I Choose God’s Garden

I Choose God’s Garden

“My heart was split and a flower appeared; and grace sprang up; and it bore fruit for my God.

You split me, tore my heart open, filled me with love.

You poured your spirit into me; I knew you as I know myself.

Blessed are the men and women who are planted on your earth, in your garden, who grow as your trees and flowers grow, who transform their darkness to light.

Their roots plunge into darkness; their faces turn toward the light.

All those who love you are beautiful; they overflow with your presence so that they can do nothing but good.

There is infinite space in your garden; all men, all women are welcome here;

All they need do is enter.”

(The Odes of Solomon, Ode 11)

Maybe our hearts have to split over and over again until we choose to have the flower appear and grace spring up. The ego’s false kingdom has to start crumbling before we can choose against it.

More than a decade ago, my heart had split, yet again, and out of pure desperation, exhausted by my perpetual war with myself, and deflated by my arrogant attempts to command life to bend the way I wanted it to, I silently waved the white flag by declaring that “there has to be more to life than this.” That echoing thought was the invitation for the Holy Spirit, hidden all along in the sane part of my mind, to finally enter the chaos of the person I thought I was and slowly and patiently lead me back to the light that I’ve always been.

Since that day, my life has been a pilgrimage toward only that which is true, eternal and beautiful. Which is not to say the journey has been without hardship, human drama, sadness, confusion, anger and judgment. My heart has split many times since then but it has split more open so that flowers can continue to appear and so that grace can keep springing up. It turns out that a simple shift made a profound difference: 

Whatever pulls me back into the abyss of the ego, where I identify as the separated little me, at effect of the cruel and uncaring world, is just fertilizer for more flowers to grow as long as I step back and let Him lead the way, as A Course in Miracles teaches me. I replace ego with the Holy Spirit as my teacher, my guide, my parent, my best friend, and I’m never disappointed because I’m never left without the love that I had craved my whole life and had never found through the countless and vain attempts to walk myself home.

My heart and my life are devoted to God, which means that they are devoted to YOU, because the only goal I find worth pursuing is to see you as the perfect light that you are, no matter what the world seems to think of you and no matter what you think of you and, most of all, no matter what I, as the person, thInk of you. 

“Because all those who love you are beautiful,” as this Ode of Solomon so beautifully expresses. Once we turn our faces to the light, the light reciprocates.

We keep trying to meet in the jungle of the world; the fragmented parts attempting to come together but insisting on keeping our cherished fragmented selves. But when we meet in His garden, which is infinite, we see that there is no you and me, or us and them, but just light meeting itself in eternal blossoming of the One.

I choose God’s garden.

All are welcome here, and the happy fact is, all are already here. 

All we need to do is enter.

108 Sun Salutations Spring 2020: New Way of Continuing our Together

108 Sun Salutations Spring 2020: New Way of Continuing our Together

The 108 sun salutation practice is the epitome of togetherness, the glorious mental and emotional reset and in many ways the triumph of love over fear. A room full of open hearted yogis who courageously leave their ego armor at the door and move, sweat, breathe and sing their way to freedom and do so together. 

Less than a week ago, when this ever-unstable world got even more unstable, all classes, including the 108 practice, had to be canceled. I was going to do my own thing at home, but the together part is what makes this practice the magical experience that it is. 

And just like when there’s a will, there’s a way, when there are open hearts yearning for healing through togetherness, nothing can stand in the way. We got together today, maybe not physically, but full heartedly all the same. And we moved, and sweated, and breathed and cried and sang and healed – together.

Thank you, my yogis, for joining me in this new way of continuing our together. We would have all preferred to share our practice in the same room to joining virtually but we joined, and that’s what matters and what heals. 

This too shall pass.

Real hugs will return.

I love you ❤️

Many of you asked me to share the nine dedications that precede each round of 12 sun salutations, as well as the playlist. The dedications, and the songs I chose, start off very “human,” pained and dramatic even, although carrying an invitation to change our minds about the purpose of our pained and often dramatic and traumatic human life. 

To make a choice for peace, we first have to look at the inner conflict. To rise, we first have to acknowledge that we have fallen. And to say no to the ego, or the fearful self, we first have to open our eyes and hearts to the presence of that fear inside of us. 

As we continue this moving meditation (and it is definitely moving in more ways than just the physical), we gradually loosen our attachment to the little self, the part of us that feels insecure, trapped, fearful and alone. Because we have turned toward the fears of the seemingly separate “me,” we have diffused the power of that false self to reign over us. We slowly detach from the mask – the person – and move toward presence, the spirit and unbound love that we are in reality. Having remembered our true Self, we rejoice in the connectedness to the home we never left, even if that joy seems very temporary. 

Truth is always true, just like illusion is never true, so even the tiniest moment of Self-remembrance is enough inspiration to move us forward on our way back home. As we continue to navigate the uncertain waters of this human experience, we find that we meet life’s lessons with a little more grace, trust and openheartedness. 

This is the purpose of our practice of 108 sun salutations: looking at and moving through the changeful as we remain grounded in the changeless, ultimately remembering that we ARE the changeless and that the changeful has had no effect whatsoever on our reality as spirit.

Here are the dedications, followed by the songs I played for the respective round of sun salutations:

1 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to my human, imperfect self. Deep in my gut, I know that achieving perfection as a human being is not only impossible, but an unnecessary burden that keeps me stuck in fear and self loathing. Deep in my heart, I know that as a soul, I am progressing on my path just as I planned and that every experience I had and am yet to have is a perfectly chosen piece of my soul’s mosaic. I am a perfect expression of my divine nature in this imperfect human form. And so it is.

Superman by Rachel Platten

Heroes Fall (feat. Essa) by Hidden Citizens

2 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all my fears, and all the aspects of myself I consider dark and negative. Remembering my own choice to experience the full spectrum of human emotion — the so called positive as well as the so called negative — I’m now making a promise to myself to own all the aspects of my personality that I have disowned out of fear of being seen as unworthy of love. In the name of love, which is what I am, I allow every fear, every feeling and every thought that arises to be fully integrated in my experience, so I can live with integrity, knowing that darkness is simply unawakened light and fear is nothing but a confused expression of love. And so it is.

Land of Confusion (Epic Trailer Version) by Hidden Citizens

Nothing Is As It Seems (feat. Ruelle) by Hidden Citizens

3 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to every obstacle yet to appear on my path. As I look back on my life, I can see that every seeming hurdle eventually provided impetus for my own growth and was therefore a gift. Bravely embracing my fear of the unknown — not pushing it away — I fully trust that whatever hardship and pain are yet to appear on my path are simply part of my path, remembering that ultimately, all of life is the path. And so it is.

Here We Stand by Hidden Citizens & Svrcina

Awake My Soul by Mumford & Sons

Believer by Imagine Dragons

4 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have ever shown me love. Every expression of love, no matter how small or infrequent it may seem to occur, completely imbues my being with the totality of All That Is, which is love. I give thanks to each and every being whose love fills my heart with the ancient song that reminds us all that love is all there ever was, is and will be. May we all be overwhelmed with love. And so it is.

Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas

Carry You (feat. Fleurie) by Ruelle

5 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have hurt me, including myself. I know that every act that doesn’t come from love is simply a disguised call for love. Lack of love is evidence of the hurt we all carry in us, the hurt that stems from our ignorance of our true nature and the forgetfulness of our joint source, which is love. I ask love to show me the way every time I’m tempted to believe that I can be hurt. And as I give love and forgiveness to others, no matter what they have given to me, I know that I’m graced with love and forgiveness. And so it is.

Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

Man In the Mirror (Acoustic) by James Morrison

6 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to the uncertainty every day brings. I give up whatever illusion of control I think I have over life, and instead choose to courageously surrender to the gifts of grace that abound in each moment. Knowing that who I am in reality can never be hurt or damaged, and that I can’t possibly ever fail or fall short, I allow life to come to me as is does. Expecting nothing and welcoming everything, I now promise to stop fighting with life and instead fully cooperate with what is. And so it is.

We Get By (feat. Ben Harper) by Mavis Staples

Carry On by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young

7 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to the eventual death of this temporary human form I inhabit. I open my mind to the possibility that any fears I may have regarding death are fears of my ideas of death and not death itself. As I listen to the whisper of my soul, which constantly reminds me that I have been on many such journeys countless times before, I remember that reality is infinitely larger than my human side can ever perceive. As a brave soul who chose to temporarily forget its immortality, I celebrate life and embrace my fear of death until that fear itself dissolves into my timeless recognition that life does not start or end, but simply changes form. And so it is.

I’ll Fly Away by Rising Appalachia

Down to the River to Pray (feat. Sonia Isaacs) by Wanda Vick

Sun is Shining by Bob Marley & the Wailers

8 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all teachers that have appeared on my path and those yet to appear on my path, knowing that everyone and everything that teaches me about myself and helps my growth is my teacher. My heart is full of gratitude for those who have taught me through love as well as for those who have taught me by withholding love. How blessed I am to have been graced with teachers in human form and beyond, those born and unborn, and even those only my subconscious can perceive. I now can see clearly that this earth life, which seems full of suffering, is a school and that teachers and teachings abound in every moment, and I choose to learn as much as I possibly can, ultimately remembering that the only lesson to be learned is that love is all there is. And so it is.

Bring Me to Life (Synthesis) by Evanescence

Light of a Clear Blue Morning by Maggie Thorn

9 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to the ultimate source, the divine creator, infinite spirit, God, All That Is. How can I possibly live in suffering if I choose to connect to that which I’m never disconnected from? How much longer do I want to live in ignorance of my true nature, seeing myself as a separate little body when all the glory of God has been inside me all along? Once I was blind, and I forgive myself for that, but now I have opened my eyes and I see that I am That which I seek. My search for God has always been my yearning to know myself, and now that I realize what I am, I can’t help but lift my head and laugh at the sky. And so it is.

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

Savasana

Aad Guray by Deva Premal

May I Have this Dance?

May I Have this Dance?

Why do we so fervently fear the experience of a broken heart?

The way I see it, we must fear it because of the fear. In and of itself, what’s so horrifying about the process of grief? 

Can the heart, and by heart I mean the symbol of spirit or true self, actually be broken? How can the unlimited and unbound be anything less than perfectly and eternally free? Free of pain, free of breakage of any kind, free of grief.

“Whatever suffers is not part of me,” A Course in Miracles reminds me. 

So I, the human, let the waves of grief come and go, without analyzing, fighting or resisting. I keep dancing despite the limp. I filter the grief through love, rather than through fear, by asking love to show me the real meaning and purpose of grief.

And as I keep dancing with the limp, love shows me that nothing real can ever be broken, lost or separated from itself. It only appears that way, only in the dream, or nightmare, of individual existence that we, hypnotized by fear, value so much.

Fear takes me to hell, while love grounds me in truth. 

So whether I laugh or cry, whether I gracefully glide or stumble with a limp, I ask and keep asking love to have this dance. And the next. And the next. And love always, always, always gently whispers…yes.

Clear and Open as the Sky

Clear and Open as the Sky

May my mind be as clear and open as the sky today. 

How I show up, no matter what seems to show up for me, is up to me. May I choose against the insanity of the ego and show up with love, in love and as love.

Love is not only our deepest connection. It’s our only connection. And love is already and always there, underneath the dust of the person.

May I gracefully shift from person to presence, from illusion to truth, from fear to love.

May you see the light in me and remember that the same light is in you. 
May we all wake up and see that ultimately, there is no you different from me. 

108 Sun Salutations Hangover and Afterglow

108 Sun Salutations Hangover and Afterglow

People always ask me how it’s even possible to complete 108 sun salutations in a row?! More than five years of doing this practice four times a year, I can tell you that the intense part is not so much the physical aspect of moving through all these sun salutations. Integrating the intention of this practice into our daily life — or walking the talk — is the real butt kicker.

I have rewritten the nine dedications I have been using with my yogis in the 108 practice several times since I originally wrote them in the winter of 2011. (Each dedication precedes a round of 12 sun salutations, and nine dedications and rounds of sun salutations completes a cycle of 108.) This year has started off with a sense of foreboding that major changes are taking place. Change is never easy for us change-resistant humans, so I felt rewriting the first two dedications into a less soft and fluffy and more in-your-face statements was going to serve us better. A splash of lukewarm water in the morning may feel good on our faces, but ain’t nothing like cold water to properly wake us up! 2017 also carries an energy of auspiciousness, mystery and surrender to the emptiness of not knowing, and trusting that the heart will never lead us astray, like the mind has been doing for who knows how long. See how 108 chaturangas isn’t even a big deal compared to digesting all this?!

For my fellow yogis who practiced with me yesterday, I hope these dedications help you in your integration of this powerfully transformative practice. And if you were not with us yesterday, please consider joining us again in the fall, and every season after that. I don’t see a reason to stop doing this practice (as long as my body cooperates) because life shows me every day that there are new lessons to be learned, that there are more ways to forgive myself and others and most importantly, that there is never a moment where any of us are not loved and supported. When we feel unloved and unsupported, we’re always reminded of the opportunity to “open mind for a different view,” a very useful mantra courtesy of Metallica. Nothing else truly matters as long as we forever trust in who we are.

Below are the dedications for each of the nine rounds of sun salutations, followed by the playlist we practiced to yesterday.

Thank you and love you all!

Jelena

1

I open my heart and offer my light to waking up to my true nature, and making this process of awakening my priority. Until now, I have been living with spiritual amnesia, seeing myself as just a separate human being, and looking out at this imperfect world as my only home, which made it easy to judge, blame and alienate others who appear different than I am. But from now on, I resolve to wake up from this collective hallucination and I trust that my own awakening will serve as the catalyst for the awakening of others. I have lived too many lifetimes believing to be just a human, a mere mortal, a shameful sinner. It’s time to wake up, reclaim my own divinity and start seeing it in everyone else, whether they see it in themselves or not. This is my only mission. And so it is.

2

I open my heart and offer my light to the process of unbinding myself from so many external authority figures and institutions to which I gave away my power through blind, fear-based trust, and replacing them with the only authority I can rely on and will ever need: the wisdom of my own immortal being. As I look out into the world and see a land of confusion, insanity and division, instead of picking sides and blaming “the other” for what I see, I choose instead to consult my own heart, which will always advise me to dig deeper and deeper and deeper yet, until the only response I get, regardless of the question, is to give love, show love and be love. If darkness is simply unawakened light and fear is nothing but a confused expression of love, the only guide I need is my own inner being, which is light and love. And so it is.

3

I open my heart and offer my light to every obstacle yet to appear on my path. As I look back on my life, I can see that every seeming hurdle eventually provided impetus for my own growth and was therefore a gift. Bravely embracing my fear of the unknown — not pushing it away — I fully trust that whatever hardship and pain are yet to appear on my path are simply part of my path, remembering that ultimately, all of life is the path. And so it is.

4

I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have ever shown me love. Every expression of love, no matter how small or infrequent it may seem to occur, completely imbues my being with the totality of All That Is, which is love. I give thanks to each and every being whose love fills my heart with the ancient song that reminds us all that love is all there ever was, is and will be. May we all be overwhelmed with love. And so it is.

5

I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have hurt me, including myself. I know that every act that doesn’t come from love is simply a disguised call for love. Lack of love is evidence of the hurt we all carry in us, the hurt that stems from our ignorance of our true nature and the forgetfulness of our joint source, which is love. I ask love to show me the way every time I’m tempted to believe that I can be hurt. And as I give love and forgiveness to others, no matter what they have given to me, I know that I’m graced with love and forgiveness. And so it is.

6

I open my heart and offer my light to the uncertainty every day brings. I give up whatever illusion of control I think I have over life, and instead choose to courageously surrender to the gifts of grace that abound in each moment. Knowing that who I am in reality can never be hurt or damaged, and that I can’t possibly ever fail or fall short, I allow life to come to me as is does. Expecting nothing and welcoming everything, I now promise to stop fighting with life and instead fully cooperate with what is. And so it is.

7

I open my heart and offer my light to the eventual death of this temporary human form I inhabit. I open my mind to the possibility that any fears I may have regarding death are fears of my ideas of death and not death itself. As I listen to the whisper of my soul, which constantly reminds me that I have been on many such journeys countless times before, I remember that reality is infinitely larger than my human side can ever perceive. As a brave soul who chose to temporarily forget its immortality, I celebrate life and embrace my fear of death until that fear itself dissolves into my timeless recognition that life does not start or end, but simply changes form. And so it is.

8

I open my heart and offer my light to all teachers that have appeared on my path and those yet to appear on my path, knowing that everyone and everything that teaches me about myself and helps my growth is my teacher. My heart is full of gratitude for those who have taught me through love as well as for those who have taught me by withholding love. How blessed I am to have been graced with teachers in human form and beyond, those born and unborn, and even those only my subconscious can perceive. I now can see clearly that this earth life, which seems full of suffering, is a school and that teachers and teachings abound in every moment, and I choose to learn as much as I possibly can, ultimately remembering that the only lesson to be learned is that love is all there is. And so it is.

9

I open my heart and offer my light to the ultimate source, the divine creator, infinite spirit, God, All That Is. How can I possibly live in suffering if I choose to connect to that which I’m never disconnected from? How much longer do I want to live in ignorance of my true nature, seeing myself as a separate little body when all the glory of God has been inside me all along? Once I was blind, and I forgive myself for that, but now I have opened my eyes and I see that I am That which I seek. My search for God has always been my yearning to know myself, and now that I realize what I am, I can’t help but lift my head and laugh at the sky. And so it is.

 

108 Sun Salutations Summer 2017 Playlist

 

  • Humanity — Scorpions
  • Bring Me To Life — Evanescence
  • Land of Confusion — Disturbed
  • Under Pressure — David Bowie & Queen
  • Coming Home Pt. II — Skylar Grey
  • Times Like These (Acoustic Cover) — Leo
  • All You Need is Love — Jim Sturgess & Dana Fuchs
  • Stand By Me — Florence + The Machine
  • Time After Time — Sarah McLachlan & Cyndi Lauper
  • I’m Still Standing — Elton John
  • Forgive (feat. Luka Lesson) — Trevor Hall
  • Man in the Mirror — Glee Cast
  • Here Comes the Sun — Glee Cast
  • The Middle (Acoustic Version) — Jimmy Eat World
  • Aerials — System of a Down
  • Nothing Else Matters — Metallica
  • The Show Must Go On — Queen
  • Down to the River to Pray — Alison Krauss
  • Stairway to Heaven — Led Zeppelin
Upside Down

Upside Down

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.