The Distance

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Sometimes, we see only what is directly in front of us. Rarely do we see the entire picture clearly. 

Many times, we see faintly the shapes and shades ahead. It is obscure and hard to grasp. But we know that something is there awaiting discovery, we just need to turn the corner, get past the horizon. 

At best, we feel excited and hopeful about the prospects. Although, more often than not, what we do not know fills us with fear or uncertainly. 

It is like this in life. It is like this in practice. 

Just keep on walking the path, keep on practicing, keep on living. Glance out if you must, let the eyes seek out the distance for familiar landmarks or important signposts to keep you on the right track, but, then, bring them back into the moment. One day, everything will become more apparent. 

PHOTO: Dashoor “Bent” Pyramid in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. I am happy to announce that I will be returning to Egypt in October and November to lead several yoga retreats with various partners who I enjoyed working with last year. Egypt has been one of the big surprises of my life. It will be my third trip there within a year. For those interested in coming on retreat with me in Egypt, please be on the look out for retreat announcements.

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Lila, Play of Practice

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Looking at the photos above, one cannot escape the physicality of the ashtanga practice. Yes, our bodies take shapes in space. Yes, we move up and down the mat, tumbling back and hopping forward. It can look acrobatic. It can look a bit–at times, a lot–like the play of a contortionist. 

And at times, we get stuck in this play, in what appears like a sportive drama. We get preoccupied with the form, in what the asana looks like, instead of what it feels like. But this too is a part of the “lila”– in Sanskrit, “lila” is used to (depending on the tradition) describe the play between the Divine and the human world, the Absolute consciousness and “prakriti” or nature. And this play exists for our benefit, for our own awakening, so that we may go beyond the drama, that we may go beyond the physical. 

We do not practice sport. In Mysore, India, when I myself study, our teacher often reminds us, sometimes reprimands us! that practice is our “sadhana.” It is a “spiritual practice.”

And that all this play, this lila will lead us to remembering–to remembering who we are; that we are Conscious Soul-Full beings.

PHOTO: Led Primary two Fridays ago here in Spirit Mysore Osaka. Spirit students embodying that beautiful play between the physical practice and deep personal work that inevitably happens along with it.

Found in Translation: Surrender

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Osaka, Japan. More than one month down, less than one month to go.

Being in Japan, wandering the streets, unable to access the overabundance of information, which translates into–for a foreigner like myself, anyway–white noise, reminds me of Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation.” How he navigates Tokyo with a charming sort of disconnect.

Despite the language barrier, teaching here, reminds me how universal the language of yoga is. And thank goodness, because my embarrassingly rudimentary Japanese just barely includes instructions on breath and straightening knees.

My moments of Lost In Translation, well, they’re not too bad. If anything, they’ve been great opportunities for greater understanding .

Two weeks ago, during Satsang, we looked at the word “surrender”–quite possibly one of the most overused and often misunderstood words that pours forth from the mouths of yoga teachers. I admit, I am a fan of this word! It works so well at capturing the spirit of letting go, of relaxing into the moment.

In Japan, however, the word doesn’t translate so well.

Telling a Japanese student to surrender can be a little confusing, especially when it translates to “kofuku” or “to give up fighting.” Translated thus, surrendering seems like a strange suggestion. Give up?! But why?!

Another word, I’ve been told, that fits better is “yutaneru,” which means “to let it go.” In the yoga context it is the letting go of our tension and of our expectations and attachments; it is allowing for flow.

In Satsang that Friday, I explained that surrendering is letting go of the ideas and the patterns that do not serve us–that we give up, not a fight, but all the things that limit us, that keep us from expanding.

Truth: understanding surrender isn’t easy for any culture, for any person. We all have our holding patterns. It hasn’t been easy for me personally either. Surrendering is a constant challenge; and learning it has been at the core of my own yoga practice and life journey. Maybe that’s why student/teachers like myself keep going back to it. We know that’s what needs to be done, we also know that it’s pretty damn hard to really do it. We are all just learning.

I always remind myself that surrendering (like yoga) is a process. It’s not about achieving an end goal, but just allowing ourselves to embody the action, allowing ourselves to let go little by little and to flow more and more. Like Guruji said, “Practice, practice all is coming.”


Grateful for the lessons in surrender here in Japan. Thank you to teacher and fab assistant Tomomi Takeuchi for sharing her spot-on translation of “surrender” in Japanese. 

PHOTO: Gion Matsuri, Kyoto, Japan.

Sky Is the Limit

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Often, we look at practice as a physical form. We are in the body. We perceive ourselves in both our expanding abilities and our physical limits.

We get stuck, more often than not, in the asana and we identify with the boundaries of our body. We frustrate ourselves. And that “stuckness” spreads into our mind and into our hearts.

We forget that the real challenge is not within the body but to go beyond the body. That true expansion comes through self-compassion, love and acceptance, by learning that the so-called limits of the body are lessons for the soul and the spirit. That going deep within is as much a journey of expanding outside ourselves, breaking down all the walls of separation. 

Like the photo above, the practice is seeing beyond the limits. It is seeing the sky that goes on and on and on…and being struck by the wonder and miracle of it as it transforms dramatically moment to moment.

PHOTO: Sunsets, a beautiful metaphor of the unending cycle that is life and practice, always amazes me. Kyoto, Japan. 

Friday Spirit Satsang: Surrender

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We often say the word “surrender” in the yoga world. Surrender to the practice. Surrender to your teacher. Surrender to your mat.

Is it to throw oneself into practice or to relax deeply? Is it to give up or to offer? How does this surrender help our practice?

July 25, Friday Led Primary at Spirit Yoga Osaka (6:45am) will be followed by Satsang. We will continue to work on chanting in Sanskrit. But our topic of discussion will be the Art of Surrender. 

“Satsang” – “Sat” means truth, while “sangha” means gathering. Satsang is a gathering of people seeking and sharing truth. 

PHOTO: Last Friday’s led primary class. A room full of yogic warriors.  

— 

ヨガ界ではよく「降伏」という言葉が使われます。「練習に降伏する」、「先生に降伏する」、「マットに降伏する」。

 

これらは練習に没頭するということでしょうか?それとも深いリラクゼーションのことを意味しているのでしょうか?これらはあきらめるということでしょうか?それとも自分を捧げるということでしょうか?この「降伏」は私達の練習にどのように役立っているのでしょうか?

 

7月25日の金曜日6:45よりSpirit Yogaにてレッドプライマリーのあとサットサングを行います。サンスクリットでのチャンティングを引き続きやっていきましょう。明日のお話のトピックは「降伏」のテクニックについてです。

 

 

 

サットサング: 

 

サットは真実を意味し、サンガは集まりを意味します。つまりサットサングとは真実の分かち合いを求めている人達の集まりです。

 

 

 

写真は先週の金曜日のレッドプライマリークラスの様子です。ヨギックウォリアーズでいっぱいですね!

 

 

 

When Quiet Comes

 

Morning Monks. Demachiyagi, Kyoto, Japan.

Morning Monks. Demachiyanagi, Kyoto, Japan.

When quiet comes, do not run.
Do not fidget, obsessively filling
the vacuous spaces with this,
with that. None of it matters.
Come into the quiet, though
the world around you continues
its daily churning.
Come into the quiet, though
it pains you with a different
kind of loudness.
Come into the quiet, willingly fold
your hands, lower your head,
look softly on the path before you
and walk on. This too is a gift.
Learn to accept it graciously.

***

When we’re lucky, practice brings us to a stillness that is precious. We finish practice and lay down and surrender. We appreciate it, resting deeply in its embrace for some five, ten or fifteen minutes. And then, we scramble to get up, get dressed so we can jump through the hoops of our daily lives, some we are duty bound to go through but others are scenarios and dramas that we ourselves create. And then we crave for the next quiet moment but when it comes, we hardly allow ourselves to truly feel it, to truly sink into it.

This is so strange. We crave it, sometimes working so hard to attain it, and, yet, when it’s there, we work even harder to ignore it or avoid it. We should learn to enjoy our moments of peace, of rest, of quiet, forming a new healthy relationship with stillness.