply stop in increments, bit by bit, we don't get involved in things (external chitter chatter). And this is how we become discerning, which is another meaning for vairagya.
And it's also a more logical way to start off on our journey. I know that usually people get into the codes and observances that Patanjali lays out a bit further on in his first chapter, as being what we should do. Because they are the first rungs on the meditation ladder. But, in these sutras, he is telling us how to get to the sublime states, and like all journeys, there must be a beginning.
And, in this way, by learning discernment, we are unknowingly moving into allowing the spiritual energy to flow within us.
Because the four types of cognition (reason; reflection; bliss; sense of Self) follow on from vairagya and abyasa (constant practice), I feel that if we start with these, we are really giving ourselves a great gift in having a better life.
our chakras come into play, too
As we progress, our sense of conscience should increase. It is part of this journey. And, our internal chakras become stimulated. There is great wisdom contained within the chakras and the sense of right and wrong becomes a strong Knowing as we journey through them.
On our journey, we are also coming closer and closer to our Soul. The Soul vibrates in love. That deep heart based love, that eternal love which is deeper and stronger than our emotions.
These are profound clues about vairagya. A sense of right and wrong, and love. Love is an inherent part of our True Nature; it grows as we progress. And, it is intimately connected with right and wrong.
The love for oneself is important too. Doing constant practice on the four types of cognition will help our sense of self worth be strong. How do we do this? As mentioned in the previous post, when the opposite of these cognition are happening, there is something within oneself, or happening from others, which is not positive, and these are signposts to letting us know that something is not right.
a personal note
I so wish that the four cognitions and a more reasonable approach to vairagya, had been emphasised, when I first started with Patanjali. It would have made my life, and others' lives, so much better. To my concern, decades later, I watched The New Wave of spiritual aspirants jumping straight into their concepts of codes of conduct and observances, as The Way, without any real understanding and with The Dogma of the time.
To be honest, this personal note is the real reason that I am writing all of this, in the hope that it will make even just one person have an easier journey.
27 July 2019
(Maori proverb. I have chosen two today, because they are so heart based, and along the Way, along the Path, everything becomes heart based))
sutra 13: abhyasa means constant practice
sutra 14: it becomes firmly grounded when continued for a long time, with reverence, and without interruption
Why this emphasis? In all things of life, it is doing things over and over that produces results. We can all remember times in our life when this was so. And including the more difficult times. It's the same old story, doing things the same way always gets the same results.
This is one of the underlying truths of life (not just yoga). In Life, I do feel that it can work in many ways. For example, I can recall hearthbreaking times in my life when I kept trying, with deep faith in my heart, to get horrible situations to work out for the good of all. And they didn't. My placating behaviour didn't change, and the others in the situation, their behaviour didn't change. Surely I would have learnt?
As life went on, I did learn, the hard way, that if something isn't working out, then it is the wrong situation. And, it is helpful to know this. Life has a destiny for us, and although not all of it is going to be easy, part of our journey is to recognise our own 'patterns' of behaviour. Especially in regards to difficult areas of our life.
So, that's the down side of constant practice, and is certainly not what Patanjali is talking about here. But, it is a human frailty that when something isn't good for us, we keep repeating the same old, same old, stuff. But when it's good for us? Why does it suddenly get hard to do? Part of the human quirks, for sure.
When I met my first yoga teacher, I had one of the biggest shining examples of how constant practice gives such wonderful results. He was seventy-eight, did the same yoga flexibility movements, postures, breathing, kriyas, cleansing techniques, meditations, and chants. Every day. He was so amazing, and he 100% inspired me to just keep doing what is good for oneself. His results spoke for themselves.
And it's just as true for when we are doing anything in Life, when we have goals, for example.
- find out what you need to do
- if it has beneficial results, just keep doing it
- if the results aren't good? Some rethinking is needed
sutra 17 is about four types of cognition
In it's basic form , many believe it to be about the stilling of the mind. However, Patanjali is writing about deep spirituality, and this sutra is in conjunction with the description of the first state of samadhi. And just so you know, this state is not hard to achieve. It is comes about through constant practice, and in particular is first achieved in meditation.
The four types of cognition are:
- sense of Self
A good way to measure what we are doing in Life, is to be aware of how these four aspects are revealing themselves. When we are in a 'bad' situation; when we are doing the 'wrong' things for ourself or our goals; when we are pursuing the incorrect Path, these four aspects will be greatly minimalised. Who amongst us has not experienced the opposites of them at difficult times in our Life?
And the, when we are doing the 'right' things, following a more beneficial Path, we are able to:
- think more clearly (reason)
- we are able to reflect more clearly on things, and in particular, how the difficult times happened
- we are happier
- we have more Self respect
27 June 2019
Yoga in winter
We can adapt both our private practice, which is called sadhana in yoga, or classes that we teach, with the different seasons.
For the teacher, it can be quite difficult keeping halls warm enough for a yoga practice, in the colder months. So sometimes, extra care and adaption is the answer for keeping students warm in the class.
Have a system
Developing the habit of starting all classes on a reflective note, is always helpful. Why? Well, aside from anything esoteric, yoga should reduce stress. When we are anxious, or edgy, maybe our mind is racing, before we start, then we move into postures, straight away we can counteract the highly beneficial benefits of the asanas. Because they can be difficult, even quite hard, when we are stressed we are sort of working against the release of positive hormones from the asanas.
pause, and come to stillness
So, pause, and have something reflective to start the class. Anything from deep breathing to affirmations. Whatever. Just be consistent. For morning classes in winter, I like to start standing with eyes closed, hands in prayer, visualising the red sun. This is incredibly calming, and something about the red sun is so uplifting.
loosen the body
I do think that warming up the body is a good way to start poses. Moving warms our muscles, and makes it easier to do the poses. Usually I do dynamic movements to warm up, rather than holding the poses:
- shoulder joint rotations of some sort
- hip looseners
- side to side
- roll-downs to loosen the spine
- bending backwards
If these are all done standing, it's then easier to move into the warming standing poses such as
- sun salutes
- wide legged backwards and forwards bends
Think 'wide and strong' with standing poses to warm the body.
If your class can handle vinyasa, this is excellent for winter. If not, and if no sun salutes were done, then all fours postures such as
- cat versions
- mountain (down dog)
quite naturally lead to backbends lying on our abdomen, such as
- cobra. There are so many versions, and if you do some dynamically, it will keep people warm, plus backbends are naturally warming in themselves
- locust, bow, camel, as people are able
Cats, tigers, cobras, camel, bridge and fish pose are quite strong for promoting a healthy set of lungs and so I like to emphasise all of these come the colder weather, as immunity boosters.
abdominal work is also warming. Having a warm belly and a cool forehead are hallmarks of being relaxed, so at this stage we are leading into winding down our poses.
in winter, I always make all of the above the main section of the poses. As seated floor work is cooling, I don't do too much of it. Instead, I add another backbend to start to finish:
- bridge pose
- reclining butterfly. This is so good to use after bridge; it gives a sort of double-whammy for our reproductive system
- reclining spinal twist, held as a relaxation pose
(this sequence is really lovely to finish with)
seated poses: I recommend that you only do a couple of these, if any, in winter.
There are so many yoga breathing practices. I have several that I use in winter, but the main one to emphasise is bhastrika done pumping the abdomen, as this is warming. It also creates negative ions around the nostrils which serves as a barrier against colds, and if we do get a virus, it will be a lesser version.
Follow with an introverted pranayama which naturally leads to meditation. I have several that I use, but the alternate nostril breathing is always excellent, and is a natural companion breath to the bhastrika version which I mentioned. For morning through to mid-day, start with the right nostril. Staring with the left nostril is good later in the day and evening.
relaxation or meditation
If you are using visualization with these, a hint is that the moon is cooling. And we are doing warmer yoga, in winter.
Another hint: heart meditations create inner warmth
24 May 2019
Always remember the main thing to do: constant practice
We are still continuing with Patanjali's sutras, his narrative on the journey to enlightenment, what happens on the way, and everything else around it.
He talks about vairagya, which is to be used in conjunction with constant practice, abhyasa, although he is quite clear that constant practice is the more important. This is near the start of the sutras, so it's as though we are just starting out on our journey.
what does vairagya mean?
He advises us to use a faculty of mind, and the brain: vairagya. This is a word which does not exactly translate into English. It is often said to mean 'detachment', which suggest a separation from. Another translation is discernment. There are so many meanings for vairagya. It can also mean an indifference to the worldly. Not desiring worldly objects, aspects, and everything around this. And all of these meanings are where the misunderstandings arise.
There is an exalted state of vairagya, where one is not desiring, not wanting, indifferent to owning, having, wanting, material aspects and belongings. This is something which happens along the spiritual Path. The wanting just gets less and less. And yet here is Patanjali, at the beginning of our journey, telling us to not 'want'. How can we possibly do that at the beginning, when we first set out?
how can we utilise vairagya?
We can't, of course. because we are still identifying with the inner chitter chatter. because that's what we are doing when we first set out. And because Patanjali is talking about vairagya, which I'll call discernment here, it helps to remember that this is what Patanjali is actually talking about: discernment concerning the inner life in the form of vrittis, inner thoughts, inner feelings, inner reactions.
How can we do that? Patanjali does go on to dissect knowledge, patterns of thought and all other bits and pieces concerning all of this. Personally, I found all of these to be quite overwhelming, and noticed that myself, and many others, got caught up in all of this. Analysing, identifying all sorts of things. And overthinking about it all. Being stuck, mentally. Which is not what the spiritual journey, nor One's Own Life, is supposed to be about.
Now, wiser and older and much further along the path than when I first started to learn (it was only book knowledge then, I might add) about all of these things, I would say to approach all of this mind stuff differently:
- don't overthink things. We all do this, but it's something to move away from. Simply because we are happier when we let go of this tendency. Notice things, yes. We need to observe Things in Life, how things are going, where we can see that things might be headed. This is where discernment comes in
- don't get side tracked. We can waste so much time and energy doing this. If you are sure that you are on the correct Path, stay on it. If it keeps not working out, then use discernment here, move on, do something else
vairagya in it's essence
In the Higher Aspects of vairagya, one does what ever is needed to be done, without any thought of personal reward, without any thought of trying to control an outcome. It is a High Energy and Consciousness State of Being to aspire to. It is certainly attainable. Another spiritual system would call it being in a Neutral state.
non attachment to the outcome
Patanjali suggests non attachment to the outcome of something. This is what many large Ashrams have as their foundation. The aspirants there work without attachment to the outcome of their work (in theory). Well, we are all human and very few people actually manage this.
But, there is a very human reason for doing this: letting go of the attachment to the outcome. The outcome of something is often different to what we start off with believing that it will be. We can block the real outcome by putting our own perceptions, rules and regulations, onto what we believe that an outcome must be.
rather, do this
rather, do this
- keep doing what you need to do for something. Be consistent
- let go of anything that is not needed for what you are doing, for the outcome. Be discerning
9 May 2019
I thought that I would go over some of these recommendations, on this blog. The hints are hidden within the sutras, some more obvious than others. Today we shall look at constant practice, as Patanjali mentions this fairly early in his sutras.
Constant practice = abhyasa
Whatever we do in life, in order to succeed at something, we need to do it constantly. Over, and over, And over, again. This is what brings us the fruits of our labours. I so wish that people in all areas of life, understood this.
And it is one of the most important underlying messages of Patanjali's Sutras. He says that we need to become 'established in the endeavour', by constant practice. And because he mentions it so early on in his treatise, we can assume that this is because it is important.
So, in spirituality, as in everyday life, what ever we are doing in our journey to arrive at our destination, we need to do it constantly. This is not some great revelation, of course. It is also common sense. But, and this is just me, it needs to suit you.
whatever your constant practice is, it needs to suit you and what you are doing
There is no merit to be gained in practicing something that does not feel right for you, or perhaps doesn't make you feel good. As an example: I chanted two mantras, eleven times each, most mornings for twenty years. And another long mantra for ten of those years. These three didn't gel with me, but still I persisted. Because of constant practice and all that. And they were recommended by the ashram which I was associated with. A friend, however, blossomed with these same chants, as did many others.
And then about ten years ago, I learnt some Maori chants. They resonated with every part of my being. So I did these instead, and am now learning Maori language, in order to be able to say them correctly. These chants, to do with The Gods and divinity, as are the yoga chants, have given me amazing results, and very quickly.
the correct practice gives good, swift, results
This led me to remember that anything that we are constantly practicing should give immediate beneficial results. Furthermore, continually practicing what gives these good results, builds more and more on it's own foundations. The benefits and outcomes, keep increasing.
This is not rocket science. I wonder how I could have allowed myself to forget this, as it was one of my first lessons in spirituality.
When I was quite young, and had just started yoga, I met a guru called Dr Swami Gitananda, who was also a psychiatrist. He was adamant that yoga should make a person feel good. And, if that was not happening, then you were doing the wrong sort of yoga for you. This can be like a creed for success in whatever you are aiming to do in life. If it makes you feel good; if it takes you towards your goal; then it is right for you, and for what you are doing.
how to tell if your constant practice is for you
I have taken hundreds of people through regression, and deeply spiritual clairvoyant readings. One thing that showed up, over and over again, was that when we are doing what ever is in accordance with our destiny, then we have less obstacles in our Path. Conversely, when something is not the correct way for us to go, is not in our Life Path, then our way will be full of obstacles. It will be hard.
We can take this as a sign. And, how I would relate it to Patanjali's sutras, is by comparing it to the chitter chatter of the mind, and how yoga is about blocking these mind patterns. When these patterns are stilled, we experience peace, union, and Higher states of Being. So, when we are doing things, over and over, to achieve, and maintain our dreams, goals, whatever, and instead of things being good, they are fraught with difficulties, it is like being stuck in the mind mire. When things start working out, though, it is similar in a way, to the mental fluctuations calming down, and creating less problems for us.
why does Patanjali talk about abhyasa?
And now, to get back to the sutras: in what specific context is abhyasa/constant practice, referring to? It is about blocking the vrittis, the mind stuff chitter-chatter. We can never stop having thoughts. They are part of the process of life.
But, when the thoughts slow down, our brain waves are then more harmonious, and we are less affected by the problems of life. Then we have a self-healing and loving vibration predominate.
So, to sum things up: whatever we choose to do, in yoga, and in life, should improve our quality of Being, by blocking the constant pull of the vrittis, which in turn will gives us more inner freedom. The vrittis will constantly arise if whatever we are doing, is not correct for us.
Whatever we are aiming for in life, we need to have something/s that we do, over and over, constantly, to get to the fulfillment of that aim. Sometimes we have to trial several methods to find out which one works best for us:
- our situation
- our personality
- our time available
- our values
- our aim
What we chose, should be:
- easy to maintain
- fit effortlessly into our life
For, if anything is difficult, we will not be able to maintain it.
constant practice is something we DO, over and over