project mind: journey to the core

“The physical body is not only a temple for our soul, but the means by which we embark on the inward journey toward the core.”

BKS Iyengar, 14 December 1918 – 20 August 2014

This is week three of project mind. Each week, I select an image or an idea to focus my daily meditation practice, inspired by this article in the Huffington Post, titled Everything Changed When I Started Meditating Every Day.

BKS Iyengar: Best of

“We were just coming out of the ’60s change-your-consciousness thing, and many of us were in our heads, and wanting to meditate, and reach Samadhi,” or enlightenment, Patricia Walden, a longtime student of Mr. Iyengar’s, said in an interview in 2000. “Iyengar was, like, ‘Stand on your feet. Feel your feet.’ He was so practical. His famous quote was, ‘How can you know God if you don’t know your big toe?’ ”

Upon reading Patricia’s comments in this New York Times article, a burst of lightness giggled its way out of my body. What fabulous simplicity, and yet enormous profundity. I quickly realised these are also the exact ingredients that draw me to working with children. Iyengar’s journey with yoga started when he was a very young, very ill little boy. Little did he know at the time that he would grow into one of the great fathers of yoga of the modern world by taking this ancient practice to the west. Iyengar’s system of yoga opened up the practice to anyone and everyone. Although he was insistent with his students about perfecting poses through principles of alignment, earning him a reputation as a particularly stern teacher, he was also a pioneer of therapeutic yoga. He designed special exercises and equipment, like blocks and straps, for pupils struggling with postures or who suffered physical problems or disabilities.

As a student, Iyengar studied anatomy, physiology and psychology which invariably showed up in his work as a teacher. I have selected some of my favourite quotes that have given me insight about yoga and about life. Even with his passing, Iyengar’s legacy will continue to reverberate for many years to come. And for that I am ever grateful.

As you found happiness in life, now see your majesty in death. Namaste.

IMG_0048.JPG

Iyengar on yoga…

“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

“In order to find out how to reveal our innermost Being, the sages explored the various sheaths of existence, starting from body and progressing through mind and intelligence, and ultimately to the soul. The yogic journey guides us from our periphery, the body, to the center of our being, the soul. The aim is to integrate the various layers so that the inner divinity shines out as through clear glass.” – Light on Life

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.” ― Light on Life

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”

“As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward.” ― Light on Life

“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.” ― Light on Life

“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”

Iyengar on life…

“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”

“Before peace between the nations we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being”.

“As animals, we walk the earth. As bearers of divine essence, we are among the stars. As human beings, we are caught in the middle, seeking to reconcile the paradox of how to make our way upon earth while striving for something more permanent and more profound.” ― Light on Life

“One’s spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one’s fellow beings.” ― Light on Life

“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others.
When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake.
This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement.
Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority.
All people are born with different constitutions.
Never compare with others.
Each one’s capacities are a function of his or her internal strength.
Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.” ― Light on Life

the multitude of selves

Am I changing? Is a man’s character changeable? Imagine an immortal. Revolting to think he might be making the same old boo-boos over the centuries. To think of the immortal on his 700,552nd birthday still touching the plate even when someone has told him it’s hot – surely we have deep capacity for change but our 80 years doesn’t give us ample opportunity. You have to be a fast learner. You have to cram infinity into a handful of lousy decades.
This morning passed horribly deformed beggar who was for all practical purposes merely a torso rattling a cup. Was it really me who have him 100 francs & said Take the day off? It wasn’t me, not exactly. It was one of my selves, one of the multitudes. Some of them laugh at me. Others bite their nails in suspense. One snorts with derision. That’s how they are, the multitudes. Some of the selves are children & some are parents. That’s why every man is his own father & his own son. With the years if you learn enough you can learn how to shed your selves like dead skin cells. Sometimes they come out of you & walk around.
Yes I’m changing. Change is when new selves come into foreground while others recede into forgotten landscapes. Maybe definition of having lived full life is when every citizen in the hall of selves gets to take you for a spin, the commander the lover the coward the misanthrope the fighter the priest the moral guardian the immoral guardian the lover of life the hater of life the fool the judge the jury the executioner, when every last soul is satisfied at moment of death. If only one of the selves has been nothing but a spectator or a tourist then the life is incomplete.

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.

When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on – series polygamy – until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimension to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.

― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not. Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning or an end. Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm. There is only one serious question. And that question is: ‘Who knows how to make love stay?’

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.

― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

Now or Nowhere

vulnerable

adjective

  1. 1.

    exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

    “we were in a vulnerable position”
    synonyms: in danger, in peril, in jeopardy, at risk, endangered, unsafe,unprotected, ill-protected, unguarded;

    open to attack, attackable,assailable, exposed, wide open;
    undefended, unshielded, unfortified,unarmed, without arms, without weapons, defenceless, easily hurt/wounded/damaged, powerless, helpless;
    rare pregnable,impuissant, resistless
    “they evacuated children from the most vulnerable cities”
    exposed to, open to, wide open to, liable to, prone to, prey to,susceptible to, subject to, not above, in danger of, at risk of, at the mercy of, an easy target for, easily affected by;
    in the firing line;
    rare susceptive of
    “he is extremely sensible and less vulnerable to criticism than most”
    antonyms: well protected, invulnerable, resilient, immune to, above

Right. So this is just a little overwhelming.

In case you missed my Love Life post earlier this week, I’m on a vulnerability quest at the moment. But it’s proving to be a very tricky business to navigate. I think I found a starting point but now I need a road map. I need someone to throw me a freaking bone – or ten. Luckily, Baron Baptiste has stepped out a series of universal principles for stepping up to the edge in his book, Journey into Power. So in trying to get my head around them – and in locating where I left my courage to look out over the precipice – I’ve tried to summarise the main points here.

The Eight Universal Principles for Stepping Up to the Edge

Principle 1: We Are Either Now Here or Nowhere

All life happens in the present moment. All we really have is the moment that is right here, right now, in front of us. Any moment that happened in the past is a memory and any moment that will happen in the future is a fantasy. Memories and fantasies can be very nice, but they lead us nowhere except into the past, which no longer exists, or the future, which doesn’t exist yet. The past and the future are not places. They are, essentially, nowhere.

Principle 2: Be in the Now and You’ll Know How

20140416-061245.jpgWhen you tune into the present moment, you rein your focus back in from the distractions happening around you. When you make this directional shift from paying outward attention to paying inward attention, you can really hear what your body is telling you.

When you are in the now, a world of options opens up to you. You already have the answer to ‘how’ within you; our bodies are encoded with this innate knowledge. They key to accessing it is by coming into the moment. Each time you think you don’t know ‘how’ is a clue that you aren’t willing to trust your intuitions – use this question as a tip-off that it’s time to tune in and trust the light of your inner knowing.

Principle 3: Growth Is the Most Important Thing There Is

We have two choices: we grow, or we die. It’s that simple. Growth is forward movement; anything else is stagnation or, worse, regression. I would even go so far as to say that growth is the answer to the age-old question of the meaning of life. It’s the whole point of our journey: to grow and evolve so we can remove all the parts of ourselves that keep us from living in the light, living from our essence, living as our authentic selves.

Maybe you can’t initially touch your toes in a forward bend, or perhaps your upper body is not strong enough to sustain you in Chaturanga. When you hit that edge, you are faced with the choice to either move through or flee. The choice is always yours. But…

You can only grow beyond where you are if you accept where you are in the first place.

Principle 4: Exceed Yourself to Find Your Exceeding Self

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. It’s that simple.

Principle 5: In Order to Heal, You Need to Feel

The irony of spiritual growth is that instead of being some miraculous experience, it feels a lot more like going to pieces. We spend our entire lives stuffing down emotional and physical injuries, but these wounds don’t really disappear. Cellular memory is a powerful thing, and deep within all of us is a record of every feeling we tried to suppress, every emotional scar we keep buried, every physical ailment we thought was healed. To truly heal from the inside out, this psychic debris must be brought to the surface so it can be released.

Principle 6: Think Less, Be More

You can psych yourself in or out of anything, not to mention think a pose to death. Analysis paralysis is the ego’s way of keeping you rooted in your intellect rather than in your spirit. But when you drop your brain, you actually give your body and soul a chance to chine.

Aerodynamically, a bumblebee should not be able to fly. But bumblebees don’t know that, so they just do it. They open their wings and take off, oblivious to the fact that their round little bodies weren’t designed for flight. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all like bumblebees, unaffected by beliefs in our limitations?

Principle 7: We Are the Sum Total of Our Reactions

We don’t really have experiences in life. What we have are reactions to experiences. Things don’t happen to us. Things happen in and of themselves, and what we do is react to them. Built into our hardwiring as humans is the fight-or-flight response, which we needed way back in the cavemen era to keep us safe. But there is a third option, which is neither to fight nor flee, and that is to just stay and breathe. Working your edge teaches you to rise above the stress you feel and move into equanimity. When you do that, you are operating from your centre, from cause rather than effect.

Principle 8: Don’t Try Hard, Try Easy

When you find that you are straining, whether in a yoga pose or in life, you’re probably trying too hard. Your ego is in it, and you are driven by an ambition that ultimately creates imbalance and suffering. That is the point when you should ask yourself: Where am I holding on? Am I holding on to tension, or to my ideal of what I am ‘supposed to’ be doing? Where can I let go more? Where can I struggle less? Where can I just surrender?

Gandhi: Greatest Hits

Be the change you wish to see in the world. 

 

gandhi

 

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

20140408-232524.jpg

Keep your thoughts positive
because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive
because your words become your behaviour.
Keep your behaviour positive
because your behaviour becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive
because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive
because your values become your destiny.

– Mahatma Gandhi

(1869 –  1948)