In the desert, Spring is special as it is our pause before the extreme heat. If we are mindful, we make the most of these mild days. We enjoy the ability to cease heating and/or cooling our homes, cars, offices. We sleep with the windows open. We enjoy the wild flowers.
When considering what to share from my practice this month, the idea of pace came to mind as a relevant theme.
As I tried to write about it, it became overly complex. So I am going back to basics and simply sharing some personal thoughts that I hope are useful for you.
Years ago, I read an article by the excellent teacher of the Vedic sciences, Robert Svoboda, regarding the cultivation of Prana. Prana is the Sanskrit term for subtle energy, similar to the Chinese term Chi.
The article had a wonderful effect on me during an especially difficult period of life. I felt stuck and thwarted in many ways then, and was undoubtedly being hard on myself. Why was I so slow? Why did I have no energy? These were constant, semi-conscious questions I circulated in my mind.
I share with you the first paragraph of this article and a few reflections about how it helped me and informs me to this day.
Whoever you may be, and wherever you may live, you live your life well when you live it at the right rate. Plow your way through life and life will wear you out; poke your way along and your life will grind to a halt. Find a pace that suits you, though, and amble along it accordingly, and your world will spontaneously level a path for you.
The article goes into some depth about yogic matters that I jive with, but what struck me right away was the possibility that slow was my pace. That being upset about my pace was perhaps the drain of energy. That maybe it was time to surrender to a deeper understanding of my rhythm, and to life’s rhythm for me.
This insight paradoxically allowed me to slow down more, to drop down deeper, to rest and rejuvenate, to ask different questions, to hear from my heart, and to follow my heart.
In this period since, about 5 years now, I understand my pace more and I do my daily best to honor it and amble along accordingly. I don’t expect the world to spontaneously level my path but I do seem to understand more what is meant by such a statement.
Our pace connects us to our heart. Our heart emanates our unique emotional and spiritual longing. This is what influences the course of our path.
May you know and honor your pace. May your heart illuminate your path.
May our practice and our healing be of benefit to the whole world.
Here is a link to the entire article for those that are inspired: Prana
Our normal daily life creates a pattern of mental focus that often takes us out of our physical, present moment reality. Our attention goes away and in many directions, often for long periods of time. This way of being, while it may seem necessary, productive, and even creative has many limitations.
The primary limitation is that it accentuates the mind/body disconnection- our body is doing one thing, our mind is doing many other things. This disconnection makes us highly susceptible to physiological stress or sympathetic nervous system arousal. That means our bodies are revving up to prepare for danger and emergency, its information is based on our conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, and in most cases there is no danger- the threat and thus the stress is in fact, unnecessary. This unconscious and unnecessary ‘’revving” of our nervous system agitates, confuses, and exhausts us creating less productivity and more vulnerability to illness and accident.
The secondary limitation of our attention moving around constantly away from the present moment, is that we do not get to live our moments fully. We in fact feel less because our senses are not activated and our emotions are not integrated into what we are doing. While this can be a relief sometimes to just “do” life, if this doing prevails we are more prone to over-indulge the senses- which in turn exacerbates physiological stress, and we are easily overwhelmed by our feelings.
With the Mindfulness practices offered below, you can begin to gradually shift your attention back to the present moment reality. This simple act of harnessing your attention, will help you develop your mind body connection, reduce and manage stress, and bring more beauty and balance to your life. With practice, you will see that learning to attend to yourself is an act of intelligence and self-worth and that you are better able to attend gracefully to all that is needed in your life.
- Be aware of your breath. Simply notice. No thinking necessary.
- Be aware of your body sensations. Simply notice. No thinking necessary.
- Move your body mindfully, focusing on the experience of sensation. No thinking necessary.
- Shake. Rattle. Roll. Rub. Hop. Yawn. Sigh. Stomp- whatever connects you to your body now.
- Be aware of raw feeling states. The feeling of yes. The feeling of no. The feeling of maybe-so.
- It doesn’t matter what you feel. It does matter that you notice how you are feeling.
- Notice your thinking, imaging, inner dialogue. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it skillful?
- Notice that awareness- this faculty that can notice- is bigger than thinking.
- Sensations, emotions, thoughts drive impulses, actions, behaviors, consequences.
- The future is shaped moment by moment- be intentional and notice when you’re not.
- No judgment necessary.
I used to teach a lot of yoga, hours every day. I joked that I was a marathon yoga teacher. I taught different types of yoga practices in those many hours, it wasn’t all super physical. It was also in one facility, so I didn’t have to drive hither and yon. I loved what I did and I made a good living in the days when yoga teaching wasn’t really a profession.
It is said you teach what you most need to learn, maybe that is true. I guess I needed to learn how to be in my body, how to be myself and connected to something more. I also learned a lot about teaching, communicating, relating. For me learning is primarily about self-awareness, and secondarily about information. This is why I teach Yoga and not history, which was incidentally what I studied as an undergraduate.
For some reason, my desire to talk about the breath today brought me back to reflecting on these early days of marathon teaching. I taught this morning, a short 75 minute class and everyone was very focused. It felt like what it took me many years to learn were transmitted and absorbed by everyone in the room. It was a bit of a time warp really, it felt like we must have practiced for hours to get that deep. At the heart of this story is the breath.
If you have practiced yoga with me, you will know there is a special way that we breathe. This comes from my teacher Rama and is the essence of her method, which she will not name. She calls it Yoga. There are lots of layers to this method, but in a nutshell it is a way of using the breath to create shifts and changes in our being without activating the ego or the will. It is a way of working within the yoga poses that takes you into deep states of meditation where subtle conflict is resolved. It is a way of converting the oxygen we breathe into the prana or energy we need to be both transformed and to maintain our integrity.
How does all this happen through breath? I wish I could describe it here, I actually have been trying (and editing it out) but it is really something you have to experience. For now I will simply say what I have said billions of time by now, breathe.
Vedic Astrology Highlights Fall 2015 & Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse September 27th
We have a Solar and Lunar Eclipse this month. Here are the Highlights of what is UP.
The Solar Eclipse will occur later this night that I write. It is partial and will not be visible to us in the USA. Yet the energy of an eclipse effects the whole planet, perhaps more so where they are visible.
This occurs in the sign of Leo, in the later section of the constellation called Purva Phalguni- it is associated with wealth so there is some buzz in the astrology community about this having impact on the global economy. Some say the wild ride the stock market just took is indicative of this energy fluctuation. Particular effects may be felt for 6 months.
Eclipses are considered inauspicious periods to initiate new endeavors. They are auspicious for spiritual attunement and refinement. As we know, life often insists we do things in spite of the signs and omens. Truly, the key is to have a daily practice that purifies your heart and mind in some way. This is the key to weathering whatever will come.
It is also considered helpful when the solar eclipse happens before the lunar. We always have eclipses in pairs and this time the lunar eclipse will follow and be fully visible for us in Tucson. It is quite powerful as it is a total eclipse and the moon is close to the Earth in its orbit- this is called a super moon. It is also interesting as it happens early in the evening- it will be fully eclipsed around 8pm Tucson time. Easy to witness and meditate upon.
Again, there is lots of lore regarding everything and it is said that it is not good to be outside during an eclipse- that you are personally negatively affected by it. But in this day and age, when we are disconnected from so many natural rhythms, I sense it is a remedy; a way to honor the subtle and the shadow element of life, to witness the celestial phenomenon and strengthen our commitment to light.
The lunar eclipse occurs Sunday night, September 27. It occurs in Pisces, in the section called Uttara Bhadra Pada. It is associated with the flow of water, purification, renewal, and release from long held patterns. It is the water that smooths the stones. I hope you get to experience and enjoy this event in some way.
Mars in Leo: September 16-November 3
Mars is leaving its 2 month sojourn through the sign of Cancer, which is its sign of debility/ difficulty.
This is a big shift for Mars energy. In anyone’s chart Mars signifies raw energy, courage, power, brothers, and land. In the fire sign of Leo the King it regains its sense of being a spiritual warrior. This is very significant if you are Aries or Scorpio Rising or Moon by birth. You will feel empowered again.
Sun in Virgo: September 17-October 17
The Sun will soon change signs- from Leo to Virgo. There is quite a bit of intensity in this yearly visit as Rahu is here and Mercury turns retrograde this same day. September 22-24 are very intense Solar days. Be extra mindful and curious.
Mercury Retrograde: September 17-October 8
Mercury is retrograde in its own sign of Virgo, that is good in ways as it spends more time in one of its places of power and amplifies all kinds of Mercury and Virgo related things: intellectual and organizational activities, service and healing matters especially. It backtracks right into the Sun, full combustion, September 29-30. These are days that Virgo or Mercury people could feel inspired yet depleted. It retrogrades into Rahu October 7-8 and then goes direct. These could be interesting days for Mercury’s mental energy- creativity and innovation abound. But be careful with important decisions. Rahu is a trickster energy!
Wisdom speaker Natasha Korshak, will be at Sacred Space with Stephen Pedone accompanying on gutiar Sunday 8/9/15 at 4:15pm
Natasha will explain to us the foundations, guide us, and help us practice Yoga Nidra also known as iRest (not an apple product). This traditional Yoga practice helps heal ills such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and PTSD. Yoga Nidra is a simple and doable meditation that reminds us of our intentions and our potential to break through limiting perceptions that generate stress and tension. Natasha’s teaching will also help us understand how this practice can be applied to daily life.
Natasha Korshak is an Interfaith Contemplative Minister, Yoga Teacher, and Director of the Mindfulness Programs of Tucson.
Stephen Pedone is an aspiring accountant, musician and renaissance man.
In the Vedic understanding of macrocosm and microcosm, our connection to the universe comes from within. The energies of the universe flow through our consciousness and being from the causal to the astral to the physical level. Therefore, in some ways thinking about astrology as up – as an outer phenomenon – is inaccurate. Chew on that as I move on to the news.
One piece of important news is that Jupiter has changed signs. Jupiter takes one year to transit one sign of the zodiac. So we get a different flavor of Jupiter every year. Jupiter is a general signifier of children, teachers, knowledge and wealth. Its natural energy is positive, expansive, joyful. For the last year it was in the sign of Cancer, which is the sign of the moon, mother, emotional nurturance. This is a powerful transit of Jupiter that only happens every 11 years.
Jupiter has now moved into the sign of Leo, the sign of the sun, father, self-expression. Cancer is a water sign, Leo is a fire sign. They are both royal signs, both sattvic signs, meaning when planets are there at birth or by transit- they are inclined towards the good, towards their best nature. So Jupiter in Leo could be very positive for us all. It brings some fire to our minds and our visions, it could improve relations with our father or shine light on our issues with masculine power structures.
It always depends on how your personal chart operates, but reflect on the last year- from last July to now- what was the flavor of Jupiter in Cancer? And envision what it might be this year- something similar but more masculine. Also, if you want to explore how the planets affect your subtle energy- what was the recent period of July 8 to July 18th like? This 10 day period Jupiter was passing over a sensitive knot in the zodiac- it can confuse us energetically and bring up deeper issues. I activated a back injury during the time. I knew the dates and was attempting to pay attention, but it wasn’t until my back ached and stopped me from doing that I got the real message. Don’t stir the pot, slow down and feel deeper, otherwise you will be forced to listen. Nothing serious for me, just another reminder of how this subtle energy practice works.
The other news right now is that Saturn is preparing to change course. It is currently transiting the sign of Scorpio. It had moved to 10 degrees and then stopped and turned retrograde in mid-March. Saturn is the slowest visible planet, it takes 30 years for it to transit the entire zodiac, requiring 2 ½ years to transit one sign. When Saturn moves retrograde, things seem to go even slower. It can make us feel like we are standing still in some way or losing ground.
Saturn in Scorpio is not an easy transit in general as Scorpio is the sign related to our deepest karmas- in yoga what is called our vasanas- and it is ruled by Mars. Saturn and Mars are both difficult energies, so in a way the entire transit brings them up against each other in our own being. Saturn is more an old, withholding, cold, critical energy, Mars is more youthful, brash, hot, and reactive energy. This is a great time to be looking at this in your life. What has felt stuck or blocked since March? How may it be related to a core psycho-emotional issue for you? As Saturn slows, stops and turns direct July 30-August 4 you have the potential to get new traction. Things will start to move a bit again, take this time to clarify what is the right direction.
One other briefer planetary happening is Venus is stopping and turning retrograde in Leo, July 25. This intensifies Venus energy for a while. It will also be in exact conjunction with Jupiter in Leo on August 2-7. When you look up in the night sky, you will see the 2 bright planets merging, almost looking like one bright star. When planets optically connect like this, we call it a war in Vedic astrology, the 2 energies battling each other. It can bring extra brilliance but it more often brings dissipation on some level- one energy vanquishing another. So these are days to simply be extra mindful. Like I was noting with my Jupiter experience in mid-July.
One final thought about Venus, if you know your chart and you are Taurus or Libra rising or moon, you are more affected by Venus’s transits. August 11 to 15 are also tricky Venus days.
My Peter says I should mention my praise for a little Indian restaurant in Tucson. So here I go- never wanted to be a person who blogged about what they are eating…
Let me back up for a moment and say that I recently met a dear friend at another local Indian restaurant- that shall be nameless. It has been in operation for many years. Peter and I had our first meal together there. The food is decent and the woman who owns it is, well, cranky. Peter calls her the “cranky lady” and we accept that when we go. He even enjoys it, being from New Jersey were cranky proprietors are quite acceptable, I am told, if they do a good job with their product or service.
I have not been to this restaurant in a while, and I thought intentionally of going this day to patronize them. It was cold and rainy and I was early for my meeting. No greeting or seating was offered so I simply sat down and waited. Nothing. I went and found the lady and she was true to form, cranky, when I asked for tea. Tea was delivered, not particularly good. My friend arrived and it was expected we would eat the buffet and no service would occur. We ate, it was decent. We visited a long while and only once perhaps was there service- she came and removed our plates. I wanted more tea but was uncomfortable asking. It seemed like she was annoyed we were there so long but it was pretty empty, so we weren’t taking up valuable real estate.
When I got home I didn’t feel well. I don’t think it was the food but the whole experience was distasteful. Why go there at all? Why feel uncomfortable when I am patronizing her? Why was it so empty? Does she treat all of her customers this way? If so, no wonder there is so little business on an ideal day for Indian buffet lunch. Was she mad because her business was slow? If so, this was not helping. If I was unusually brave and kind, I would tell her what I am thinking- which is I do not feel inclined to come back there. I would give her a chance to understand the effect her attitude had on me and her business. Instead I will simply chronicle it for us all to consider- how are we behaving that may be adversely affecting what we hope for?
Now on to the delightful surprise I had at lunch yesterday. A small restaurant formerly called “Amrutha” and currently called the “Curry Leaf”. It opened a while ago and we patronized it a few times. What was unusual is that they served some South Indian food, which is more uncommon- dosas, idili, sambar. The décor was odd and the food was only alright then, but you could sense there was an Indian family determined to succeed. With the name change and some renovation and a new menu it felt like a new place, yet the same owner was there which made me happy. The food was delicious, the service warm and friendly, the prices perfect for a weekday lunch. Next time I know where I will suggest my friend and I meet for our long visit over our meal.
Try making your mealtime harmonious by avoiding upsetting discussions. A nicely set table also adds to the pleasure of eating. So does a smiling face, a cheerful word, a beautiful flower or a picture. Bless your food, and enjoy it. ~ Indra Devi
I am not going to be overly technical or philosophical here. It is a big subject, karma. It is at the heart of yoga and meditation practice, whether we know it or not. It is very central to the practice of Vedic Astrology, this is more clear. For some reason, it’s on my mind lately, so I’ll attempt it.
There are of course various teachings on karma that are similar and different. What I will say here will be my own interpretation and contemplation of what I have learned over time.
My yoga teacher Rama often uses an image of a tree. I thought it was a common image, but after looking for it elsewhere have come to discover that it is not. She draws (a pun!) this interpretation partly out of her study of the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali- a seminal text of the Yoga Philosophy.
At the base of the tree, the ground and roots, are 2 types of karma referred to as Sanchita and Prarabdha. Sanchita is the sum total of karma- what we have accumulated. Prarabdha literally means undertaken, and is the portion of karma we are living out. These karmas are understood to be “fixed” in that they are happening, in process, for reasons we will never be able to totally rationalize or alter.
This brings up the issue of “fate” which can upset people- but suffice it to say that we all have to admit that there are many things that do fall into this category. I’ll use myself as an example. I am white, a woman, born in the USA. This is unalterable and I did not make a rational decision about it.
The body of the tree depicts the 2 other types of karma, Kriyamana and Agama. Kriya means action and refers to our capacity to act and create. Agama refers to the new actions you contemplate, your ideas or vision for the future. These are the karmas that are more malleable, that we can affect through our free will.
The tree is what we see, what is most obvious. The roots and the soil are invisible unless we dig. Yet they are one and the same. The tree comes from the roots, the roots require the soil. To get more specific:
Sanchitta Karma is the soil and represents the deep past, the mysterious depth.
Pradabdha Karma is the roots and affects the form and function of the tree, our spiritual DNA
Kriyamana Karma is how we relate to our internal and external circumstances, how we are able to use our free will.
Agama Karma is the vision and intention we hold for future action, the unconscious and conscious seeds that we plant.
I told you I wouldn’t be too technical or philosophical so I want to wrap up on a practical note: We don’t really know what we are doing here, we don’t know why we have the circumstances that we have- it’s interesting and uniquely human to consider it all and I truly appreciate karmic theory. This theory says that there are reasons for our present circumstances and we do have the ability to work with the present and affect the future. What you sow NOW through your thoughts, words, and actions is what truly matters. As my mom’s guru Goswami Kriyananda says with a little laugh and smile “Attitude is Everything.”
The word synergy is a fabulous word isn’t it? Synergy is the combination of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. Synergy implies dynamism and flow.
The word balance is similar in meaning but we could say it has a different tone or quality- it is two or more things or components that come together and create a state of equilibrium or equipoise. Balance is used to imply physical, mental and/or emotional stability and sound judgment. In design, balance refers to placement of elements that produce an aesthetically pleasing, integrated sense of whole. Balance infers steadiness and calm.
I played with these two terms and gave ideas about how to experience and accentuate them in a talk I gave in New York City several years ago when I was there representing Miraval. Looking back over my notes of the talk today, I’m noticing how the terms bring to mind one of my teacher’s favorite statements from Patanjali, the ancient codifier or yoga philosophy. I hear her voice now in melodic Sanskrit- “Sthira Sukham Asanam.”
“Sthira” means steady, firm, immovable. “Sukham” means comfortable, pleasant, willing, sweet. “Asana” means posture or attitude. (There’s more to this word for another time)
My teacher Rama used to translate this as “Find comfort in any pose”- which was not a typical translation. More often it is something dry and literal like, “Posture should be firm and comfortable.”
What does this have to do with Synergy and Balance? Synergy to me feels like sukham- sweetness and flow. Balance feels like sthira- that quality of steadiness and calm. What does it mean in terms of practice and life? I remember when Rama used to talk about it, it gave me a deep sense of what I was “doing” when I was doing yoga asana. These 2 qualities equally engaged created a sort of holy state for me that has informed the way I practice and guide ever since.
She meant a lot with that statement though, more than yoga or meditation postures- she was also suggesting that we were learning how to flow with life. To not effort, control, inflict our will upon certain situations we would find ourselves in. That there was a way to find comfort anywhere, with anyone, under any circumstances. This was the realization of the sutra, the deepest meaning.
Consider for a moment right now, where or with whom in your life are you being too rigid or static or serious? How might you find comfort in this pose, circumstance, relationship, situation?
One last thought here: In Vedic Astrology the term “sthira” shows up again, it is used in reference to the signs of the zodiac that have a fixed quality: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius. On the positive side “sthira” gives stability, endurance, consistency to the matters these signs govern in your chart and on the difficult side it can cause inertia, resistance, stagnation. In Astrology when a lot of your birth planets end up in fixed signs you learn a lot about both sides of the “sthira” equation. I will tell you I have 5 planets in fixed signs, so I know of what I speak!