We often use these terms loosely or metaphorically. After almost dying last Christmas, they are quite literal.
Living in Canada — Brockville, Ontario, to be specific — winters can be brutal. I hate the cold and long for the days when the sun is finally strong enough for me to sit out in a sheltered patch. I’ll drag my patio set out as soon as most of the snow is gone, bundle up and appreciatively lift my face towards the warming rays that permeate my aching bones and soul.
We joke that we can have all four seasons within the span of one week, but in this region, it’s true. All of a sudden, it’s 20 Celsius out, when it was -10 Celsius the night before. That’s when the yoga mat is freed from its winter prison and unfurled outside.
Nothing beats a quiet practice under the eager spring rays, surrounded by the excited chatter of birds, squirrels and chipmunks. I hope that by then, I will be well enough to do my Sun Salutations and the powerful Goddess pose with the Kali Mudra.
Kali. The Goddess of birth, death and rebirth. Endings and beginnings: I’ve had a number of them during my cancer and yoga journeys these past three years. I’ve had to reinvent myself a few times, trying to find my purpose in life after having my former life snatched away from me as I could no longer do the managerial job I had for many years.
In a gross way, cancer was a blessing; it led me onto my yogic path, which preserved my sanity, rebuilt both my mind and body and motivated me to become a yoga teacher. Although the cancer was (and is) still in me, I was fighting it and was strong, positive, otherwise healthy and, most importantly, impacting the lives of others in incredible ways.
And then, the life I had so hopefully and determinedly rebuilt, was almost taken from me. My cancer treatment, immunotherapy, attacked my pancreas and my body stopped producing insulin. I went into diabetic ketoacidosis, with dangerously sky-high blood sugar. I was also told that the cancer that had spread to my bones two years earlier — that had been under control — was now showing new “activity”.
I am convinced that it was my otherwise good health that kept me alive. I had two back to back 5-day hospital stays as they tried to regulate my insulin and the other deficiencies that my body was suddenly experiencing. I contemplated letting go. Maybe it was my time? It would have been so easy to give up and just slip away peacefully. I could feel it tugging at me, tempting me. Just let go…
But, yet, I did not. I chose to fight, though I felt betrayed by my body, by yoga. I had lived and breathed yoga and positivity and abundance and kindness. For what? Was it not my path, after all? And if not, what purpose did I serve in this world?
Meditation had saved me in the past. This time, I avoided my mat. I rolled it up and put it away, disgusted.
I gave myself two weeks to wallow. After 12 days, I lay on my mat. It was a start, or so I thought. I discovered I could not lift my right leg while in Savasana unless I bent my knee. Tears misted my eyes but I quickly shut them down. I still hadn’t really shed any tears and I knew this was why I had been avoiding my mat and meditation.
It was another two weeks before it happened.
It hit me out of nowhere. An exchange of angry words opened the flood gates. I retreated to my meditation spot and sobbed defeatedly for hours. Lashing out, I angrily threw used tissues as far as they would fly. I sobbed because I was angry, because I had no purpose in life, and because I felt sorry for myself. What good had everything I’d been doing to date done? What difference did it make that I was a good person, helping people? What good did it do ME?
ME. Oh hello, lovely ego. Is it all about ME?
For several days, the tears and self-pity continued. Then one day, it was done. I sat for meditation, waiting for the usual tears to wash over me. There were none left. I questioned, “What now?” I had no answers.
I saged myself, my space and the whole house, bidding all negativity to go away. Then I reached for my tarot cards. I’m new to them, having only pulled a few over the past several months. I can tell you, however, that all the cards had been spot on.
I meditated. I touched each card, asking, “What now?” And then I pulled the Kali card. Birth. Death. Rebirth. Endings and beginnings. The old must be released so that the new can enter.
New me? New purpose? Or better me, same purpose, but allowing that ego to die? The purpose is not “what’s in it for me”, but rather, it’s realizing that I have an ability, and therefore a responsibility, to help others. It is my dharma, my duty.
So, I continue my cancer fight, I adapt to suddenly being insulin dependent for the rest of my life. I gently continue to do yoga to rebuild and strengthen my bones, and I leave the pity party behind. I look forward to again being strong and healthy by springtime, to bask and meditate in the sun’s renewing energy, to honour it with Sun Salutations, and to take that energy, go forth and shine it upon others.
Regeneration. Renewal. Rebirth.
Om saha naavavatu saha nau bhunaktu,
Saha viryam karavavahai
Tejasvi naavadhitam astu ma vidvisavahai,
Om Shanti Shanti, Shanti
I have chanted and contemplated the teacher-student prayer in my morning meditation practice as a way to gain some insight into another’s actions when they have felt challenging and confusing to me. Through my experience with this Sanskrit chant, I have been able to release animosity towards another’s actions, remember the human-ness of another, and I have come to learn, that my feelings are often connected to my own samskaras, dharma and karma. In other words, it is not about the other, it is about me and what I can learn. No doubt the other is here to learn something too, but those lessons are his or hers to discover.
The teacher-student prayer has helped me accept the truth of the Lao Tzu quote, “When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the student is really ready the teacher disappears”. As part of this, I have learned that sometimes the teacher shows up and asks you to write an article with them for Canadian Yogi and, of course, you oblige and then, the very next day, you get a message saying that life has temporarily been turned upside down and you will have to “run with it” and call upon a sister-student for help.
This article is about what three yoga teachers, with different ayurvedic constitutions, have learned about themselves through yoga and ayurveda. But, it is also about what being a yoga teacher has taught them about community and the importance of teacher-student relationships. Three women, who geographically lived thirty-minutes apart, magically came together to teach each other, as well as our community, the power of ayurveda and yoga. Read on to see how our unique differences shape our answers.
I opened Harmony Tree Studio in southern Manitoba in 2013 and began offering a 200-hour yoga teacher training. With a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education and a background in Clinical Exercise Physiology, I developed a strongly scientific curriculum. Susie Fisher was one of my first graduates. She became my teacher as she brought new insights into history, philosophy and yoga ethics through her doctoral studies. Her authentic view of society shifted my lens and taught me to think about the modern world in a new way. Later, Jodi Griffith began her 200-hour teacher training after completing her Ayurvedic Consultant certification in Minnesota. She became an instant teacher and my reference for all things related to doshas, constitutions, herbs and whole-life living.
Q. What is your prakruti (ayurvedic constitution)?
A. Vata. I think, move and act quickly. I feel like a hummingbird most days. I sleep lightly and wake easily. I am also always cold and dry. You will find me drinking spicy teas, eating warm meals and avoiding windy weather.
Q. How do you most often go out of balance?
A. When I travel, or do anything that prevents me from my morning exercise, yoga and ayurvedic practices. I also find that being a new mom has shifted my routines, which has left me feeling drained.
Q. What ayurvedic dinacarya (daily routine) brings you back to yourself?
A. Early each morning I must do my daily yoga practice. I also find kapalabhati, deep breathing and daily abhyanga, with grapeseed or almond oil, allow me to have clarity, focus and stability.
Q. What yogic teaching brings you back to yourself?
A. The realization that the Yamas and Niyamas are the first rungs on a path to enlightenment. In other words, yoga is more than asanas practiced in a studio. It is a way of living that has brought me more self-awareness and consciousness.
Q. How has yoga made building community more important for you?
A. The yoga community has allowed me to connect on a deeper level with many talented women. I may have been the one to open a yoga school, but I have learned a great deal from each of the school’s graduates.
Q. What do you most often try to teach your yoga students?
A. I try to teach my students to listen to their bodies. For me, this means listening to the subtle changes in breath during long held poses, or to notice when breath is being held during poses that are challenging. If students can recognize their personal signs of stress in a yoga class, they may be able to see these signs during other points in their day. By recognizing stress and being able to use some of the relaxation techniques I have shown them in yoga, they have learned the real power of the practice.
Q. What’s important to you about the teacher-student relationship and what does it teach you?
A. Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I learn”. The teacher-student relationship has shown me that we are all teachers. Through listening and collaborating, we can create a powerful bond.
Q. What is your prakruti?
A. Pitta-Vata/Vata-Pitta. I am fiery, quick and committed. I have a scattered, but sharp mind. I have big feelings that seem to be constantly shifting! Jodi always says I have Kapha eyes and I quite like that.
Q. How do you most often go out of balance?
A. I tend to be a “yes” person — often taking on new projects and additional responsibilities, on top of the many responsibilities I already have! This tendency leaves me feeling over-extended, burnt-out and depleted. I also find the seasonal transitions between summer and autumn, and spring and summer, to be particularly challenging, both mentally and emotionally.
Q. What ayurvedic dinacarya brings you back to yourself?
A. Establishing a daily routine (which for me includes meditation or reading poetry in the mornings, movement, time in nature, a warm bath, alternate nostril breathing, time in the kitchen working with food) and abhyanga have become central to my wellbeing. I find that these practices help to soothe my nervous system, encourage focus, self-love and calm. Mostly, I think I benefit from these practices because they take me out of my mind and into my body in a nurturing and gentle way.
Q. What yogic teaching brings you back to yourself?
A. One of the ways I have benefited most from practicing and teaching yoga, particularly as a woman, and particularly in this contemporary socio-cultural-political climate, is that it has helped me to begin thinking of myself as a "container”. Here, life can be held in such a way that I am not completely or continually shattered by it. Yoga assists me with developing what Stephen Cope has called a “calmly abiding centre”, a continuous home base, from which I can range more freely through my entire experience. For me, the practice of yoga has also generated a safe community wherein the primary goal shifts away from that of our culture— of "pushing through" — to "slowing down and listening more carefully".
Q. How has yoga made building community more important for you?
A. Community and connection have become the central forces around which my yoga teaching and practice revolve. I feel like I have learned this from my wonderful teachers and friends, Sheena and Jodi. Were it not for Sheena and Harmony Tree Studio, meeting Jodi through the studio, and doing my teacher training, I would have missed out on so many of my life’s important lessons. I would have never had the opportunity to connect with numerous yoga teachers/students in southern Manitoba, and to build strong relationships with the many women (and some men) who walked through the doors of Sheena’s studio. Many of these connections have become lasting and important bonds.
Q. What do you most often try to teach your yoga students?
A. I think, like Jodi, I try to emphasize the philosophy of the word union. Namely, in yoga classes, we are exploring the union between body, mind and breath — we are learning that each has a role in regulating the other. But, on a more subtle level, we are also exploring our connection to each other, building safe and trusting relationships, and finding new ways to exist with and within the world around us. Everything is interconnected!
Q. What’s important to you about the teacher-student relationship and what does it teach you?
A. I try to create a safe and trusting space, a container, for us to exist together for the duration of the class. Each time my students walk through the doors of our practice space, I try to offer a genuine welcome to each one: to call them by name, and to check in with openness and integrity. In this way, my students become my teachers, my guides. They guide my teaching by being honest with me about their energy levels, their bodies, their thoughts and feelings on a particular day. It is my responsibility, then, to tailor the practice to suit, so that they feel safe and nurtured, and so that they, in turn, can nurture themselves. But they also create a container for me — to be just who I am on any given day, to explore the contours of the practice, and to safely experiment with my teaching.
Q. What is your prakruti?
A. Kapha-Pitta/Pitta-Kapha. I’m earthy, fluid and fiery. My physical features are a combination of medium, dense, curvy and full. I have thick, fine hair and burn and blush easily.
Q. How do you most often go out of balance?
A. I most often go out of balance when I bite off more than I can chew, both figuratively and literally. When I take on too much or am pulled in too many directions, I start showing signs associated with excess Pitta and Vata. For example: headaches, dizziness, trouble sleeping, excess thinking and worrying, irritability and judgement. I can become hot-headed or can have a sharp tongue. When things feel like they are unravelling in my life, I head for food with a sweet taste. At times of uncertainty, change or transition, Vata increases and, when Vata goes out of balance, everything can go out of balance, even the steady, stable nature of Kapha and the focused nature of Pitta. When I’m feeling thrown off centre, I’m looking for the familiar qualities of the earth and water elements — stable, calming, cooling — found in the sweet taste. While the sweet taste is balancing for Vata and Pitta, it increases Kapha.
Q. What ayurvedic dinacarya brings you back to yourself?
A. I know the answer to this is all of them. Every daily practice I put in place helps me centre. David Whyte’s words from “Everything is waiting for you” ring true for me “alertness is the hidden treasure of familiarity”. The daily practices I do, over time, become signals to my parasympathetic nervous system and remind me that it’s time to rest or breathe and I do (for the most part… it’s practice not perfection). Regular sleep habits have been really important for helping me recover from burn-out and regaining energy and an improved sense of wellness. I know this sounds obvious, but I really think we take the importance of sleep for granted, that is until we start to notice symptoms and, even then, I wonder how often we connect it with our sleep habits. I encourage clients to develop a bed-time routine that involves disconnecting from electronics, allowing themselves time to breathe, digest experiences of the day, release what couldn’t be done or changed and set an intention to sleep.
Q. What yogic teaching brings you back to yourself?
A. Simply thinking about the word “yoga”. I can hear a classmate from my teacher-training saying in her melodious Kapha voice, “the word yoga, means to yoke or unite”, and I begin to practice different ways to connect my breath and my body. I trail off into the flow of the breath rolling in and out of my body as a way to merge into my day, invigorate when my mind feels dull or foggy, calm my incessant thoughts, accept challenging news, and make peace with myself.
Q. How has yoga made building community more important for you?
A. It has helped me see beyond myself and helped me show up in more ways. The Bhagavad Gita’s teaching on Dharma and Stephen Cope’s words from his book, The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling, have helped with this: “every [hu]man has a vocation to be someone: but [s]he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation [s]he can only be one person: him or [her] self.”
Q. What do you most often try to teach your yoga students?
A. To listen to their bodies, to connect with their breath, and to bring balance into their lives by applying ayurveda’s principles of opposing qualities.
Q. What’s important to you about the teacher-student relationship and what does it teach you?
I think it’s fascinating how the teacher-student relationship is one where the teacher is really learning from the student as the student is learning from the teacher. So, the teacher is really the student, and the student is really the teacher, and the labels dissolve and what really exists is Spanda – ONENESS.
A sense of agency moves us away from a sense of constraint to a sense of freedom.
My life has not changed much since mid-March 2020 when the COVID-19 virus unleashed a global health crisis. I feel blessed. The crisis did not affect me the way it affected millions of other people on this planet. I live alone. The forced confinement that put me in isolation gave me time to reflect, to read and write, to practice yoga and meditation more deeply, and to take care of myself.
In early May 2020, I joined an online community of writers. I now have 67 published articles on HubPages.com, mostly on yoga topics. (Toward the end of 2018, I discovered a passion for writing that has become a cathartic activity for me.)
I lost my full-time administrative job in mid-June, but I found a better one with a non-profit organization. For a brief time in my life, I taught yoga and meditation on a full-time basis. But for financial reasons, most of my teaching has been on a part-time basis.
Recently, I completed three of four requirements for my online Yoga Wellness Educator professional training with YogaU Online. The first requirement took me about 13 months to complete. Even though I miss teaching yoga, I am glad that I have the time to study.
Scale of the Health Crisis
What really shook me in these COVID-19 times was the scale of a health crisis that had a strong impact on the world’s populations and altered the lives of so many. The extent of the crisis affected me more than I had imagined possible. I felt as if someone had pulled the rug from under my feet and the world as I knew it no longer existed. Losing what was familiar made me feel unsettled but helped me to re-evaluate many of my assumptions and beliefs.
The confinement and isolation forced me to self-reflect and revisit some past life lessons that I had buried deep within myself. Leading a busy life had helped me forget an important part of my life. Having too much time on my hands forced me to face memories that are painful. Facing these memories led me to become keenly aware of what guided some major decisions in my life.
This self-awareness gave me a sense of freedom that I had been longing to have.
I have not taught yoga for many years now. Not being able to teach yoga for the past six months was not an issue for me. I stopped teaching for a personal reason and, since then, have devoted my free time to my personal yoga and meditation routine and studies.
The practices that have sustained me throughout this confinement are regularly practising yoga and meditation, reading and writing, publishing articles online and studying anatomy-based yoga.
Going forward, I want to focus on teaching online yoga sessions to one or two people, at the most, on weekends. My anatomy-based yoga studies have convinced me that I can better help clients when I lead individual yoga sessions rather than group classes.
I want to teach six-week yoga courses focused on Yoga for Healthy Aging, Yoga for Seniors, Yoga for Osteoporosis, Yoga for High Blood Pressure, Yoga for Scoliosis, or Yoga for Better Sleep. I am also certified to teach Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation.
Working with technology is not an issue for me. I am well set to work online from home.
Sense of Agency
For the last six months, I have focused on understanding and deepening my sense of agency. The way I understand it, agency is control over actions and consequences. It is the ability to control stimuli, associate selectively, commit to lifelong learning, manage my emotions, and nurture my intuition to help me think before acting.
Here is the link to read my articles that are published online: https://lilianenajm.hubpages.com
Liliane Najm, CYA-RYT300
As COVID-19 looms, we remember the way things used to be. Six months after the outbreak, Canada exhales with trembling breath amidst whispers of “the second wave”. Gaia sighs; she has watched humanity navigate many sorrows. She has witnessed great loss and then the rebuilding. I too have watched the suffering and tragedy. After all, as humans we are deeply connected. I have acknowledged the loss whether from illness, abuse or trauma. My breath stopped as I watched my brothers and sisters suffer as individuals and as communities. Systemic injustices exposed humanity hoping to find balance in a world that appears strange and new. I considered one of the most enduring symbols of balance — the Yin and the Yang — and how timeless that theme has become.
When ancient, complex ideals make their way to North America they often become oversimplified, and we miss out on their nuances and true beauty. The deeper mysteries of Karma, Dharma, Chakra (Cakra), Qi and even Yoga can be less understood within their broader contexts.
In an effort to free the limits of my own mind, I tried to make sense of Yin and Yang. Does it represent binary ideas of light and dark, good and evil, male and female? Or does it embody a universal concept of perfect balance and unity in the world?
The concept of the Yin-Yang is believed to have been created in an effort to understand the natural and cosmic worlds, the sciences and health. The literal translation of Yin is ‘the shady side’ (of the mountain) and Yang is ‘the sunny side’ (of the mountain).
I love to sit and imagine first peoples, exploring the land, unplugged, observant, in awe. I imagine them contemplating a mountain; taking it in, trying to make sense of the subtle energies that turn light into shadow and hardness into softness. I imagine the realization that there can be no light without darkness, no day without night. I wonder how deeply the ancient ones meditated to observe that light moves into darkness, day transforms into night, male and female flow within a spectrum as two inseparable elements forever evolving, flowing, entwined. Their inseparability creating balance.
The Yin holds within it a dot of the Yang and the Yang holds within it a dot of the Yin. Where Yang tells us to take action, Yin instructs us to act wisely. Where Yang compels us to lead, Yin reminds us to lead with our heart. These timeless teachings guide the human spirit on its inevitable journey to balance.
Taking action (Yang) without the heart (Yin) will discredit emotions — but emotions are the messages to our soul. No right action can come from discrediting the soul! Far reaching and deeper than binary ideas, Yin and Yang have more to do with energy and balance. More to do with the beauty, the strength and fragile nature of life; and how remarkably, magically, against all odds, humanity strives to achieve that balance.
The appearance of the Coronavirus on the world stage caused a major shift in our perspectives. We were presented with the stark reality of the fragility of our lives, both individually and as a species. We were required to radically change our behavioural patterns and conform to the dictates of governments and official scientific bodies, guided by people who, themselves, were facing the same fears and challenges.
This shift in paradigm brought to life and light an increased observation and attention to physical, mental and spiritual health. How did the “new normal” affect our bodies and minds? How could we handle the mental anguish? And how were we to make sense of it all? These are some of the questions which most of humanity was forced to answer.
Interestingly, these are questions which have been at the centre of the practice of Yoga from time immemorial.
After all, such issues were essentially at the heart of the discourse between Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Observing the armies arrayed against him, in distress, Arjuna says:
“my whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow Gandiva is slipping for my hands and my skin is burning…
O Krishna, I am unable to keep composed, my mind is unsteady and I see dire indications of inauspicious omens.”
— C. 1 v. 29-30 (translation from bhagavad-gita.org)
Later, Patanjali defined Yoga as Chitta Vritti Nirodha, loosely translated as “quietening the fluctuations of the mind” through the eight limbs of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Perhaps, never in our lifetimes had our collective minds fluctuated as violently; thus, how profoundly appropriate the promise of Patanjali’s strategy to achieve Yoga.
Those of us who were serious practitioners of Yoga were already familiar with the methodology which it propounds as a strategy to face these trying times. Many who had not yet embarked on the Yogic journey began to look to it as a remedy for their discombobulated state. Our minds needed peace, our bodies needed to remain heathy and fit, and our spirits needed solace.
We all needed the Yoga studio more than ever. But alas, the global lock-downs deprived us of the sanctuary of the studio. Even in this, we were forced to think outside the box and look at our practices with fresh eyes.
Yoga teachers and studio owners had to rise to the challenge of demonstrating the fruits of their years of practice and evaluate their own ability to face these challenges with equanimity and creativity. Many lost much of their income and many more still, the safety and facility of a place to practice with others of like mind.
Viewership of Yoga videos on YouTube soared and organizations offering online courses proliferated like mushrooms. This, itself, was confusing as the multitude of choices could confound the newcomer and veteran alike.
Amidst it all sat the silent, still, Self within, waiting patiently for us to come home. That ever-present inner voice guiding us to the light — the mystical, internal teacher which every serious practitioner of Yoga recognizes and identifies with. It called to us, not to waver, to continue forward with the promise that great leaps were to be made, not in spite of but, precisely, as a result of the challenges we faced.
I heeded and welcomed that call. Like most others, I experienced fear and anxiety but intuitively knew that such emotions were harbingers of a tremendous opportunity for growth. I knew that whatever my practice had been up until then, it would have to be augmented, refined and engaged in with more attention, focus and dedication. I recognized the lock-downs as an opportunity for a retreat, a daily Sadhana on a global level.
I started with the basics, reviewing the eight limbs. I had time to reflect on how my habitual daily life and livelihood were in accordance with the yamas. How could I improve on them under the new circumstances? This was an opportunity for me to be more compassionate to those who were suffering more than I was, more truthful about my own fears and weaknesses, less grasping of material things and more controlled in my physical impulses. The ground was fertile for improving on the niyamas: How I could be more positive and enlightening in my communications; more accepting of things as they are and not as I wanted them to be; more assiduous and disciplined in my practice of the other limbs; and more reflective on the Divine and Mystical forces at play in our lives?
On a nuts and bolts level, I increased my pranayama practice to include a one-hour session of anulom vilom, ujjayi and intermittent breathing, engaging the appropriate bandhas on the khumbhaka and rechakas. This I did, every morning, beneath the three majestic cedar trees which grace my backyard. Meditating after these exercises became a joy and respite. Simply sitting, breathing and witnessing. Appreciating the gentle comfort of the air carrying prana in and out of my physical body. The birds and the squirrels felt at ease around me as they playfully carried on their daily lives amidst the dancing trees in the garden.
I designed an asana sequence which addressed all the chakras and incorporated Hatha and Kundalini principles, with an emphasis on the muladhara (Root) to create a solid balance and a pathway for the opening of the chakras above. I incorporated kapalbhati pranayama into the sequence as a part of Sat Kriya to fan the flames of the Kundalini energy as it rises up the sushumna nadi towards the sahasrara (Crown) chakra. I stayed with the breath as I increasingly played the edge on the fine border of stability and ease, that balanced zone of sthira and sukham asanam.
My mind and body began to respond. I felt calm and confident, appreciative of life’s simple yet profound blessings. The journey continued and the traveller was evolving.
On the business side of things, I was one of the lucky ones who has an alternate source of income. However, I updated my website and used social media to offer online classes and connect with other practitioners. I also found great joy and fulfillment in providing classes free of charge, as a service to friends and family. After all, Karma Yoga is a quintessential part of the practice and the time was certainly ripe to engage in it.
In terms of professional development, I upgraded by taking an add- on course in Restorative Yoga and made it a part of my practice of the niyamas to study something to do with Yoga each and every day.
Going forward, I am excited and optimistic that the studios will soon be open again with a much greater interest from the public; new and old students returning with a fresh perspective and a greater passion and hunger for continuing the ever-evolving science/art of Yoga. I, for one, have benefited greatly from my practice and look forward to sharing it with others.
In many ways, the pandemic can be seen as just another manifestation of the dance of Shiva, the universal force of rejuvenation; of an awakening to a new dawn.
Over the past six months our world has undergone a seismic shift – from what seemed like a world with boundless freedom to a more restrained, constrained world thanks to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has changed the way we interact, live, teach, work and build connections. And, for those who teach and practice yoga and meditation, it has been a strained, but also powerful time causing us to reassess our world.
In a blink of an eye we have lost a sense of apparent certainty, predictability and control. But the truth is – COVID-19 or no COVID-19 – we don’t really have control over the present, the future or the past. It’s just we think we do. Actually, we wear a veil of delusion and/or illusion that all is within our control or that if we plan enough we can know what the future holds.
But knowing that we don’t really have much control has freed me from much suffering and allowed me, over the past six months, to really dig deep into my meditation and yoga practice as well as re-think my yoga teachings and trainings. After all, if life as we know it can change so quickly, anything is actually possible, so why not think and dream big?
Having just completed my 500-hour training with Sarah Power’s Insight Yoga, 2020 was supposed to a big year for me. I had hoped to expand my teachings, trainings and retreats. As a specialist in yin yoga and mindfulness, I had planned two big trainings this year — Level 1 and 2 Yin Yoga and Mindfulness. I had spent hundreds of hours creating the manuals and was excited to bring the teachings into the world. What’s more, I was also taking students to Italy on retreat in June and hoped to expand my weekly classes here in Toronto. I was also scheduled to do a yoga retreat in November with a fellow teacher. Things were looking great! But of course, all of that blew up as we went into lockdown here in Ontario in March.
Initially, I was devastated. I spent the first couple of weeks of the lockdown working on administrative stuff, postponing, cancelling and rethinking my plans for the year. I went off social media so I could clear my head and not pay attention to the endless speculation that was rampant during those early months.
And then suddenly, after all the adjustments were made, there was space and time for me to think and explore my practice. I decided to really spend a couple of months on me — practicing yoga and meditation often two or three times a day. Daily, I would rise early in the morning, go for a walk, then return home, do a 30- minute mindfulness meditation, then practice yin, restorative or gentle flow and then sit in meditation again. My afternoons were full with writing and reading and sometimes a third meditation.
As I live alone, I didn’t have to worry about balancing the needs of others. I could really just dig deep and practice. But there were also lots of intimate connections over a variety of platforms. I would have virtual chats, meals and teas with family and friends. I joined a pay-what-you-can online Sangha with a teacher I admire who is based in France. In June, I did a week-long online retreat with him. I spoke to my teachers, checked in with students. I did classes that my teachers offered and explored classes with other teachers and did friends’ classes, all online. I also watched lectures by international meditation and yoga teachers. Above all, I kept myself focused on really being present in what was unfolding in each moment.
As the weeks passed, I began to think about how I could best offer yoga and trainings going forward. As an independent teacher how was I going to pivot?
I began to experiment with private classes using FaceTime and Zoom and then began offering a weekly pay-what-you-can, by invitation only, Zoom class. It was a huge success. So, then I began planning how to do the Yin and Mindfulness Training online and how to make it accessible to people given the hit yoga teachers had taken financially. I expanded the training from 30 hours to 50 hours and decided to offer it via Zoom in early October. It will be live and interactive and will remain small and intimate. And, most importantly, it will be accessible to all and at a reasonable rate because I don’t have studio rental or printing costs for the manual. The Italy retreat is still on — but postponed until next September. And I’ve planned an online weekend retreat via Zoom for November. Zoom, FaceTime and Skype have become really important tools for me as a teacher — giving me a way to connect with students and my teachers, as well as friends, in an unexpected and enjoyable way. Who knew you could really create a sense of Sangha virtually?
The big take away for me in all this is that the pandemic illustrates how unknown, uncertain and impermanent life can be. Everything can change on a dime. Yet something wonderful and refreshing can come from something tragic and unexpected. This is a lesson we can all learn. The trick is not to get entangled in the tales of an unknown future or present as that just creates suffering and pain. It’s something I remind myself of each morning when I make my way to my meditation cushion. “This is how it is now”, I say to myself as I settle in and begin to focus on my breath or sensations in my body. “Body sitting; body breathing”.
Oddly, as I reflect back on the past six months, I am really grateful for the sudden halt of normal life — this great expanse of free time — during which I dedicated myself to my yoga and mindfulness meditation practice. I’ve found great solace and wisdom in it, beginning to crack open the unknowable knowable, the concepts of suffering, impermanence and non-self. And, on a more practical level, I am grateful for the time and space I’ve had to rethink my world as a teacher.
And, as the year continues and a second wave appears imminent, I will continue digging deeper into my yoga and meditation practice, just sitting, breathing and being — part of vast, spacious awareness. As I sit on my meditation cushion, I feel a sense of freedom as the boundaries of my body melt into the space around me, leaving me with a sense of interconnectedness, resting in being, taking refuge in being. Just being. Me. You. Breath. And hopefully, I’ll be able to help students feel the same, staying present as they practice. One breath at a time.
In the blink of an eye, our world has changed. To say that things have been flipped upside down is an understatement, as we wade through our lives adjusting to the new normal in 2020. One thing we know as yogis is that upside down can have benefits too. Inversions can be beneficial for the mind, body and soul. With that in mind, we can find the courage to be resilient in this upside-down world. We can channel our inner sense of calm, regain our composure, and maintain equanimity if we take the time to reflect and learn. Viewing this topsy-turvy life from the perspective of acceptance and opportunity can help us shift our mindsets toward growth and development and away from fear and doubt. If we can engage ourselves in mindful practices, we can find the strength to sustain ourselves through this period; we want not only to survive, but also to thrive. To do this, we can bring our mental health to the forefront of our awareness and take the time to also ask the body what it needs.
Personally, I find that taking time to really be present in my body and environment helps to ease worries of the future. Engaging in meditation, pranayama and asana practice regularly, I’ve found that having the world slow down around me has allowed even more time for the practice of these things I love. I have had the opportunity to spend more time creating holistic meals, new asana sequences, art and music. I have been able to form and strengthen relationships within my community. Of course, our relationships are taking new shapes, with most of our engagement being virtual and all else being socially distanced.
Through this time, I have felt lucky to be able to learn, grow, reflect and cultivate creativity. I found it especially helpful, during this time, to reconnect with the study of The Eight Limbs of Yoga, reflecting deeply on the yamasand niyamas. Aparigraha, non-attachment, has been an insightful practice, as I found that letting go of my expectations of what the world should or will look like has given me the freedom to accept whatever will transpire. I have been able to cultivate Santosha, contentment, based largely on acceptance of the world as it is, and not how my expectations or desires wish it would be. Feeling this contentment and non-attachment, and reflecting on this novel way of life as I cultivate my practice of the yamas and niyamas, my trajectory is toward surrender and acceptance of whatever the universe has in store.
The practice of surrendering brings a feeling of freedom during this time of constraint. When we allow ourselves to trust the universe, and to live mindfully by staying in the present moment, we afford ourselves the opportunity of agency. In this sense, agency means having the capacity to act independently and make one’s own choices; powerful action. The practice of mindfulness helps us to stay firmly rooted in the present moment and may ease our worries of the future. When we stop to check in with ourselves in times of chaos by reflecting, practicing gratitude, and fostering a sense of self-acceptance, we can find peace in the turmoil. This can help us to move forward and take action in the new and creative ways in which we have learned to adapt to our environment. The only thing constant in life is change, so to embrace change is to embrace life. Although there may be restrictions during this time of uncertainty, we can work to foster a sense of community and kindness to help us all thrive.
Many of us have creatively adapted our businesses and personal lives to suit this new situation. In life and business there will always be ebb and flow. Adapting to the changing tides can help anyone to ride out the storm. The shift toward online learning has connected myself and my business, Serene Dawn Yoga, with a larger community of creative individuals who are also shifting their perspectives and expectations to adapt to the changing times. I have found great joy in connecting with many global communities of individuals from all walks of life. These new connections have enabled me to learn and grow by widening my range of perspectives and access to knowledge. I have connected with these communities through social media platforms and by building my own website while also learning new graphic design skills.
I have taken time during this global slow-down to continue my learning, engage in a more dedicated daily asana practice, and connect with others who are experiencing similar challenges and changes. I have found many opportunities to share my knowledge and expand my own interests during this time. I find it quite peculiar that in a time of massive change and sometimes panic, one may find the peace or the path they had been hoping to stumble upon all along. This period of change has become a period of growth, learning and shared experience in our communities.
We are fortunate to be living in the era of advanced technology, and this technology has been a huge facilitator in the overall experience of fostering community and connection from a distance. A world of online opportunities opened up once many of the real-world places temporarily closed their doors. Although we may be physically more distant than ever, I truly feel that our humanity is getting closer at the heart through shared experience and hardship. When we lift others up, we lift ourselves up and, as Canadians, we have been very fortunate to have our tight-knit communities coming together to help one another in times of extreme difficulty.
Moving forward, we will maintain our sense of resilience and courage and we will restore our equanimity each time our composure waivers, knowing that we build strength through perseverance. By reinstating our sense of agency when we feel as though things have gotten out of our control, we can find new opportunities in any challenge presented to us. We all must find ways to balance our personal needs and societal safety, and although that comes with restrictions, it also comes with opportunity for reflection and change. We have the opportunity to change our old patterns and to build new, healthier habits in order to adjust to the ever-changing environment around us. Nothing that is worthwhile is ever easy, and changing our habits is no exception. If we approach change with kindness, acceptance and openness, we can build a world of mutual respect and care for our neighbours on a global scale. Now is the time to move forward into the fog and, as it clears, we will hopefully find ourselves rooted firmly in our new and different world in a way which makes us feel healthy, secure, and supported. Holding on to our sense of community will help guide us through the storm.
By Violet Pasztor
Solve et coagulais a maxim or motto of Alchemy which means "dissolve and coagulate". It refers to “that something that must be broken down before it can be built up”. One interpretation of this saying is to dissolve the body and build up the spirit. Alchemy is a science from the *Mystery School Tradition that has been practiced for millennia. Some famous alchemists include Thoth(Egyptian Mythology), Hermes Trismegistus (Hellenistic Period,) Zosimos of Panopolis (late third century AD), Maria the Jewess (between first and third century AD), Isaac Newton(1643-1727) and many more.
Traditionally, from times gone past, philosophers and sages searched for the “philosopher’s stone”, which was the process of transforming lead into gold, the imperfect to the perfect; a process involving the body(salt), soul (consciousness/sulphur) and spirit (mercury). Our alchemical process is a transformative one and, like the caterpillar emerging from the cocoon, Humanity is destined to transition through the seven stages in order to reach the golden state or perfection. We can also correlate this to the esoteric chakra system starting from the first gate to the seventh. Currently, Humanity is in the fifth stage of the seven-stage process of transformation (the heart area of the body; the LOVE aspect). In this essay, I explore SOLVE ET COAGULA, juxtaposing the caterpillar metaphor with global events, human psychology and spirituality. Let’s explore what “Dark Night of the Soul” means and how we, as individuals, may work through it collectively to get to the other side or the state of perfection. In this essay, I will first look at the journey so far and the processes that have already happened. Then I will look at where we are going in the alchemical process.
“First and chiefly, the principle subject of this Art is fire; it possesses a state and power of vivifying. It heats the furnace and the vessels just as the Sun heats the vast universe. So, also in this act, nothing can be produced without this simple fire.”
— Paracelsus(Swiss physician, an alchemist, a lay theologian and a philosopher of the German Renaissance)
CALCINATION is the first stage of our evolutionary transformation; it is the stage of FIRE. It is in this stage that Humanity experienced many global catalysts that instigated the first step of the firing process.
Metaphorically, as the caterpillar stuffs itself to the degree that it can no longer do so, a trigger (or an internal clock) goes off and the caterpillar begins to spin a cocoon. The break-down of the old system sets in motion the start of a series of changes.
For Humanity, the calcination state is a force that drove us forward, that motivated and pushed us up and out of the comfort zone. The danger was not the firing of change, the real danger was ignoring it. Psychologically, we could say that with no inner fire (passion), some fell into apathy, stagnation and depression (drugs and suicide); for others, too much fire led to anger and destruction (terrorism). Here, once we faced the issues that fired us up, there became an inevitable breakdown of the old system.
It was easy to become addicted to the drama of the old system and paralyzed by the status quo. Humanity transformed the emotional energy that caused us to speak out in the first place; those emotions of blame and shame on the outer plane dissolved into the water-soupy goo of dissolution. Like the caterpillar in the cocoon, enough was enough, and the internal clock of Humanity’s higher-consciousness pushed us forward into inner-transformation.
DISSOLUTION is stage two of Humanity’s evolutionary transformation. This is the stage of WATER. Here, we put what was left over from the first firing into the water to dissolve.
Metaphorically, the caterpillar’s cells act as though they are dying and going into survival mode while, at the same time, new cells are born. These cells are appropriately called “imaginal” cells. (The imaginal cells are the parts of a caterpillar that hold the information of the butterfly. They are latent within the cell, until it is time for them to grow.) Since these cells are different, they are perceived as a threat to the system, thus the old cells treat the new cells as though they are a virus and try to kill them off. This is when cells enter into the soup of dissolution.
For Humans, water relates to emotion and in this stage, we identified our feelings and worked through (with understanding and patience) the breakdown of what was happening around us (both in our personal lives and globally). Historically, industry, religion and government dominated our lives; however, since the new millennium, we began to see that these structures were failing. As a result, the imaginal cells of Humanity started to grow the innovators, visionaries and change-agents. The visionaries wanted change, the innovators pushed out new ideas and the change-agents made it happen. Those that didn’t want change, represented the dark side of Humanity, the Shadowside. Some liked the old structure and continued to fight for its survival whilst the middle -group liked the comfort zone and stuck their heads in the sand. The imaginal cells multiplied in numbers with the advent of the millennials. It required great courage, energy and discipline to instigate change which inevitably lead to the next state of transformation.
Alchemically, we were catapulted into the watery soup where we went through our first purification and drew out what was essential. Our minds started to become clear after the storm (realization of what went wrong). This took patience and inner work. We stopped blaming those around us and finger pointing at the imaginary enemy; we moved within to do the great work. By working out our own emotional blockages and releasing the old thought patterns that kept us stuck in non-evolving ways, we then started the process of refining our individual (and global) consciousness.
SEPARATIONwas stage three of Human evolutionary transformation. In this stage, as things begin to sit and settle down, the essences that were extracted from the old form were freed up and separated out. Think of a cup of tea, the dense Materia of the dried herb, the watery stage and then the separation of the essence. In Alchemy, the essentials are further purified before re-combining.
Metaphorically, in this stage, the caterpillar produces more imaginal cells and they begin to group in numbers and gain strength. Then, at critical mass, the cells begin to specialize and form new structures, guided by a clear vision within the DNA blue-print.
For Humanity, we recognizedthe underlying events that triggered us into the cocoon state. We faced the fears we were exposed to by Hollywood; propaganda of the war initiative and movement,and the gullibility of the media. We soon learned what the problems were and how and who started them. Independent of the program, we became aware of our emotional attachments and the pitfalls of the old system of thinking and feeling. Soon we started to understand what was really going on within us. We asked ourselves: “What do I want to keep?, What do I want to let go of?, What isn’t working?, What led to this break-down?” We looked at the impurities and corruption — within and without.
In this next stage, Humanity started to realize the corruption and breakdown of the old structures. The structures that were meant to be our foundation were no longer supporting our societies and people either rose up or sunk into dismay and depression. People started to seek out new action to orient themselves in a new direction. Humanity found tools to start disseminating this new stage of separation. These included Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006. People began using these tools to self-organize and express their voice. The social media gained momentum fueled primarily by the Millennials. Self-organization increased and soon, similar groups or agendas started finding strength and bonding together. The rise of many movements included Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party, Liberation Effort, Alternative Energy Initiative, Black Lives Matter, Me Too and Idle No More.
Documentaries exposed flawed systems such as politics, the food industry and big pharma. We became clear about what we needed to clean up, which allowed us better introspection and decision making. We did the hard work of research and re-discovered the truth about social behaviour and ties to certain belief systems. As we broke those ties, the very groups that instigated the problems enticed us to come back using whatever means they could, including financial manipulation, social control and threat of our own mortality. Of course, this happened because it was part of the old system’s way of doing things; however, we stood our ground and concluded that we must separate from these relationships that were not supporting the new paradigm. As we let go of the old way, we made space for the new.
CONJUNCTION is the fourth stage of Human evolutionary transformation. Here was the letting go of the old way from the previous stage. This led to a sense of liberation and we re-discovered our strengths and good qualities. (Humanity is currently in this stage.)
For the caterpillar, the imaginal cells united around the common vision and the old cells of the crumbling system started noticing something new was happening, thus old cells jumped ship to join the new system. The old cells re-oriented to become part of the new system. The imaginal cells that were freed up began to specialize further and started forming elements unique to the butterfly. It is here that they begin to form the wings and antennae. This harmonizing and co-operation of opposing elements is what the conjunction stage is all about. All essential elements are brought together in harmony. The old cells that didn’t change sides now dissolve into the alchemical soup that provides the fuel for the emerging system.
For Humanity, in this psychological stage of refinement, we continue to move inward, to get in touch with who we are, our limitations, our abilities and our strengths. Now, we re-unite ideas and plans to stabilize an entire new frequency and pattern for life. Outwardly, we draw new people toward us with the same vibration and frequency; we continue to move forward and stay on track to reach our greater potential.
This rejoining into a more harmonious whole is what conjunction means. As we are brought back together, we make sure that each part is in harmony with the other. (In physical Alchemy this is a tincture.) This stage is only mid-point and not complete; therefore, it is vitally important that we not get too comfortable in this stage and continue the process.
FERMENTATION is stage five of Human evolution. It involves further removal of anything that is still corruptible within the social structure and that needs to be purified. The slow, low heat must continue to further purify. Like alcohol, when heated, the “spirit” is released. This is the AIR Stage of Alchemy.
In this period, Humanity must now move deeper into consciousness in order to further purify. It is here, and only here, that we face the Dark Night of the Soul. Here we are forced to look at our shadow side — that which is not revealed. The shadow is neither good nor bad, it is both, and balanced we all stand in the centre or middle pillar. We soon realize that we are divine beings, and we find it through the shadow side. Divinity is not found in outer institutional organizations (as we thought in the past). Just as in the quantum sciences, the law of physics state that all potential exists within the dark matter. Out of the void, (the shadow) and through the darkness all things come into manifestation. The Raven, in the Native Medicine Cards, represents the “Great Mystery”; the void from which the light emerges.
It takes great effort to break down the ego and programming of the outer structures, to get to the other side of the precipice that within ourselves divides us from the light of transformation. Actions that limit our thinking disappear and we experience the death of the old personality and any attachment to that identity (Dweller at The Threshold). Anything that caused fear of the unknown and that hindered us is let go. We move beyond fear. Ancients from old have used various methods to help get us through the Dark Night of the Soul. They include: the vision quest, suppression of the senses to open the mind into an inner journey, immersion into a dark cave (yogis in the Himalayas), isolation tanks, vipassana (the prolonged inward process of meditation and cutting off of outer distraction), worship of certain deities, yoga and breath work, chanting, moving away from certain groups and belief systems, stopping judgment and comparisons.
We continue with any or all of these methods until a vision comes. We learn to open the door to higher spiritual consciousness. We do not let up. We release the old self into the higher divine self, transcending from Ego to Spirit. When the vision comes, it is very bright and, in Alchemy, it is often called the “peacock’s tail” or the “yellowface”. Fermentation requires patience, discipline, focus and devotion. In order to get to the wholeness, we need to walk through the inner fire and darkness. We need to face our fears. Once all corruption is eliminated, we are then ready to enter into the next stage of transformation.
Remember, that fermentation is the struggle to break free and we must allow the process in order to become strong and liberated from the old ways. We cannot free the butterfly before it’s time. It requires further growth from a higher supernatural blueprint. For Humanity, we need to work through Nature to speed this process up. Evolutionary processes take a very long time; however, with the proper tools it is possible to accelerate the process. Keeping a clear perspective on the collective alchemy (rather than the drama and conspiracies that held us back in the first place), we are able to push forward without falling back into the soup of dissolution.
Let us look at some recent global events. With the.com bubble in 1999, we saw the de-regulation of the banking system in 2001, 9/11 and the Patriot Act. The Department of Homeland Security was formed and the “war on terror” was penetrating our news and media on a daily basis; rights and privacy were taken from citizens; wars persisted in the Middle East; skyrocketing national debt occurred; and there was intense emotional breakdown of cultures and nations (watery stage). In came the separation stage; groups speaking out and mainstream media drowning out the protest using political rhetoric. Systems continued to dissolve as the credit ball burst; banks faced bankruptcy; we learned about the government’s treatment of First Nations peoples through the Truth and Reconciliation process. Scandal ensued. During the next stage, people started to see and soon realized the corruption and breakdown of old structures. The structures that were meant to be our foundation and hope were no longer supporting us and people either rose up, became complacent, or fell into dismay and depression. In 2016, we had a major disrupter year (think of the Tower card in the Holy Tarot). We had the USA Presidential Election, Brexit and Hong Kong.
Unprecedented masses of people rallied for change; there were a huge amount of deaths of famous people: David Bowie, Robin Williams, Liz Taylor, Nelson Mandala, Michael Jackson — to name a few. We came face to face with the shadow side of Humanity.
Now, in the fermentation stage, we come to the final death of the old self. The new paradigm forms are pushed forward into maturity. Current unrest will not go away on its own. Humanity fuels the fire of change by the constant work to higher conscious states. The collective of Humanity will experience a deeply rooted struggle to break free from the old and with new technology will discover massive changes in the global environment. We saw the market move toward cleaner cars (hybrid and electric), solar and wind energy, AI, 3-D printing, organic local and micro farming , cleaner energy systems and ecological awareness, science of heart and mind, spirituality and further connection between spirituality and physics.
Yet, we still see the old caterpillar cells fighting the process (continued war effort and oil production). Our effort must continue, more so than ever before, to integrate the values of the new paradigm and work out the kinks. In order for the collective consciousness to gain momentum and power, we continue to turn inward; to let go of the outer distractions and anything that keeps us stuck in the matrix. We continue our journey into the inner soul and spirit. This is our only access to the blueprint of the new paradigm. Just like the blueprint existed within the dissolution stage of the soupy goo in the cocoon stage, the blueprint of the emerging system is found in HUMANITY through meditation, yoga and the tools given to us by the group of imaginal cells driving the change to come.
When enough of us do this collectively we can get there. We just need a little push.
Who are the imaginal cells of today? There are two main groups. The first group is the Millennials or “net generation”. They value creativity and innovation. They are skeptical about mainstream propaganda; they research and decide for themselves what is happening. Growing up in the digital age, their brains operate in a new way, they want a faster pace and inner-connected reality. Millennials are breaking out of the old structure and pursuing technology based creative solutions to deal with the problems of the world. The second group is the “Cultural Creatives”. They share a common set of values: sustainability, diversity, transparency, conscious consumerism, co-operation and altruism. These two groups are applying the slow heat to continue the process.
DISTILLATION is the sixth stage of Human alchemical transformation. This is the very delicate period and the process must continue with a gentle heat. Everything that has progressed prior to this stage is now maturing. If we release the butterfly before it’s time, it would die. With the gentle heat of the sun, the butterfly will emerge, but not before its time.
This is the stage of re-ordering and refinement. To distill something is to take it from the ferment and then dissolve it into an aqua solution and then heat it up so that it rises into the air as a vapor. The evaporated essence rises up to the subtle realm, infusing consciousness into the Materia, then recondenses to anchor those subtle essences back into tangible form. Distillation requires several cycles of releasing more and more of the spirit essence we worked so hard to achieve through the previous stages. The manifested form now comes into the physical reality or Materia and finally, having solidified, into the new form.
Just like the imaginal cells of the butterfly, Human values emerge into the new paradigm.
The famous principle of correspondence states:
This can also be taken to mean:
The world reflects our thought forms. If we want to change our world, we must change our inner landscape of emotions and thoughts. In the inner alchemy we worked through powerful keys to move us through the previous stages to rise up like the phoenix. We learned to:
1. Move beyond emotions, attachments, opinions and negative emotions
2. Be honest with ourselves and others
3. Sacrifice the ego in order to attain the higher purpose and glory
4. Connect to the universal spiritual source and guide, fuel and refine the ongoing transformation
5. Face our own darkness and soul searching to get clear about our own values.
As we push forward to accelerate the process, we can use Malcom Gladwell’s perspective from his book Tipping Point. He talks about three types of people that are the core of any social movement.
1. Connectors — the social, charismatic people that connect others together
2. Mavens — who seek out knowledge, do the research and recommendations, connect with others to make wise decisions
3. Persuaders — the people that like serving others; they find solutions to problems and persuade others to follow through
We can take an approach similar to Gladwell’s perspective and find these people or groups in our lives to further step up the distillation process. These social drivers will rapidly move us forward in the process of social alchemy, they will help us to build the momentum. Once we reach critical mass, we then find ourselves at the tipping point. Each one of us has a role to play in order to be part of the new. Are you an antenna? Are you a wing to take flight and bring color into the world? We need to get clear on who and what we are and what role we play in the new world. We co-ordinate with other cells that work with a similar part of the structure, we meet others who are on a similar mission and bond together to create something bigger than we can create on our own. We find the group synergy.
Humanity is standing on the precipice of a great abyss and we are in the final face-off with our dark side. We call upon the inner warrior, the luminous warrior, the inner warrior of light and keep moving forward across the abyss.
COAGULATION is the final stage of the alchemical process, when what was once separated, the corrupt is made pure, the essence refined and then brought back into the Materia. This is the ‘ETHER’ stage of Alchemy. We take our consciousness, elevate it, refine it, keep refining it over and over, and thus purified, manifest the new paradigm. This is the philosophers stone. It involves the right percentage of Human-Beings doing the Great-Work within; we re-member, we re-align, we re-alize to connect with divinity. It is not through the external systems that this happens. Humanity realizes through their sense capabilities their own divine essence and their own right to it. The body, mind and spirit belong to Humanity and are not owned or patented in the material system. The return to the inner divinity manifests the new garden-of-Eden of co-operation and sublime systems that build up, re-generate and sustain.
The butterfly emerges. It pollinates and is part of a great system that sustains the great circle of life.
Humanity, like the butterfly, is a pollinator, expressing goodness, beauty and sustaining life on the planet Earth. Through the hard work of inner refinement and higher spiritual alchemy, we conclude that change is alchemical in nature and, through the seven stages, we are able to elevate and materialize into a new perfected and golden reality.
Here are some links for you to look at and contemplate the connections within this essay:
2. The Divine Matrix – 1% of the square root of a gathering changes the holographic model
3. Greta Thunberg, child environmentalist and imaginal worker
5. A Canadian company that controls pollution output and contribute to greener more ecologically sustainable projects
6. Science Institute of heart and brain math
7. Old cells jumping over to the other side – Joe Biden & his promise to kill the Keystone XL
8. Luminous Soul Techniques to work on the inner refinement
9. Naturality Process of inner development, release of Ego and finding the true Self
10. Sandra Sammartino- Going Deeper Within
11. “We are at a crucial moment in history where change is necessary” says BC Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau.
The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis, even considering the last 70,000 years full of suffering. Suffering has broken our slumber. We are forced to re-examine the way we have been living so that we can change the course of our lives. The whole world is awake and anxious.
We were engaged with relentless action, not knowing where that action was taking us individually and collectively. We were amassing wealth, technology and information but lacked the awareness to understand whether or not it was making us more peaceful, kind and loving to each other; whether our actions were helping or destroying the plants, animals and all other living and non-living beings on earth.
We were becoming efficient machines and doing things for the sake of doing. It gave us fleeting meaning and excitement at the cost of life around us and of our future. This is when the Coronavirus came and stopped us, causing us to reflect and review our ways.
When such an event happens, it points towards another evolutionary step we must take. Evolution is a movement reaching towards higher possibilities in us. But it also create chaos and pain. Evolution is the end of the existing patterns of living, leading to chaos. However, the chaos will be followed by the emergence of a new and higher level of realization and creativity. No progress is possible without the breakdown of the old.
The Coronavirus crisis has put us in our place in the universe and has given us a clear view of our personal and collective fragility. We have become acutely aware that our growth and development was material and technological. It didn’t have any moral or spiritual foundation.
This crisis may usher us into a new era of co-operation and co-existence, but with new boundaries. Each community and country has to prepare itself for more self-reliance rather than playing into the hands of transnational forces which are beyond our control.
OUR WORLD WAS HALF-MADE AND SICK — CRISIS BROUGHT AWARENESS OF REALITY.
Our world was sick and in a shambles. We coped and adapted to it.
The last 300 years were dominated by Western[MOU1] points of view. It was an era of transformation that brought immense material and personal benefits, unprecedented in human history, to many. It almost ended the hunger on earth. People became healthier, living longer with more comforts. They became more connected. There was a rise in democracy and education; an amassing of knowledge and an exploration the planet; and the emergence of the rights of the individual and a global culture.
But the era was equally destructive. The Western approach is dynamic but full of anxiety and aggression because it doesn’t have inner stability. It depends entirely on the world outside for its survival and happiness, yet the outer world is in constant flux. Homogenization of the world is the only way to find stability because different points of views may cause confusion and chaos. The result was genocide, the wiping out of indigenous and other cultures of the world. They were labelled as superstitious and their metaphysics as empty, of no practical use. It also lead to two world wars, slavery, colonization and a relentless destruction of nature. World institutions such as WHO, UN, IMF, World Bank and many other international bodies and multinationals became legal means for exploitation.
Individual, social and cognitive brilliance were admired and encouraged at the cost of emotional and spiritual intelligence. On the surface, things looked rationale, shiny, rock solid and invincible but, underneath, was fragmentation, ignorance and fragility. It became a global culture, not due to integrity and understanding, but because of material and technological power. Worldwide, people accepted this because they wanted their share in the power of consumerism and technology.
It has been extraordinary to watch how, in last few weeks, it’s all crumbling. Such a mighty civilization with its material and technological power, so suddenly is on its knees. With the onslaught of the disease and deaths, the whole world came to a halt and to ground zero of equality. It’s devastating, yet it hints towards another step in evolution. It points out that that whatever was there, was half-made and unhealthy. It’s time to integrate the cognitive and social brilliance of the West with the ethical and spiritual ways of other cultures. Nature will be an essential part of this integrated view of life.
However, we have to be extremely careful not to replace what we have in a hurry, with something else which could be even more destructive — another half-baked authoritarian ideology waiting to overpower the world. If that happens, we will lose what we gained in the last few centuries and regress rather than progress forward.
WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO DO? — IMAGINING THE POST-CORONA WORLD.
The crisis is raging and we are confined and stumbling in uncertainty. How to get out of this confusion and darkness? We must light a lamp of imagination and think what kind of world we would like to have once the pandemic is over. The best way to deal with the problem is to find its solution and not to become lost in it.
Imagination is more important than knowledge, said Einstein. Knowledge is a map that guides us while imagination is the territory where we can roam freely and search for answers and opportunities. Imagination knows no restraint and it is the power that puts knowledge to use. Imagination leads to theory and theory results in action. It all starts with imagination.
Imagination has been discouraged and we were persuaded to follow the practical world which is nothing else but the repetition of the old patterns. People who don’t follow this advice become pioneers and the world changers.
Most of us don’t trust in our creative abilities and become followers. Abraham Maslow called it “Jonah’s complex”, the fear of our own greatness. Indian teachings tell us “Aham Brahman Asmi” which means “I am the Brahman, I am the world and the universe”. It’s time to trust ourselves and start imagining the post-Corona world the way we would like it to be. That will be the beginning of a profound change.
I AM THE WORLD –— I AM THE CHANGE AND THE CHANGE MAKER
Often we blame:
1) Big businessmen, corporate leaders, billionaires and actors and their luxurious lifestyles and exploitation of nature for the ills of the world
2) Politicians for the strife and conflict
3) Gurus who are living like kings and queens
4) The poor for reproducing without any control[MOU2]
The one person we forget to include is ourself. Everyone else is to be blamed, but it’s not me. It’s the “not me” syndrome. If we look carefully, we will find that we created all of the above to shelter ourselves from our fear and to live in pleasure and protection. They give meaning to our lives. But, really, they are merely symbolic heads and have no power on their own. If we don’t give them our powers, they will crash to the ground in no time. But we don’t take such action because our own lives are dependent on them.
If we want change in the world, we must start with ourselves; look into our fear, insecurities and addiction to our lifestyles and say that we are not going to pursue pleasure beyond a modest and comfortable living. If we do this, then we will discover our inner powers and our lives will change.
But changing ourselves is not enough. We have to become change makers. We must become the harbingers of light and blaze new paths for the whole of humanity. Change within should be reflected in taking political, economic, educational and ecological action.
HOW TO START THE CHANGE?
Education — Cultivating the foundational four
1. Cognitive intelligence — intellect and reason — leads to science and technology.
2. Social intelligence — civic sense and respect for others — leads to peaceful co-existence.
3. Emotional intelligence — interpersonal relationships — leads to love and care.
4. Spiritual intelligence — oneness of all life — leads to feeling the innate unity of all things.
Action — Expressing our intention through four actions
Politics — Democracy or other ways of governing. No single way should be imposed.
Economy — As much local as possible, decentralized, tourism to be restricted for the revival of nature.
Skills — Depending on the natural inclination for various jobs and professions.
Ecology — Let nature grow itself rather than being managed.
by Sandra Sammartino
The early days of Covid-19 tested my intuitive abilities. Scheduled to teach a Yoga workshop in Edmonton on March 5/6, I decided to go but slept on both flights to increase my resistance. On returning home, I cancelled my scheduled flight to Los Angeles to meet Bob, my husband. I intuitively knew it wouldn’t be safe. When Bob came home, I happily joined him in isolation, knowing we were both safe.
Bob and I enjoyed our time with each other. We noticed other people staying closer to home, in their yards; playing with children; sitting with family; working in gardens; walking in back lanes; and riding bikes. Parents and children seemed happier; freed from hectic, micro-managed schedules. Houses looked warmer, and more alive. It reminded us of the way things were in the 1950s. The air was fresher and pets were happier.
On the other hand, less distracted by routines and habits, I came face-to-face with buried family issues, putting me in touch with my shadow side. Using Yoga meditation and samadhi techniques, I worked through these issues, and am still processing them. Some friends and associates were also working through their personal issues; examining their lives and the value systems that were driving them.
In a societal context, we are all being challenged to come to terms with Covid-19 and, in a larger context, climate change. I believe the reason Yoga is so popular is to prepare us to meet challenges by creating a centre within that we can turn to, to sort through problems, gain strength and be informed by the deeper aspects of our being.
When Covid-19 hit I was amazed how quickly people adjusted and reached out to help others. They delivered groceries, posted uplifting messages and helped the vulnerable. The handling of dire news was mitigated by the personal work done through Yoga and meditation. Yoga classes morphed to on-line platforms, and more people took advantage of them.
A grounded sense of community has risen up, infused with empathy, warmth, and heartfelt gratitude towards service and health care workers. They are honoured through words, songs and the banging of pots. These values bring joy to our world, and can be noticed everywhere we look. It will be interesting to see if they hold, once the restrictions are lifted. I suspect they will. Touched by what we have been through, we will emerge from this crisis with a greater sense of purpose and appreciation for life on planet earth. And, in doing so, we will fight for it with a greater understanding of the value it holds for us.
By Mahan Khalsa
Sitting at my large wooden table, sipping morning coffee and listening to jazz music, I find myself daydreaming of days gone by. Seven weeks ago, I was in San Diego, CA. I spent my last day on a well-deserved vacation doing yoga by the ocean, riding a cruiser bike on the boardwalk with friends and eating fish tacos. It was an escape from the escalating news coverage I was getting from friends and family at home in Vancouver, BC, telling me I better get back soon.
Luckily my flight back was that night. From freedom and vacation, I went straight home to be quarantined with my teenage daughter. I remember noticing how the news of COVID triggered my deepest fears around survival. I immediately wanted to pack my bags and run for the mountains, as I had done so many times before when an unexpected “change” came my way… RUUUUUNNNN!!!!
A few days in, I noticed how I settled. Giving myself permission to speak openly about my feelings, in safe spaces, with close friends liberated me. I reflected on how many times adversity and uncertainty had knocked on my door and how it was during these times that I found myself: my strength, courage and resilience.
As a practitioner of yoga and meditation, the essence of impermanence kept arising in me. Life is constantly changing, certainly COVID-19 could not last forever.? It occurred to me that we humans have been through this before. I began to pray to my ancestors and call upon their wisdom and strength as these times of uncertainty confined us.
It’s true that life is uncertain, but wasn’t it always uncertain? All this isolation and lock-down reminded me of my days spent at Vipassana meditation. I laughed out loud as I realized that the whole world was in Vipassana. And, this time, “the sit” would be much more than 10 days. 49 days at home, with no distractions and nowhere to go. Lots of time to “look at” and “be with” what had been longing for our undivided attention. Our families, relationships, values, health and careers. Even our creativity, passion and beliefs about Life. Thanks to COVID, we have had the time to “get real” with ourselves.
This forced “pause” and global reset was giving all of us a well needed break from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. It was giving us time to clean up the messes we had left, to declutter and get organized and to take responsibility for ourselves. At one point, I had a vision. Looking down upon the Earth, I saw everyone sanitizing and disinfecting everything, everywhere… even the construction workers were cleaning up!! Mother Earth and all of us were going through a spring cleanse, a collective purge and up leveling of our energy and resources.
As time has passed, what stands out significantly for me is the adaptability of human beings. Where people were once closed and shut down, I am now met with warmth and genuine human connection. Sure, we are forced to stay indoors, wash our hands and not be in each other's close physical space, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. How many people have pivoted and created something new? How many have learned how to Zoom to stay connected virtually with family and friends all over the world? As the owner of a corporate yoga business, I shifted immediately to offering our clients virtual yoga classes, and have been offering free online classes via FB live and Zoom as well. Giving back has been essential in keeping me elevated during this stressful time.
Buddha told us all things are impermanent. Goenka-ji taught us how to observe our breath and physical sensations to live more authentically in the present moment… and there’s that meme going around that says, “Your great-grandparents were called to war. You are being asked to sit on your couch”. We have been here before, whether we consciously remember or not. We have walked through many trials, over many long paths, and it is through slowing down and tuning in that we will always find our way back home. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Enjoy this “pause” while it’s here.
By Oda Lindner
Online yoga learning and yoga teaching have taken over the world. During the pandemic, we all have increasingly become drawn into screen-viewing and screen-presence. Most of us do all our information-gathering online. We live, learn and teach through our eyes and our minds.
Yet yoga is the art of embodiment. Are we losing yoga when we are shifting everything online? Over the past two months I have taught only screen-based yoga, facing disembodied audiences who gather most of the information through their eyes. Can I transmit a body-centered, peaceful practice to them in their living rooms while making them feel at home in their bodies? Can I remind them that the essence of yoga is the groundedness in our physical presence?
In this time of disembodied computer and cell phone living, yoga has become more important than ever. We all need the breath-based movements and the focused, embodied poses to draw us back into our physical existence. This was important before Covid-19, but now it has become even more crucial. Embodiment is vital. It settles us and calms anxieties; it quiets the nervous system and makes us stronger and more stable.
But how do we, as yoga teachers, teach embodied presence over zoom or youtube? In the past, when we taught in studios, we could guide our classes with our bodily presence and our helping hands. Now, when we teach online, we find that this physical contact is missing. Without the direct physical connection yoga poses can easily become just pictures. How can we prevent our students from just looking at such pictures on a screen and imitating poses that play out mainly in their heads? How can we draw them into their physical presence and give them a deeply felt sense of embodiment?
To my mind, the inner sense of bodily presence is a central to any form of yoga. I therefore have taken some time to think about ways in which I could introduce embodiment into the screen-based practices. Here are some of my thoughts and experiences.
In most of my classes, I refrain from offering people video pictures that draw them back into their minds. That means that I usually just sit in front of the computer screen and use my voice to guide the participants through the practice. I usually begin by drawing their attention to their immediate surroundings, to their felt sense of body and to their sense of being present. Then I mention more specific tactile sensations such as asking them to feel the touch of their clothes on their skin or to explore the outlines of their body. Next, I might guide their attention to the feeling of the weight of their bones on the ground. Then I lead them to the sensed movement of the breath inside their body. Tactile sensations are magical, they instantly draw the students’ attention away from their heads. The direct, tactile feeling of skin or of the breath allows them to drop out of their eyes and into their physical presence.
Here are some other things I often employ:
· Noticing the boundaries of the “me”
· Exploring the space around the body
· Exploring the space inside the body
· Sensing the different body parts
· Feeling the breath and checking the length of the “in” and the “out” of the breath
· Drawing attention to the outbreath and lengthening it or blowing air out of the mouth (especially useful in the evening)
· Bringing mindful awareness to each phase of a sequence
· Doing focused, quiet movements that bring body, breath and mind together
· Doing poses in a way that emphasizes the stillness at the center of each asana
· Braiding awareness, breath and tactile sensations into a unified whole and letting them accompany each movement.
I have learned to use these instructions not only when guiding my students but also often for myself. Just before I go online I drop into my body, become present and breathe a few slow breaths with my whole being. Then, when I turn on my screen, I take a few minutes and check in with each participant while still feeling my body fully. This allows me to become more attuned to each person.
At the beginning of most of my classes, I instruct the group to breathe together. This creates a certain sense of felt connection and coherency in the group that goes far beyond just looking at each other on the screen. It is this felt sense of connection that then usually carries the session and allows us to relate to one another as embodied beings even though we are physically separated.
Attention to embodiment is therefore very central in my online teaching. I often forgo speed and complicated poses for a simpler and more focused practice. I give my students time to connect to their feelings and frequently asked them “How has this pose affected your feelings?” or “What do you sense in your body now?” We do fewer poses and give ourselves more time to explore what it means to be here.
These are a few observations which all have in common that they focus our attention on the felt sense of embodied presence. In these difficult times many of us have become more ungrounded and more disconnected. I hope that an embodied practice can make a small contribution by bringing the sanity of yoga into the living rooms of people who have to live under restricted conditions and who often have lost an alive, direct connection to their bodies.
By Shyam Ranganathan
COVID-19 and the pandemic have brought to home the ways in which our unreflective sense of autonomy and independence — our naïve pre-pandemic ways of life — were founded assumptions about the way the world is. Some of those assumptions include a picture of our own independence as something that permits our free movement and ability to interact with others in any circumstance we wish.
The problem here, just to be clear, is our pre-pandemic sense of independence. This pre-pandemic independence renders us vulnerable to the easy transmission and infection of Covid-19. Jurisdictions that did not put into to place the mitigating strategies of social distancing, in time, saw a sharp increase in infections and deaths. As I write this now, Sweden’s architect of the no-lockdown model response to Covid-19, Anders Tegnell, reports that the country's heavy death toll “came as a surprise”. (“The head of Sweden's no-lockdown…” Business Insider Australia, May 6, 2020). And for many others, who were worried about this outcome, evidenced by past experiences in China and Italy, this was the opposite: tragically unsurprising.
As a historian of Western and South Asian philosophy, one pattern that strikes me is the opposing approaches these traditions have taken on the question of individuality and independence. If one goes back to Plato and Aristotle, at the very beginning of the Western tradition, the individuality and autonomy of the citizen of a state was assumed, and the problem that presented itself was: how do we integrate these individuals into a cohesive whole? Feminists later point out how privileged and male this point of view is, as though social interdependence is not a basic fact of life for people such as mothers and their children. Nevertheless, this assumed independence, as a starting point, sets off a trend in the history of Western philosophy. The problem the individual has, in this picture, is to reconcile their quirkiness with the broader demands of social living. Given this starting point, it is not surprising that some, steeped and raised in this tradition, would see any limitation on their quirkiness as a kind of heavy-handed external imposition on an assumed inner-freedom. Protestors of the lockdown are in large measures heirs to this tradition.
But, what is most striking about this picture of people as atomic first, and integrated next is that there is plenty of evidence against it. All animals are born from other animals, humans too. And humans require a remarkable amount of care from others to survive. And humans, like all animals, are interdependent on a greater environment that furnishes their needs. If humans were truly individual bubbles, they could travel in space without any need to take a portable environment with them. Our dependency on factors largely outside of our control is far more supported by the evidence than some native individuality.
This is the starting point of South Asian philosophy. In ancient South Asia (ancient “India”), philosophers didn’t start off assuming our independence. Rather, South Asian philosophers were predisposed to see the real starting point of all people, regardless of their biological species, as interdependent on a host of natural causes — the gods or devas — and humans had to do their part, within the economy of sacrifice, to have a place and to gain the requirements for existence. And this continues to be the empirical reality of all animals. We are made of matter, put together in a certain complex way, caused and causing all manner of natural reactions and influences, and depending upon a fragile environment for the stability we need to survive. Until Covid-19, most of us didn’t imagine that this fragile environment was also defined by lacking Covid 19 — how could we, we had no idea that it even existed.
Later, philosophically, the ancient Indian view of a world of numerous natural gods, demanding or requiring sacrifices in order to dispense their justice, was transformed into what is often believed to be the earliest of Indian philosophies: Sāṅkhya. According to Īśvarakṛṣna’s summary of this tradition, reality is explainable by the evolution of natural forces. Moreover, everything that we count as our selves, such as our minds and bodies, is reducible to nature. This is, in many ways, the modern view in contemporary academia: mind and body are empirical phenomena that can be explained by natural laws. But, from the Sāṅkhya position, there is one thing that is not reducible to natural explanation: the person (puruṣa), as the observer of their life. While our bodies are made of the same kind of stuff, and our minds similarly explainable by psychological laws, the individual is an abstract point of view, not reducible to the natural stuff that all observers have in common.
Persons — observers — lie outside of the natural world. There is a catch: even though we as people believe and feel like we are making decisions or acting in the world, this is simply our bodies and minds (our brains) feeding us these experiences: everything that is happening, doing and choosing, is externally determined by natural causes. So our individuality, on this account, is superfluous to the choices that we would make and the actions that we would do. This is a torment, amounting to being forced to watch the train-wreck of one’s life, believing incorrectly that one can have an influence on how things turn out. Freedom from this difficulty comes to the individual when Nature provides an insight into the distinction between persons and Nature. Then natural causes no longer function to keep the charade up.
Enter Buddhism. Buddhism buys the basic naturalistic premise of the Sāṅkhya tradition in its primary metaphysical principle — the principle of dependent origination — but rejects the need to understand oneself in terms of being an external observer on life. Without that external vantage on our life, we cannot generate the conclusion that we are helpless to change things, nor can we identify with selfish desires that lead us to make inappropriate choices in the face of an objective universe defined by causal relations. Instead, in abandoning individuality, we are in a position to embrace the challenge of the moment, put into effect actions that we guide into a successful future that inherits these wise choices. All of this makes compassion instead of desire out to be the dominant motive.
Buddhism is the archetype of a view that abandons individuality on many levels: it abandons even talk of unity and oneness: we are not one on this view, just dependent on everything else that is also dependent on everything else. But for the yogi there is a problem with this view: deliberating and reflecting on what to do involves treating ourselves as agents, responsible for our choices. This requires that we abstract ourselves from the possibilities to gauge our options. To deliberate is to treat oneself as isolated (kaivalya) from everything else. From this prioritization of one’s isolation one can decide what counts as compassionate and prudent behaviour moving forward.
Moreover, the yogi can point out that the very reasons the Sāṅkhya tradition gives us reason to take ourselves seriously as observers (that our individual vantage is not reducible to the common stuff of nature) so too does it provide reason to take ourselves seriously as agents. Each one of our choices and responsibilities are not reducible to nature: these are individual and ultimately the responsibility of the person to preside over. We are all made of the same stuff. But our choices are our own, and so are our obligations.
For yoga, as we learn about it in the Upaniṣads, and Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra, our autonomy and individuality are not to be assumed as a starting point but something we work on and toward via the practice of yoga. This independence from others is not a causal or natural independence — it isn’t a fact of life that mask wearing or social distancing can trample on. It is a moral or ethical independence. When we make responsible choices ourselves, we give ourselves the personal space we need to regulate ourselves and contribute to an environment where it is possible for others to do this too.
The pandemic we are currently living through exemplifies the need for us to make considerate choices as individuals, giving ourselves and others the space that they need — not because this is a natural fact of life, but because it is a normative fact: how we should live.
For me, yoga has provided an opportunity to assess the challenges of the pandemic as something that can only be solved by yoga, for in adopting the philosophy of yoga, we engage in the central practices of yoga. Patañjali lists three at the start of Book 2 of the Yoga Sūtra: Īśvarapraṇidhāna, tapas and svādhyāya, which translate into the practice of philosophical reflection, being unconservative (pushing against past habits and practices) while living on our own terms as we move forward. And, what ties this practice together is the idea that meaningful activity is a devotion to the ideal of persons, Īśvara, the Lord, defined by tapas (unconservativism) and svādhyāya (self-governance). What makes us people responsible for our lives is that we each have an interest in our own lordliness, and this commonality also sets us apart as individuals. That we have an interest in our own lordliness means that what is good for anyone of us is good for us all. Hence, to the extent that mitigating strategies in the face of Covid-19 are good for me, they would be good for you too — and what makes them both of our concern is that they are a way for us to protect our mutual interest in lordliness — to not be bound by past decisions and actions and free to live on our own terms. If there will be an end to the lockdown, it will only happen if we protect this interest to not be stuck in the past and to choose for ourselves as we move forward.
One very small change that I have made in my practice as a teacher — my tapas for now — is that I have decided to offer for free one of my courses to other yogis interested in practising our way out of the pandemic. I call it Five Limbs: Yoga Sūtra Essentials for Practice. My initial and continuing intention is to offer this course (for free) to yoga studios and teachers to offer (for free) to their students in the hope that it would support both ends of this symbiosis. If this is something that would help you or your students with practice, let me know!
Please visit Shyam's site: www.yogaphilosophy.com
By Helen Maupin
Every two weeks, I host a meditation, writing and sharing circle where I am joined by my yogi friends. For two hours, we incorporate meditation as well as awareness writing and sharing to dig deeper into self-discovery. I continue to host this “mindful meditation” experience into its 20th year because we all recognize how powerful the collective is in supporting individual transformation, and vice versa. Self-care, growth, wisdom and creativity abound.
I share this small “group work” with you to illustrate a much larger impact. Since September 2019, the temperature and narrative of this meditation group has centred on large change at the inner core of each participant’s being. Each of us sensed and expressed awareness of this emergent experience. Indeed, as host of the group, I witnessed the step-by-step progress each one of us took every time we met. And then came COVID-19, a large change at the core of our personal and global experience.
Without question, each member of the group was able to “accept what is” and still see the silver linings within the darker cloud of the pandemic crisis. We noted the significance of our own internal purification and its alignment with the external purification of our earthly home — seeing to the bottom of Venice’s canals, for only one example. Our micro transformations were/are progressing hand-in-hand with the macro transformations of the planet making obvious and indisputable the truth that we are all connected; all one. Something big is happening for all of us.
Each time my meditation group meets, I write a poem describing our present moment experience. These poems grew into four books of poetry. I share my most recent poem, below, as a creative illustration of the bountiful fruits born from the work of self-discovery and self-care.
Something deep inside broke; a cord severed.
First thoughts, will it cripple or crown us?
Will ill-balanced responsibility melt into surrender? Or,
will relationships be rewritten by wide-opened hearts?
All around, hard-fought boundaries slip away
for resistance is futile when rebirth is afoot.
Purification and silver linings exist everywhere
gifting us with new responsibilities, new strengths.
Pausing … releases old demons and new wonders.
Simplified and set free, human and spirit join forces
serving up joyful intuition and conscious creation.
May pandemic peace adapt crisis into kindness.
May we be careful and care-filled in these days of uncertainty. If meditation is not for you, how about a 30-day sadhana practice. I just finished my own personal 30-day asana and pranayama journey and found it so refreshing and revealing that I am continuing for another 30 days. Namaste fellow travelers.
By Gopala Amir Yaffa
I travel a lot to teach yoga all over the world, and my travel plans have been affected before by storms, security alerts and even wars. Well, just to add another thing to the mix, now there is the Coronavirus.
The main feeling that arises in me from this whole situation is actually INSPIRATION. I feel inspired by how the whole world can come together to protect the people that are more vulnerable to the virus even when this requires extreme actions, such as social isolation, that affect everyone on a personal level.
I truly hope that we can use this as a precedent to how we can respond, globally, to other real threats such as global warming, teen suicide, family violence, dominance of animals through farming, world hunger, education and more.
WOW! Through communication technology humanity is more connected than ever before. The possibilities of using this to create positive change are amazing! We can do many awesome and creative things we online these days? We are so connected!
Many human troubles are mostly invisible to us unless we hear about them on our many devices, yet global action, like that taken for the Coronavirus, is very much needed on all of them. When faced with threats and fear, we can either let them consume us and cause us to freeze or flee, or we can choose to take actions. Life shouldn’t stop. There are car accidents, but we still drive cars… And, in some countries, we have natural disasters and wars but, in most cases, it does not stop us from going about our lives and making the best of them.
Beauty and fun exist in the simplest daily moments when we practice gratitude.
We need to set our priorities right. Our personal lives and gains may be important, but they are not as important as our social responsibility to help make the world a better place. Millions and millions of people, including you and I, have made many sacrifices to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. Can we do this for other pressing issues too? I believe we can.
Globally, thousands of people die every day from hunger, lack of clean water, violence and wars. Millions of animals die every day for human consumption. The world is heating up causing a deadly imbalance that affects all life on earth. From the way we responded to the Coronavirus as a united group, it is obvious that WE CAN make a difference.
For me, yoga is a lot more than an exercise; it is a way to change the world. Our world and how we see it from the inside out, and the world at large by understanding how connected we are.
With adversity comes strength, and yoga can teach us so much!
Look at this! With the Coronavirus, we are more united in spirit and in action than ever before. Let’s keep it up! So many lessons to be learned, now, about courage, social responsibility, compassion and appreciating life. These are all valuable life lessons that we make an effort to gently teach children and families through our Rainbow Kids Yoga classes.
Like any virus, people with compromised immune systems are more likely to contract the Coronavirus. And, here again, yoga comes into the picture with its fantastic tools to reduce stress, enhance our mood and wellbeing, bring balance to the body and mind and, as a result, strengthen the immune system!
By Maya Machawe
As an individual who considers herself a yogi, I often find myself trying to study and understand the world around me. My mind is constantly trying to balance the good and bad. And, it is in that balance that I find peace. However, I also believe in imbalance for I would not know balance without it. Just as I would not know light without dark.
One day, I was on my way home, chatting with my daughter. I admit that I have never been a person who is always on top of the news so when my daughter spoke of a new virus that was taking lives on the other side of the planet, I was skeptical. After all, she has a knack for exaggeration. It was not until the WHO (World Health Organization) declared an emergency that it clicked for me. This is another roller coaster ride and we are just climbing to the peak.
It has now been a couple of months since then. And here I am sitting behind my desk, typing and pondering how much our lives have changed over the course of weeks. From panic and unreasonable hoarding, to pointing fingers at others, to projecting the pressure we have all been feeling. I am no doctor or philosopher, nor am I the only person who has an opinion regarding the situation. However, I personally believe that the world is being balanced.
Every human being on our planet has been affected directly or indirectly by the pandemic. Getting directly affected by COVID-19 leads to the demolition of physical health. Its indirect effect is to trap people in the uncertainty, anxiety and fear raised by the pandemic. A few people have also found a creative way to move forward with confidence. Where do their differences rest?
I think the difference is in their perception of acknowledging the problem. At this moment, in the face of the pandemic, there is an opportunity to cultivate inner peace and psychological strength to enable us to adapt to the changes that arise from the crisis. It’s not just about protecting ourselves from the viral infection but also securing ourselves from mental and emotional degradation. In this realm, I personally think that yoga is a great help for humanity. Yoga teachings can reduce the overload of stress and empower us to change our feelings of panic into hope. In fact, yoga has the ability to build up hope, compassion and love to fight depression, anxiety and ignorance.
If we globally educate and provide people with simple techniques of meditation, that can change the course of panic into hope. Meditating can clear our minds of anxious, stressful and fearful thoughts and bring about a peaceful and relaxed state of mind. The fight against contagious COVID-19 demands a peaceful and balanced state of mind that will stand strongly against the parallel pandemic of mental horror. Only a strong mind can perceive that this is a time to shape human history and modern civilization by isolation. We can’t avoid exposure, but quarantine is a solution to save humanity. Therefore, isolation is not a deprivation of social relations but the insurance of public health.
In terms of physical health, a yogic exercise routine is already designed to practice individually on a mat. Depending on the style of yoga, and the personal need, the workout can vary from vigorous to relaxing, or can even be a therapeutic one, to keep us physically fit.
Carrying out a pranayama practice is one of the most important techniques to maintain the health of our respiratory tracts which will help us to strongly withstand this crisis. Executing the breathing exercises on a regular base will reduce the threat of a false feeling of choking.
Yoga encourages a vegan diet. A few days ago, I read an article saying that vegetarians do not get affected by COVID-19 as easily because it requires animal fat in the body.
Yoga is a wisdom of survival. Man does not live alone. He lives together with other animals and plants, having the common goal of survival. We all are collectively shaping the world that we live in through our actions. The world, as it exists, is a result of the collective actions of all beings. Therefore, we all share the same fate. We must collectively respond to this pandemic no matter what our nationality, gender, skin color, social status or culture. It’s time for people all over the globe to benefit from the ancient teachings of yogic wisdom.