Fly Your Prayers

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Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, the list goes on. So much darkness all around. There is too much loss, one too many people displaced, everywhere there is suffering. And from practically everywhere, too, at least a week ago, after the attack on Paris, prayers were launched via hashtags towards the darkest places on the planet at that moment. A week on and social media is now abuzz with the backlash from all sides: criticism and fear-mongering.

What to do now? Where do we all go from here? Incredibly big questions for incredibly complex problems, which have a whole lot of history that needs, first, understanding, and then careful and steady undoing. What happens now to all these prayers?

Over the months here in San Francisco, I have had the great opportunity to explore the ashtanga practice and intention-making as medicine with some amazing teachers. There is a great healing energy that comes with declaring one’s clear and simple prayer. It is personal, our prayers are our own but they are also universal. Your prayer for peace and happiness and love–guess what, everyone wants that too! We forget that, ultimately, we want and deserve the same things, yet we continue to build walls of separation–personal and physical and political boundaries.

When we come to our mats and we practice, we open with a mantra. In the western yoga community, there’s a lot of sensitivity about what that is. For me, it’s a prayer. The essence of this prayer honors the great process of being led from darkness to light. We sound this out and then we practice. We plant this sound, this seed, into our body and then we nourish it with our breath, our movement and our attention. And whoever has been really practicing knows that this prayer becomes alive, it grows in the body and blooms in one’s life.

When we practice, we fly our prayer. It grows wings and it soars.

It’s really good to see people express their prayers, their hopes, even their admonishments during these difficult times because it shows that we as a community of human beings acknowledge that the world should not be like this. But how do we now live in these prayers, how do we breathe life into them, and walk into them with grace, how do we take these hashtags and sounds and ideas and bring them into a living practice that can support substantial change?

I feel personally challenged by this, how can I be this prayer, for myself as much as for everyone else.  I know it will look different for me in my life as it will for someone else. But I hope that we all start to do so, to really live in these prayers.

I want to close with a poem from Rumi that a friend sent a couple of days ago just as I was starting to write this blog. These questions are very old and perhaps we should defer to wisdom of the Sufi poet:

What will our children do in the morning?
Will they wake with their hurts wanting to play, the way wings should?

Will they have dreamed the needed flights and gathered the strength from the planets that all man and woman need to balance the wonderful charms of the earth?

So that her power and beauty does not make us forget our own.

I know all about the ways of the heart-how it wants to be alive.

Love so needs to love that it will endure almost anything, even abuse, just to flicker for a moment. But the sky’s mouth is kind, its song will never hurt you, for I sing those words.

What will the children do in the morning if they do not see us fly?

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Mysore Sunday, Final Session

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So much of my most precious interactions happen on a rubber mat with students while teaching in a Mysore space. Where else do you get to meet someone in this way, slowly over time, whilst they quietly cook in the juices of their own humanity, turning over with each deliberate breath and movement the fluctuations of the mind and heart.

It’s like getting to know someone without any context other than what plays out in the half-hour, hour, hour and forty-five minutes that one practices. Story-telling is minimized, so is the drama. The body is so intelligent. The practice is so precise. I love meeting in this way. It is so raw and real… and honest.

As a mysore teacher, the challenge is to meet as honestly as well. To cut out the superfluous, the desire to people please, the need to teach, so that the practice can do it’s thing. I often have to remind myself that the best thing that I can do is to get out of the way. The opposite is also true, when it arrises; it’s important to recognize when it’s a good time to get involved, when support is necessary.

Meeting in this way, in mysore-style classes, it is looking into a mirror and seeing who you are at that one moment. Sometimes, what I see is glorious. Other times, I see that I am one hot mess. All of it is ok and also, none of it matters. By meeting, we submit to an alchemical process, a world of change.

It has been incredibly special to lead the Mysore Sunday classes here in Mysore SF twice a month. Please come to class, I love to meet with you. I will also continue to assist Magnolia Zuniga in Mysore SF until December 10, 2015 before heading back to Asia to prepare to study with my own teacher in Mysore, India.

Shine On: Happy Diwali!

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Be Light. Happy Diwali!

Today is one of my favorite festivals in India. Well, except, when I am, actually in India–then it’s a little harrowing, very loud, and driving a scooter across town is akin to traveling across war zones as one needs to weave deftly around pockets of merry-making firework-obsessed celebrants making noise and explosions very few meters from each other.

Diwali is the Festival of Lights. It is a reminder than even in the darkness of the new moon today, that each of us is an oil lamp, that we each have a role of lighting each other’s path.

It has been an amazing period of time for me here in San Francisco. Amazing for all of the gifts, but likewise so were all the challenges. Being stationary for the last 7 months has given me a chance to really sit with myself and stand in my own life–and it was at the darkest stages where I saw the most light. That is the relationship between light and dark, the great common sense between the duality of it.

I am grateful to all those night lights, bright and shiny human beings, who I feel incredibly blessed to know. I also know that in these exchanges, I have been the same, a little light that has helps in the dark.

I like to think that at some point, I should be able to see my own light all the time. Perhaps when that happens, the path disappears and there isn’t anywhere else to go. Until then, let’s tend those oil lamps, celebrating not just the lights all around us, but that deep internal glow that never gets extinguished. Shine on, everyone!

Happy New Moon, as well as Diwali, no class at Mysore SF today. Take rest. See everyone back on the mat on Thursday. 

Share The Love Sunday

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#TeachForSitaRam
Mysore Sunday
November 8, 8-10am

This Mysrore Sunday, I will be teaching class for the benefit of a young man from Mysore named Sita Ram who has suffered an unfortunate accident with an exploding mobile phone. He will never completely recover from his injuries, but money raised through this class will help him as he adapts to a new way of life.

There are so many causes, so much tragedy in the world, you might ask, what makes this different or special? My answer is “not much,” suffering is pretty universal. We all have to roll with the punches and get on with it–that work, ultimately, it’s a solitary one, but it helps to know that we aren’t alone.

Our yoga practice calls us to cultivate one-pointed attention, it asks us to stop being distracted, to draw our energy inwards. How many times has our drishti (point of focus) drifted, and somehow, sometimes by someone, we are reminded to mind our own business?! We so often look beyond because we’re so afraid of looking close.

Over the last few months, I have been focused on self-love. Being one so used to giving energy away, this came with certain challenges. It is tough work reconciling that some things are meant for us and other things aren’t, it is harder to recognize that we are not just enough the way we are, but really ample and full.

These days, I feel incredibly blessed and grateful. Having taken time to nourish myself, I feel my cup very, very full—and it is in such instances that it feels most right to share our energy and blessings with others who may be in greater need of love and attention.  If you would like to join me, class is at 8-10am on Sunday. All with established ashtanga practices are welcome.

You are welcome to make a donation even if you don’t make it to class. Contact me for details kaz.castillo@gmail.com. Thank you.

Into the Horizon

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We do not always know where we are going and we certainly don’t know where we’ll end up, but we look out anyway into the horizon, our eyes trying to make out that fine line between the knowable world and that which is totally uncertain. The meeting of the two can inspire so many feelings: anxiety, sorrow, trepidation, joy, excitement…

We want to know if swimming into the ocean of life, hitting against its backwater, navigating its swells, we want to know that it’s worth it, that there’s going to be something on the other side.

In our practice and with life, we are told not to reach so much, that our task is to simply be in the present moment. And, still, we can’t help but to look out beyond the now, often wanting to quantify the great unknown. We want to know that practice, that doing our thing, that living our lives will be worth it–in the end. So fixated at the big what next, we often fail to see what is before us: a whole ocean of life, teeming with possibility, and that there is actually enough mystery here to keep us busy. There is just so much, so much to explore, to learn, so much depth to dive into, to experience.

I often pray these days that I simply enjoy all that is in front of me, that I enjoy practice for what it is, not what it can be, that I savor living life for the sake of simply living it, to recognize its vast greatness, rather than overlooking it.

PHOTO: Mural in Mission District, San Francisco. Teaching at Mysore SF throughout November. http://www.mysoresf.com