Today I swam 108 laps without stopping, and rather than being exhausted, my heart feels as big as the sky and full of love.
I have been doing 108 sun salutations, along with my yogis, for every solstice and equinox for eight years, and since I swim now too and today is summer solstice, I figured I’d swim 108 laps and dedicate my swim to six people who I know could use some extra love right now (but also to anyone whose heart may be heavy today, for whatever reason). I wrote their names on my arm so that in moments of my ego bitching and story telling I could just look at my arm and remember the love that was fueling this challenging practice.
I have found long ago that anything powered by love and a devotion to that which connects us all easily erases all doubt, fear and whatever other assorted aspects of the ego. I have also found that this world is full of suffering and is so by design, and that no one is immune from human suffering, as long as we mistakenly take ourselves to be just human. Finally, I have found that the only way out of suffering is the way inward, into our hearts, and one of the most effective ways to live from the heart is to give and keep giving and continue to give from the heart.
My body may be sore and tired but my heart is full of love because I decided to give love. What we give, we also keep, and the more we give, the more we keep. Such is the way of reality, which is completely contrary and foreign to the ego. But the ego is contrary and foreign to our true nature, so no paradox there.
This Sunday (June 23), I’ll guide my yogis through 108 sun salutations at Rishi Yoga. Imagine one person dedicating a challenging practice to all that’s true, real and eternal, like I did today, and add just one other person joining in, and you’ll get a sense of why such a practice is so powerful. As A Course in Miracles teaches: “Yet when two or more join together in searching for truth, the ego can no longer defend its lack of content.” And all that’s left is what always has been and what we always have been: love.
Some people’s asshole tendencies come out when they drink tequila. The wind is and always has been my tequila. (Why, again, do I live in Reno?! LOL) It’s been an alcohol free hangover for me every morning for the last week.
It’s not just the relentless pressure in my head but the feelings of irritation and frustration and anxiety.
But it’s easy to blame the damn wind. And all the while, the wind doesn’t care. If it did care and could speak, maybe the wind would say: “Hey, if I stir up irritation and frustration and anxiety in you, don’t blame me, but look at the real source of those feelings in yourself.”
Hm. I’d say the wind has a point.
Somehow we expect this very unstable world to give us stability. And we expect this very imperfect body to be reliable and even be a source of comfort. And most of all, we expect the mind’s default setting, the ego, to lead us to peace, when the ego itself is an attack on peace.
I can very well walk around with a headache and jitteriness and still be at peace. The secret that’s not a secret at all is that I have a choice whether I identify with my body, and its master, the ego. If I do, I suffer. But I don’t have to suffer because I have the absolute freedom to unbind my mind, moment to moment, from this thought to the next, and one windy day at a time.
As A Course in Miracles teaches: “The power of decision is my own.” If we fully accepted this truth, loss of peace would be impossible. But if you’re like me, you may still need many lessons, which will look different on the surface but will all teach this same simple truth because truth IS simple: I’m either at peace or I’ve chosen not to be. What a relief it’s always up to me.
Ramana Maharshi said: “Everything in the world was my guru.” And I agree. The wind included.
The winter solstice is the acknowledgement and the celebration of the darkest night of the year. Yet most traditions and most people focus today on the return of the light. Why are we uncomfortable with and afraid of darkness?
Yes, light is what we are in reality. And in reality, there’s nothing but light. But within the illusion of time and space and separation, we have made darkness real and therefore it is real for us.
And it will be so until we stop repressing and denying our shadow and start simply looking at it with the eyes of patience and compassion.
The darkness in us is not an evil force but simply parts of ourselves that we mistakenly judged as bad and sinful and wrong, and out of fear of facing those parts, we threw them into the basement of our being and locked the door.
Going back into the basement and turning on the light, we see that there are no monsters there at all.
But to get to the point of turning on the light, we have to first face the fact that there is a basement to begin with, and then go into it and face the darkness. Only then can we turn on the light and see that the monsters were real only in our imagination.
Darkness is not the problem, but our denial of its existence is. Darkness is not to be integrated, but simply looked at from a different perspective. Once the light is turned on, darkness is gone, just like a dream is gone once we wake up.
As A Course in Miracles teaches, “The light is in you. Darkness can cover it, but cannot put it out.”
There’s nothing to fear. Time to start the uncovering.
Several people came to me this week, saying the same thing, more or less: “I just feel so confused. I have no clarity right now.” I didn’t think I could possibly inspire or console anyone because I felt the same way. Wave after wave of stupid and senseless violence had me thinking I was back in Bosnia, a child in the middle of a war, trying to understand how humans and the world and life can be so damn cruel…
After the violent incident in Las Vegas, which shook up the whole state, I even doubted whether I should keep teaching yoga and owning a yoga studio because all I wanted to do is hide from the world, preferably after letting myself scream every variation of the F word because of my frustration and disappointment with the said world.
This one hit home more than I expected, maybe because Nevada is my home now. Maybe because as a child I witnessed humans turn into monsters overnight, brutally killing anyone who opposed their sick agenda. Maybe what disturbed me most is seeing how effective the fear-based conditioning and propaganda has been since we seem to be turning against each other in ways that are increasingly soul mutilating for all.
If there would have been a way to get “beamed up” and out of here, I think I would have taken that option on.
But as always, teaching yoga and doing my best to be a space holder for others — even and maybe especially on days I feel like I’m not qualified to be that — turned out to be the magic trick for getting my head out of you know where. Yes, we were sad, disturbed, angry, disappointed and scared. But we also were, and still are, warriors of LIGHT.
Consider this: If the dark could have won, it would have won by now. Throw your darkness at me and you may disorient me for a moment, “But still, like dust, I’ll rise,” as Maya Angelou said.
For me personally, this was a reminder to go back to my study and a practice of A Course in Miracles. I had drifted away from it a bit, not because I didn’t fully resonate with its teachings but because my ego tripped me up and I dropped back into being attached to the ways of the world, although I fully know that the world is nothing but a projection of our fear based thoughts of separation. Something that is based on fear, like this world, can only produce fear. And my fear reaction to anything happening in the world just perpetuates the whole illusion.
It is so easy to get carried away by the insanity of duality. It may not be as easy to get ourselves out of the whole mess of having followed the ego down the rabbit hole, but it’s also not impossible. It’s actually very much possible and in reality, all of us are already outside of this silly dream of separation and fear but we haven’t yet woken up to our own reality.
Knowing this, what else is there to do and what else could I possibly strive for other than remembering fully what I am because once I know what I am, everything else will take care of itself.
So here is my message to us all (including myself, of course):
Don’t expect to make sense of an insane world.
Your lack of clarity about the world is a sign of your recognition of the nonsensical and fear based nature of this illusion we have mistaken for our home.
Embrace your feelings of confusion and even helplessness, and ask for a different way to interpret these feelings. This new way will help you see that all acts of violence, hatred and fear are disguised calls for love by those who have completely forgotten what they are. It’s up to you to remember what YOU are, and forgive those who are still in the dark, “for they know not what they do,” as a beautiful brother of ours taught so long ago.
Remember this: You are not here in reality at all, but while seemingly within this dream, your job is not to understand the world, or to figure out why it is the way it is. You are here for one reason only: to remember what you are. Your mission of self remembering, once started, is the greatest gift you can give to the world and the most powerful — and only — catalyst for change.
In one of my yoga classes last week, I guided my students into a headstand. After about 15 minutes into the practice, that is. I guess I broke a whole bunch of yoga rules by doing that (and it wasn’t the first time, I confess). As every yoga teacher knows, we are taught to incorporate inversions at the end of class. I don’t break rules just for the hell of it; I understand that there are reasons behind most dos and don’ts, and I do my best to at least know those reasons, whether I believe in them or not. I teach what I practice, and when I practice, I tend to listen more to how my own body feels, rather than going by some never-to-be-deviated-from script. The latter makes me cringe, actually, because who wrote the script and why should I blindly follow it?
Let me make something clear before the yoga police gets up in arms: The 15 minutes or so leading up to the headstand contained an appropriate warmup, and of course, I gave my students other options to invert (because it’s never about a particular pose, anyway). The intention of the practice that day was to expand, and using the first 15 minutes to come into a pose usually reserved for the last 15 minutes was one of the ways we could notice how stuck we may be in a belief that something should be a certain way. I loved seeing the shock on everyone’s face when I offered the headstand. But because I expected that reaction, I acted like a good parent would act when their toddler fumbles into a harmless fall: no big deal. And I watched my beautiful yogis come into their headstands like it was no big deal at all. I could feel their confidence and power, and what’s even better, I could sense that each one of them had a little breakthrough as they bypassed their minds’ rules for a moment and experienced pure freedom and joy.
After class, the excited chatter was all about how strong everyone felt in their inversion (because they weren’t tired like they would have been at the end of class) and how surprised they were that being on their heads felt easy and just good. And that was exactly the point of the whole practice (which involved a lot more than headstand): expanding our idea of everything, including who we are and what the world is. Within each of us lies this innate aching and yearning for the breakdown of all contraction and limitation, which we ultimately realize was put in place because of a simple and silly mistake we took way too seriously.
When it comes to so many rules we follow in our lives, whether we follow them consciously or not, we tend to stay in the state of contraction and do all we can not to scratch the itch for expansion. And we wonder why living life often seems like pulling teeth. How can we expect to maintain any sort of flow when, out of fear of leaving our familiar cocoon, we continually squash every opportunity to spiritually grow? When a bird hatches from an egg, it cracks open the walls of what until then provided protection and safety. But if the bird decided it wouldn’t crack the shell because it was too scared or it would be too risky to do so, the shell would no longer bring protection; it would bring destruction and would end the bird’s life.
How much of what you perceive is simply unquestioned belief? And most beliefs we cling to like our life depended on them are not even based on truth, but are simply uninvestigated fear reactions.
Like I said earlier, I don’t break rules just for the hell of it, and I certainly don’t break all rules. That would not be empowering but just stupid. We don’t become spiritually or intellectually emancipated by blanket rebellion but by a devoted practice of discernment. We learn to separate the wheat from the chaff not by adopting someone else’s gospel about what constitutes wheat and what constitutes chaff, but by finding out for ourselves. Each one of us has been equipped with the same superpower: intuition, which is simply intelligence that’s much vaster than the puny human intellect. It’s sad how little we use and trust that superpower and instead just believe everything we think, see and hear with our physical senses, or were taught. Haven’t we had enough of the blind leading the blind?
Speaking of this idiom, how many of you yogis knew it came from one of the Upanishads? “Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.” (Katha Upanishad) And how much of the yoga world is all about following “tradition,” without even asking who decided on whatever supposedly became tradition? Most of the physical yoga practice, the asana practice, developed in the last 100 years or so and is a result of calisthenics, gymnastics and people making stuff up. I make up moves all the time in my practice and my teaching, and to me, that’s what makes yoga an art. As Pablo Picasso said: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”
Please don’t be one of the fools going aimlessly hither and tither, as the Upanishad says. Don’t be what you were never meant to be. Be an artist; make up your own rules, without any aggressive defiance or fanfare. If you don’t know how to do that or what is true for you, go to your superpower, your intuition, and listen to the artist within your heart. Intuition is not something we were taught in school and it’s not something we see promoted in the mainstream, but guess what: even those rules may eventually change.