Raja Yoga

raja-yoga-02Exploring the roots of yoga is like digging into the earth only to find an entire underground forest, a rich system of interlinking, interwoven paths, traditions, and teachings. There is just so much there.

Among the many paths, there is one thing deeper than any path. Is somehow we all share the same underlying reality. The same love, whatever that is, that grows the flowers, and everything in this universe. That which beats our hearts and allows for this incredible experience of life. What that is, why, and how may be pondered, but that we all share this mystery is our common ground. The essence of some underlying truth. It doesn’t belong to any one school, practice, teacher or doctrine… it is simply there to be found like a diamond if you dig.

And this discovery process is the beginning of true joy and the end of suffering. Philosophy cannot produce the joy of this discovery, only lead you towards it. It is something we need to discover for ourselves in our experience. Funny enough, this is not something we seem to think is available to us in our modern lifestyle. We do not seem to consciously put it on our to-do lists, “Car wash, check. Pick-up the kids, check. Discover my true nature….  nah not today.” Instead, we seem to settle simply for symptom relief, and carry on carrying on. Maybe because as a concept it seems big or out of the ordinary. Maybe it seems like there would be too much to give up, or it just sounds weird, but it is possible to discover what we are already and the ensuing peace of that discovery. Not only possible, but ultimately it is what we are truly wanting, but didn’t know it. Every time we seek happiness, we are seeking the truth. Modern society obviously does not have the answers to our problems. Stress and depression have not been decreasing no matter how much research the academics are doing. Yoga is on the rise, but a lot of the yoga is simply exercise, and although it has an echo of what yoga really is, it doesn’t put a stop to our suffering in the ways that it could.

However there is more for us here in this lifetime. It is possible to see that we do not have to give up everything, and become beatific and wear robes in order to discover it. Right now, right here, in the middle of our messy lives, we can wake up to the sweetest thing. It is possible and it is available to anyone no matter what the circumstance. For some it comes all of a sudden, and for many it is like a slow coming to one’s senses, but either way, this fruit of what yoga was always meant to be is available. The key to unlocking the door, so to speak, is to desire it. To wake up and claim the desire to know our ultimate potential for well being in this lifetime. To not settle for any less.

This is what yoga has always really been about. It has very little to do with accomplishing complex yoga postures. Much sweeter than trying to accomplish something, it’s a letting go process. A release, an unlearning in such a way that what is already shining in you can simply come out to play. Yoga in this sense, is a goal. That is what raja (royal) yoga means. To discover the King/Queen inside that is already there. The one who knows what is best, how to move with the moment… the one who is no different than any Buddha, and never short of the mark. To discover this is the highest bliss and through the methods of yoga, we can use different kinds of practices to realize this.

Hopefully this lengthy explanation does not leave you as confused as I have been at times, trying to understand the complex root system of the many kinds of yoga. May it instead leave you inspired to explore from the array to help you in the discovery process.

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Round Trip

Full circle…

After 3 months away, I’m now back at my desk.. and for the moment, it’s bliss. Have you ever really soaked in the feeling of return? It’s so nice to come home.

I must say, now looking back, what an interesting trip that was for me, and not anything like I thought it would be. So much more in some ways. Life seems to unfold exactly as it needs to, despite our plans or ideas about it (which, of course, is the source of suffering if we are stuck to our plans). It seems to reveal precisely the things we need to see but often didn’t even know we did.

Follow your Heart

heart_hug_girl_and_butterfly-1600x900Before I even left, the trip was challenging me to drop the mind and follow the heart. Although I might say that I’m already someone who follows the heart, I’ve noticed that all the life lessons have an ever deep aspect to them. I can always deepen more into the understanding. It is precisely when I think I’ve got something down pat, life shows me the places in me that are holding out and where I can take that understanding more deeply into. It is important to never become complacent in our understanding, but to keep it fresh and on the surface and in our daily practice. There were so many things about planning this trip that made it so challenging to actually implement, that I kept finding pockets of fear and doubt in myself. The heart’s pull however, was so strong, that it helped me lean into the discomforts and really believe in myself and benevolence of life itself to see the vision through.

It’s not that we want to blindly follow the heart, as the heart is often served well when balanced with our reason, but what we usually get stumped by is a type of paralysis coming, not from reason, but fear and doubt. When we decide to go out on a limb and do something different, this will surely come up to some degree. When we truly stepped onto “the path”, one interesting thing is we begin to value the uncomfortable moments as ripe moments for our greatest evolution! They are no longer inconvenient obstacles, but instead we start to build the courage and fortitude through our yoga to lean into discomfort and realize that there is a great freedom and healing on the other side. Fear structures that were keeping us from flowing with all that life has to offer us start to fall away and we thank the heart for leading us where the mind would never dare. I had a million reasons bubbling up every minute as to why I shouldn’t go….  and was a true test of faith. Some things literally only fell into place hours before I left, but the point is, everything did fall into place. And it was amazing.

Just how many people hesitate to take a step forward or make a change because the fear thoughts in the mind I wonder. I love how the deeper practices of yoga help us to reconnect with our hearts and help us to build the connection. We learn to trust ourselves in a really deep way.

See the World

20160212_210124Another beautiful thing about traveling is to see a bigger world. Not necessarily just to see one place or another, or that one place is better or worse than another, but moreso to just step out and see that there is a bigger world out there than what we experience on a day to day basis. In our media driven culture, we sometimes get a false sense of being worldly, but actually stepping into another culture is very, very different than learning about it through television or the internet. Although I’ve seen countless documentaries, foreign films, nature programs, etc, it wasn’t until I stepped off the plane, and the tropical air actually touched my skin that I was immediately transported back to my trip to India in 1995. It really surprised me actually. I have thought and talked about that trip a thousand times, but it wasn’t until I was in Thailand that I actually remembered what it felt like to be in Asia.

I’m sure each continent has its signature feeling that would be hard to describe. How many people, I wonder, hesitate to travel due to fear of the unknown. We live in fearful times, and this is exacerbated by the media machine warning us of dangers at every turn. People warning me of amazing things left, right, and center before I left, and of course, with intelligence and reasonable concern about some of the challenges that life can present, as well as a little research into cultural norms, I was able to smile and thank people for their concern and immediately release their fear. I knew it was coming from kindness, but if we really just trusted ourselves and each other, we wouldn’t worry so much. And furthermore, if I went to Thailand with well-intentioned fear, I would be seeing through those lenses, affecting not only what I saw, but also probably the events of my trip.

I don’t always talk about my personal history, but my confidence has been built one step at a time, by actually doing things and going different places. I’ve learned that life is trustworthy, and that there is a common ground in all of us that ultimately has a basic goodness. That underneath all of our differences, we are actually more the same than we realize. It was so weird actually, on my flight home, in the Tokyo airport, I was given a glimpse where I could actually see how it was not metaphorically, but truly the same thing looking out through everyone’s eyes. It’s not something we can actually understand truly until we see it for ourselves, and at that moment we realize, that people just want to be happy. When we see this deeply, it changes our experience while traveling.

Practice

20160206_085310I am always learning more about what Yoga practice truly is. It’s amazing that it is not simply straight forward, but evolves over time. There is, on the surface, the basic foundational practice of keeping the body well-oiled and as pleasant a vehicle as possible for the journey, as well as the practices of getting to know the mind and learning how to release thoughts and beliefs. The deeper practices seem to be variations of this theme, but to go blindly into the deeper practices may simply indicate a lack of clarity in the goal. I’ve come to see that “the goal” is something that reveals itself evermore clearly as we walk the path, and through this clarity our relationship to practice tends to evolve. I met David 16 years ago, and he truly opened my mind to a whole new world. It was beyond amazing to witness how he is still going strong and doing this for people to this day. I loved seeing him again and to experience his fantastic classes. He is a dedicated yogi, a master in his own right, an amazing teacher, and a mystery. To sit beside him, one’s own mind goes quiet. This is amazing to experience. And still, going to Thailand was further cultivating my own personal relationship to my practice, and the revelation of what yoga truly is, in direct and indirect ways. It was Adyashanti that once counselled that one should “never abdicate one’s own authority”, and with that I say we can be a true yogi, for the path of the yogi is to find out for oneself. We need to be able to approach any teaching and determine for ourselves what works, if it is working, and where it is bringing us.

Chakra Yoga is mysterious, complex, comprehensive, fun, mind-blowing, and evolutionary. It addresses the human being on every possible level of experience. After revisiting David and the Chakra Yoga Center, I was able to see that I’ve been true to the teachings over the years. It was also an opportunity to ask questions and refine my understanding and come back with even more. It was really surprising to me, that although I went there to learn more–and there is always more to learn–I ended up not only teaching the level 1 Chakra Yoga teacher training alongside David, I was teaching the teacher trainers that he had hired. It simply happened as a natural progression, but it was definitely a surprise. I thought I went there to learn about Chakra Yoga, but what life wanted was to show me more about myself. I tend to feel like the eternal student, so to be honoured in such a way was humbling, rewarding, and propelling for all that Yogaheart has yet to offer. My experience astounded me actually, from the amazing responses of the level 1 students to my teaching, to David inviting me back next year, to being offered a position to lead teacher training in a completely different school in Thailand, to invitations and encouragement to teach in Costa Rica, India, California, New Zealand and more…   I went from having some ideas of how I wanted to develop my personal practice to being shown that I am now stepping into the international forum. As I said, this has been a truly humbling journey.

So…

20160320_124150_HDRLet’s see where this personal practice goes! I feel excitement about all the potentials that have arisen, but if you are feeling what I’m feeling as I write this… you might be thinking, “what about Nova Scotia?” One thing I know, having lived in most provinces, having traveled the US, Europe, India, and now Thailand, Nova Scotia is a very special place. Every place has its challenges for sure, but Nova Scotia has a depth, beauty, and vastness that I like to call home. So let’s just see where it goes, we don’t even really know 5 minutes from now, so let’s trust the flow. Life is taking us exactly where we need to go, especially when we can’t see it.

Thank you for taking time to tune in to this trip, full circle. Somehow, we are all in this together you know, and your happiness is my happiness, your challenges are mine too. Let’s keep growing together one breath at a time.

Love,
Mandee xo

 

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Every Morning, A New Arrival

Rumi’s poem “The Guesthouse” encourages us to be good hosts to ourselves and whatever is arising in our experience.

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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