Let there be light

” Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being.” Bruce Lee
When I was in college, I learned a great many things. For one, though I was really quite a mathematician, I probably shouldn’t have majored in Finance and accounting. As a wise nine year old said to me years later, just because something comes easy, doesn’t mean you enjoy it. There is no such thing as enjoying everything all the time, but if there isn’t some level of contentment and passion in what you do, it’s just that much harder. 

The majority of electives I took were philosophical or art oriented. I had particularly looked forward to an art history class I signed up for. The material sounded exciting to my creative nature. I had spent many afternoons at NYC museums killing time between auditions as a child actor. I usually had a sketch or doodle pad on me to bide my time growing up in the world before iPhones existed, though I didn’t have any schooling in the subject. 

The professor was one of those classic tweedy intellectuals and took an immediate indifference to me as a business major or blonde…whichever stereotype, I don’t know, but he didn’t think I had the wherewithal to be in his class, and refused to call on me unless he felt I didn’t know the answers. I have never understood the satisfaction in teaching through humiliation. The semester started with architecture and I loved it but found his tests tricky, though I was maintaining a solid B, I was hoping the mid term paper would give me a boost. We were supposed to head to one of our semi local museums and study and critique a piece of art, with comparative knowledge of  art experts and their perspectives on the artwork. 

I chose the Met in NYC and a favorite painting of mine, A View of Toledo, by El Greco


It intrigued me. The storm clouds, the city built into the hilly terrain, the light. I chose to write my own points of what and how we learned to look at a painting, colors, vibrancing, highlights, lowlights, shadows, and meaning without reading any expert reviews first, I didn’t want to be biased. 

I saw that the storm was behind the city. I felt the light played as if water was glistening and though still dark it was the calm after the storm, not quiet finished but soon enough that brilliant sun was going to make a spectacular illuminated view from the right of nature’s beautiful bounty of the lush greenery. I felt the strength of the city of what it could withstand and the warmth of what would be, regardless of the cool toned color choices in the landscape. 

When I read through six or seven acclaimed reviews, afterwards, I was stunned to find all had taken a stance that the storm was coming, that it was a view of foreboding, the looming dark clouds. I could have played it safe and revised my option to match but instead I wrote the paper in comparative contrast.  Backed up my arguments and was really happy with what I wrote, I thought this would indeed, get this geek the A I wanted. 

My expectations were crushed when I got the paper back, completely unmarked except for a big red “D” on top….I was devasted and went to my professor’s office to ask why. He answer was that the paper was innovative, complex and not possibly written by me…he felt I had plagiarized but couldn’t prove it. If only Turnitin existed already. I was beside myself. So wanting his approval yet dealing with someone whose vision of me was clouded by his own subjective nature. I felt dejected in his lack of awareness of my capabilities as well as indignant at needing to defend my integrity. My advocate was a favorite philosophy professor. I went to him for help in disproving the plagiarism. He spoke with my art history teacher and offered papers as comparison of my writing style…the grade was changed to a B minus…still no mark up, not what I deserved but better than what I initially received.  I couldn’t make him suddenly like me, but at least he could no longer try to fail me. 

Was I satisfied? At the time, no, I was dejected and wounded by his perception of me, yet I was also thrilled and humored he thought the paper was so good that I couldn’t have possibly written it. In looking back, I just wanted acceptance and approval, and a good grade. I was attached to someone else’s perspective of me, relying too much on an authority figure to define my value.  It’s a classic entirely normal feeling, especially for someone young still figuring out who they are, what they desire, craving that outside definition of being worthy, as I had not yet discovered the power of self energy. 

All I could control in this was myself, my actions, my research, my writing, my effort, my honor. I did try my best, and that is all anyone can ever do. The outcome, well, that was beyond my control. No it wasn’t what I desired or hoped for, but I did my best to rectify it. The professor’s viewpoint of me? Was purely his, for my part, all I could do was show up for class, do the work, and be myself.  The satisfaction comes from knowing I did the best I could with the skills and knowledge I had at the time. In understanding my worth comes from my own actions and choices, there is no looking for more, the outside attachment doesn’t exist.  Not everyone will get me, and that’s just how it is. In the same way, I maybe good at math but that is not where I find a spark of passion in my soul, but I’m happy others do. I must be myself, in passion, in loving, in doing what’s right, I’m attached to that. 

“…any art, an unrestricted expression of our individual soul… The human soul is what interests me. I live to express myself freely in creation.” Bruce Lee 

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Guru parampara 

“Why so serious?”it’s one of my favorite Guruji quotes.  I never heard Gurugi say this, nor did I ever get the pleasure of meeting him, I started right after he had given his last breath in this life, but most certainly his teachings live on. I feel in many ways, by those I’ve studied with, who knew him, and loved him, that they have shared so much more than just his methodology, but his spirit, his joy, his devotion to studying, most famously, in his simple yet wise message- “Do your practice and all is coming.”

Yet, what I can’t answer is, when is all coming? Is it when you finally get a bind in marichasana D or supta kormasana? Perhaps kapotasana or karanvandasana? Maybe, maybe not, because as Guruji so wisely said, “Yoga is an internal practice. the rest is just a circus.” In other words whatever satisfaction you get or the physical struggles you may overcome to master an asana physically, as great as it may feel to get there, it’s just a tool, though potentially a powerful one, to initiate the inner workings of what yoga can bring to you, if you let it. 

Ideally, with the guidance of a teacher, this journey unfolds. And though the methods are all laid out, structured, set sequences timed to breath, passed down from teacher to student, as taken from Sharath’s Ashtanga Yoga Anusthana parampara is:

An uninterrupted succession, a direct and unbroken transmission of knowledge from a teacher to his or her student

The beauty and complexity of truly teaching and learning Ashtanga is the individualized approach. This is the trickiest part of parampara. The part where it potentially gets lost in translation, where students and even teachers can get confused, frustrated, compare, wonder what it’s all for, or ask the dreaded question, when will I be able to do ______?  Or why haven’t I lost weight, or I’m sore all the time, I used to feel good, but now I can’t sleep, or a million other issues that have come up in practice or just in the happenstance of living. The part where we learn another famous quote, “its 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory.”

The crap shoot is the unique nature of each person. Just as in parenting my three kids, I’m the same, but they are not. I chuckle thinking about each saying to me, that isn’t fair or you let them do xyz,  or some other comparison in the grayer areas of parenting unlike hard fast rules like seat belts, but nothing is one size fits all. They have unique personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, temperaments, and all that goes along with that. In taking that a step further, I can offer each the same basic guidelines, securities and structure, but they will only understand and grow, each to their own capability. So one might be a math tutor and one might need a math tutor, one may be gifted at music another at writing. My raising them, exposing them to similar stimulus, sending them to the same schools, did not make them cookie cuts of each other or me with the same hopes and aspirations beyond the basic foundation of knowing I love them, teaching them to be compassionate in life and passionate about what they do and trying their best. Though I wish I could, ultimately I can’t make them happy or fulfilled, only they can do that for themselves, but I promise to be there number one mentor, fan, and disciplinarian and love them unconditionally. 

This perspective also holds in parampara. We learn the structure, the breath count, the asana, and potentially much more, but like anything, there are pieces that teachers will place more or less importance upon based on their own personality. As an example, some will hold you at Mari D until you can get it on your own, others may move you forward once you can get the bind with an assist and someone else may let you move forward regardless of the bind. None are wrong, that distinction is important. Honestly, all those instances could even happen under the tutelage of the same teacher, because the practice is individualized, each person has different capabilities.  “Body is not stiff. Mind is stiff.”

So yes it can seem confusing or frustrating, and teachers like parents are flawed humans making mistakes along the way. It’s easy to get caught up in the attachment, in ego, in wanting, because we are human. The danger arises when we no longer question our motives, and forget to take decent assessments of the nobility of our objectives. The wisdom comes when we can recognize it when we go off track, because at some point we all screw up, and when we do, to  have compassion instead of self loathing or worse denial. Forgiveness of ourselves, our teachers, our students, for everyone. So, yes, why so serious, when you can be light to find the light inside. 

There is no perfection, not with Guruji, now with Sharath or any other master teacher, just ideally a purity of intention to do no harm and like a parent need to grasp a teacher is only there to facilitate.  Ultimately the choices made are up to the individual. Some come to this as excellent parrots able to perform asana or recite Sanskrit seemingly without effort, but it’s never about the natural physical or intellectual capability, it’s the ability to see and work through the struggles, the doubts, the effort, the intentions all without judgement, without comparison, without attachment to the outcome, instead to try it with a loving heart and humor,  just trying your best.  Remember, as Guruji said, “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.” Approach it with devotion and light. 

Just Breathe


“What could he have done or said differently? What change would have altered the course of events? In the big picture, nothing. In the small picture, so much.” ― Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

So I’m injured right now. It’s not the first time something has happened, nor most likely the last sadly, though it sure would be nice! It wasn’t because of anything in practice, but other times, yes, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit practice has been a crystalline snap in me being hurt. Ahimsa, do no harm, has many facets, and sometimes it’s just not beating yourself up on mistakes of the past, but learning from them. I’m in the midst of dealing with/recovering from bilateral acute Achilles tendinitis, yet in many ways, my practice couldn’t be better. How is this possible? By giving up any expectations beyond the gratitude of just being on my mat again, by not caring how deep, what it looks like, by just trying to see what’s possible. Granted, either having experience yourself and/or guidance from a long term instructor can enhance and help, I would not recommend working through this alone as a novice, as David Keil so beautifully put it in his fantastic book on anatomy

If you have practiced asana consistently for ten years or more for at least one hour each day, it is certain that you know the workings of your body quite well. You may not have the technical anatomical names or understandings, but your kinesthetic knowledge is a very real and powerful way to know the body. This is knowledge that can not be learned from a book.

I’ve been lucky enough to have guidance of a fabulous long term teacher and practitioner telling me to trust myself and the knowledge I’ve gained in practice and just start moving to see what works. She, as well, has been giving me ideas to add movements to work the bones of practice I’m not able to do in a conventional approach. The beauty of a long term practice, in grasping that asana come and go, is having the wisdom in appreciating where you are right now, and knowing what your body is capable of attempting. Certainly by no means am I happy that I can’t bear weight standing, it really sucks quite frankly.  However, instead of dwelling on what wasn’t possible, I decided to creatively figure out just what I could do, without exacerbating the tendinitis, if my legs were cut off below my knees. My first week my practice was just reading, meditation, and breathing, it was perfect and the best I could do. 

So I got the courage to come to my mat. At first I just sat and silently gave my intentions and opening prayers. I chose to start sitting and breathing through a sun salutation in my head. Comically the holds in down dog were harder to breathe through, even though the movements weren’t really happening, the chatter of idea of movement was easier than the stillness. It was worth noticing, worth trying to gain a quiet surrender to the count without the action being necessary. I tried again, without expectation but awareness, and let my bundhas help out this time, and magically the experience became easier. I tried to envision just how I could create this with my limited ability and took the advice to trust myself, to just start moving if it felt right. 

So as an example, Sun A from my knees, inhale arms up, exhale deep fold with arms stretched into child’s pose, inhale look up with my hands still outstretched on the ground, exhale bringing my hands more inline with a chaturanga sliding my legs flat and down more like a cobra, inhale into updog, keeping my feet relaxed, exhale into a tabletop, arching into a cat for the down dog hold of five breaths, inhale child’s pose outstretched looking up, exhale head down, inhale back up on knees, arms up, exhale standing on knees, samasthiti. 

It was awkward at first, I was slow, and using too much shoulder in the first day back, not giving myself enough exhale in my cobra/plank, as I was intuitively just trying to figure out what could work to maintain the integrity not just of the movements but the fluid nature of the breath count as my guide for stability. I needed to just let go of trying for more of anything.  It took me three days of practice to figure out Sun B with any continuity of warrior 1. The first day I just pulled each leg back out behind my tabletop, holding it up to keep it straight, the second day I added bringing my knee forward to my chest before bringing it back down, on the third day I did both actions and added a passive pigeon with my front leg pulled in next to me and stayed low in my squared hips but lifted my arms. The key was not trying to rush it, the key was just seeing with discernment and curiosity versus critism of what could give me the best floor version of a warrior 1, while maintaining my breath. It was surprising just how much work it was, by the time in finished all ten that third day and went straight to dandasana, I was not just covered in a sheen, but had a few drips of sweat equity running down my arms, yet felt steady, calm and relaxed. 

The beauty of trying to figure all this out was in getting there was no need for more. As dynamic as each asana can be, there is something to be said for giving up on any muscular contraction, I was finally figuring out how to surrender, how to balance effort and ease. As I incorporated what I could of the seated sequence of primary, I noticed just how relaxed and deep I was able to go in asana when my only concerns were not hurting my Achilles, so keeping any tension from my legs, combined with breath, bundhas, and dristhi. Purvotansana while in lotus, to protect my ankles, feels really good by the way! A friend tipped me off to that one. 🙂  

There is always more to learn. Seriously, triangamukapada paschimottanasa felt better and more even than ever before. I can’t say how it looked,  but I felt aligned in my hips, folded forward straight out, with ease, clasping my wrists without even a smidgeon of lift in either hip instead of that elusive hair width of extra force needed to balance out what touches the floor. I only did janu A as it didn’t want to mess with my heels but again I felt completely stabile. Mari A and C though not perfect, had so much more twist from the right areas in my obliques and thoratic spine but not pressing my foot into the ground, but just having it gently upright in the right location letting my breath guide the movement much more than I usually allow, so much for muscling into things, ha. 

I only did a few more asana after that piece as accessibility became more difficult,cherry picking around my in ability to use my ankles, but next week, who knows?  I did manage a decent backbending sequence of shalabhasana, first one legged, than a few in full expression, a single gentle danurasana, and ending with three half backs held smoothly with breaths in modified ustrasana, finally ending it with reaching down for a final deeper hold. The only part of the rest of closing I left out was headstand. I can’t pop up into a headstand because I push up from my feet and for fear of landing on my feet wrong, but maybe I could with an assist or a block. I know I’ve explained quite a bit in the technicalities, and practice is so much more than that, but just as in the beginning of learning anything, that piece is integral to find a stabile seat. Whatever takes place, as long as I’m breathing, I’m practicing. As a sweet friend asked me after practice how it went, I smiled and said, it was creative. It’s just getting to the mat, it’s not how much you can do, or how well, but not deciding anything is impossible, not giving in or giving up. Life doesn’t get easier, but how we choose to handle it and the choices we make, make all the difference. 

The only thing to fear, is fear itself. 

Long ago, when my first baby, was still learning to walk without a wobble, I was semi sleeping resting on the couch after a very long day alone with my sweet baby. I hadn’t yet fully taken in the lesson that day’s can be long, but time in those innocent moments is so short, I should savor it, regardless of the sleep deprivation. My husband was away on business and I was missing him, longing for, not just his companionship, but teamwork with the young one. Single parenting is hard, especially when you’re a young novice. 

So there I was, eyes closing, letting go of conscious thoughts as I was too spent to shift to my bed, when suddenly I heard a loud electronic BAA right behind me. I startled awake wondering as I glanced around if I really heard anything. The couch was in a curved shape, big and cozy for a New York City apartment. I liked the curve as I could store things behind it, the clutter of large plastic brightly colored toddler gadgets had become my latest decorating style, but I hadn’t fully adapted the look, so I liked to pretend it wasn’t there, hence behind the curvy couch for my feigned feng shui. I decided I had dreamt the noise, my baby was quietly sleeping ( so shocking at that stage!) as was my dog, it was just a nightmare of weird sounds, so I shook my head, repositioned and closed my eyes, again, a loud BAA! Oh. My. God. My heart almost lept right out of my chest with fear, how could this be happening? It was coming from right behind me, as was the hallway to my front door. My imagination had completely taken over, as I envisioned a psychotic 6’4″ killer standing right behind me, machete raised overhead to strike while he pressed on the sheep button at the kiddie play table hidden by the curve in the couch. 

I have no idea, how I didn’t have a heart attack, or how long it took me to get the courage to look behind me and peak behind the couch. There was nothing there except the big plastic garden containing the farm play table. I’m pretty sure, in looking at the buttons, my realization that the table had a a moo, quack, oink, but no BAA, helped me reach around and grab it. I turned it upside down to the on/off buttons, where in small print, it clearly said, when the batteries need replacing, a curtesy sound of sheep will play randomly. I closed my eyes in relief while manically laughing over the fact Mr. Clean hadn’t broken in to torture me with inane eclectric animal sounds before hacking me to pieces. 

Why do I share this insanity? What is the significance? Well it’s ridiculous and funny, but it also shows just how potent fear can become. Fear can paralyze and take away all rational thought, fear can be stored from past moments and be triggered as if it’s happening again. Fear can make us believe we shouldn’t try, fear takes our breath away if we let it. Fear sucks big time. 

I did turn around though. I did get the courage to look,(though in that time lapse perspective of fear, it could have been a ten second pause or two hours, I’m fascinated how time gets warped with adrenaline) and see it was all just smoke and mirrors of one too many Steven King or Dean Koontz novels in my youth. My chicken little moment of panic had passed. I still see that same fear rise in me, at times. A blessing of my yoga practice, is that my body and breath awareness lets me feel it more mindfully now. No, I haven’t found a magic switch to make it just disappear,nor should it,  but I can at least pause more now, even when my body still physically reacts, I can take a compassionate approach and grasp better choices, with more realistic odds of truth.

This past winter, I walked in on a couple of guys robbing my house at 10 in the morning. It was shocking, it was scary, but they ran off without hurting me or my dogs. They broke a cabinet and my feeling of safety briefly. The police were wonderful, I was surprisingly calm. It was a Thursday and I thought a nice Friday led Ashtanga primary would be just the ticket to soothe my rattled soul. I was mistaken.  Don’t get me wrong, I went through all the right motions, it was right to be there, to try, but my breathing was on high alert, stability was an elusive joke and savassana was a torturous attempt to be still and relax… My body couldn’t release the fear yet, I had used up all its coping mechanisms the day before. 

Because we are all human and have bad days, my teacher, a dear friend, stopped me as I was leaving and  yelled at me for not even trying to surrender my breath during rest. I don’t think yelling at someone to rest is beneficial.   I was so stunned by his anger, I couldn’t explain what had transpired the day before. I just simply stated, I did try, I tried really hard. I’d love to say we recovered from this horrid moment in time, but alas, with a culmination of closeness breeding contempt, I left a few weeks later midway through my practice, realizing I had lost trust and faith. There was more to it, as it’s never just one reason, but it was the right decision even though it hurt to do it. I knew I was hurting myself more by staying. I don’t blame either of us, just the circumstances of where we each had been in on our own bullshit, I didn’t even like to practice anymore. 

Communication isn’t always easy when fear is part of the equation, but we can always communicate with prayer, especially the Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness.

“If I have harmed any one in any way,

either knowingly or unknowingly

through my own confusions,

I ask their forgiveness.

If any one has harmed me in any way,

either knowingly or unknowingly

through their own confusions,

I forgive them.

And if there is a situation

I am not yet ready to forgive,

I forgive myself for that.

For all the ways that I harm myself,

negate, doubt, belittle myself,

judge or be unkind to myself,

through my own confusions,

I forgive myself.” 

 The practice of yoga transcends individual frailties. I realized I had to put things into perspective and move on. 

I’m back home again, at least that’s how it feels, back where I first started practicing Ashtanga. I’m very lucky to have my first teacher take me in and advise me to just learn to enjoy it again.  It has been very healing, for both my body and mind, like comfort food for the soul. I’m smiling during practice again, enjoying chuckling when I screw something up, knowing the practice will take all the time it needs to find the steadiness, and hopefully now, I will have a bit more patience, and let go of the fear, and take rest. 

All dogs go to heaven.

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This Gary Larson Far Side cartoon is an old favorite, and there are many times I envision it during asana practice. As I was in down dog today, taking an extra breath before jumping forward into kapotasana, my mind had that momentary hijack of fear, dread and then this comic, before finally settling on the words whispered to me almost two years ago, ” don’t think about it, you’ve done this before.” The monkey brain never fully goes away, but it all depends on just how much power we give it.

I had practiced at home for the last few days thanks to winter bringing snow and ice as well as school cancellations. I find it so much harder to shut off the negotiations my mind tries to persuade me with, all percolating, trying to convince me to just take a day off…It’s so cold! Sinus headache! Cranky! Stiff joints, and just how cozy and warm staying in bed seems….Yet, I do negotiate, and roll out my mat, let’s just see how some Sun Salutations go, then, hmm, standing sequence, and all of a sudden I’m in the midst of my breath and dristhi, I admit yesterday was tough to get going, but as much as I started off with so much resistance, I was quite content after finishing. I find though, that my commitment to practice, to myself, is like so many long term relationships, sometimes we are just going through the motions, in a self made rut of sorts, but then, in just the next moment, when you least expect it, you catch your breath in awe of what you feel.

Practicing at home can have other issues as well, like living in a household with other people and dogs. I love my pups, but they just won’t leave me alone to practice. (Locking them out of the room leads to howling, crying, and intense door scratching) though I have found over time, they are less curious to be directly involved, I’m learning how to keep focus when one of my dogs starts to lick inside my nostrils while I transition through a vinyasa in down dog, who needs a tissue when you’ve got a dog to assist? I’m debating which of my helpers is working hardest to get me to that next level, is it the golden doodle, Luna, laying next to me, oblivious to her flatulence? The papillon puppy, Rocky, licking my toes and managing to figure out that I can’t transition out of an inversion because he’s standing, tail wagging on the mat, right where I need to bring my feet down, thinking this is a fabulous game? Or contestant number three, the cockapoo, Bella, that finds me irresistible the more sweaty or snotty I get? She likes to sit in my lap during padmasana and gets upset if I don’t let her stay for utpluthih. I’ve learned that everyday, I can only strive to do the best I can, there is no other best, no picture perfect moment, just yoga, the stilling of the changing states of the mind.Sutra I.2

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This was last week with Bella and Rocky, Luna was right out of view on the window seat🐾

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace

Milan Kundera

7th series

It’s that time of year for ashtangis to head to Mysore. I have friends there now, I’ve been seeing at least some of their lives unfold there online, on Facebook. Some inquiries as well, will you be there, have you sent in your golden ticket? It was tempting, no doubt, especially with all the photos online. The cows walking through town, trips to nearby temples, and the food shots, as well as the occasional gratuitous asana, all in real time pictures. I will admit, between that and the wonderful friends I made in my journey at the end of last winter into spring, yes it has a pull. And though those reasons are all the fun extras of the culture and like minded friends, it’s really all about the practice and study, isn’t it? That, for me, is where the true magic awaits.

I take nothing away from my experiences in going, it was a gift and blessing to have been to the source and feel the energy, for that I thank my family. However, my family comes first, leaving them again, is just not possible now, and might never be. My duty, if I can use Sharath’s definition of duty being a love, is to and for my family. Though I hate the word selfish in the pejorative aspect that has been given to it, I am selfish, we all should be, in the sense I mean. Do no harm, ahimsa, is compassion and forgiveness for all, including yourself. The yogic principles don’t have an outward drive, but instead, inward, to the light, so if that defines me as selfish, by all means, I’ll take it, I want that inner light in my heart.

My best efforts on this ideal path often lead to failures, but within those moments of humanness I know that I have a place in this world. My duty and loving devotion is to my family. I have not relinquished my connections to the daily grind with the ability or desire to give up my duty to my life with my family, quite the opposite. I have in yoga, been able to enjoy it all the more. I have found peace in knowing all I can do is try, to the best of my capabilities, to work, to be a partner, a parent, a teacher, and all the other roles I partake. To hopefully not repeat the same transgressions as I age, if not evolve, to find wisdom in my experiences. To put it simply, I practice yoga because it makes me feel better, physically and emotionally, which in turn helps me be a better person to all…even that guy that cuts me off driving.

Traveling to Mysore is a wonderful experience. I don’t condemn anyone with a family choosing to go on that journey, I know I too have felt that pull, and I’d be lying to myself if a future though remote opportunity wouldn’t make me happy to attempt it, if the stars aligned. I know it’s a sacrifice, for all, but timing is everything, and for now, I’m needed at home. I may never step foot on Indian soil again. It’s not going to halt anything in my practice, except that I most likely won’t receive authorization.

Personally, I most assuredly can attest, authorization is not the goal I strive to attain, I want something much more than a piece of paper, I want the whole enchilada, samadhi, enlightenment, bliss, as Guruji says in Yoga Mala, the mind seeks the Universal Self, or Atman. ( whether authorization alone makes someone a capable teacher or not, is a debate I am not addressing in this) I practice to try to my best duty, to strive towards that goal, and yes a Guru, such as Sharath can help you find places to explore on the path in your map. However, at some point, the guru is also inside you, whether you trek to a master or practice quietly at home or a local shala with an experienced teacher, the stilling or harmonizing of the sense organs to achieve inward direction towards the realization of ones true nature, can happen without traversing half way around the world, or not. I whole heartily believe in parampara and all that it means in having a teacher, but I will go farther to say a month in India with Sharath is fantastic but will not guarantee any enlightenment, nothing can.

There are so many factors, and though each human, we all have our own unique biases, strengths, and weaknesses. Daily practice? Absolutely. What does that mean? I can’t answer that for anyone but myself.

1,2,3,4,5 senses working overtime.

Yoga is the restriction or stilling of the changing states of the mind. Yoga Sutra 1.2. Yes the second sutra defines what yoga is meant to achieve, but stopping thoughts popping into your head is about as easy as stopping a tsunami or hurricane. ( the wise words of Prof. Rao) I’m pretty sure as soon as someone even says to me in a guided meditation, “Clear your mind, ” I end up immediately filled with everything around me and inside me. I start hearing traffic, wondering if my foot will fall to sleep in a minute from its semi uncomfortable placement, and a multitude of the subconscious thoughts bubbling to the surface, fears doubts, nightmares, my kids, my responsibilities, work, illness, do I have enough gas in my car to get to the station, the wafting smell of something yummy or too much perfume, am I warm enough…and so much more. So I ask, is it possible?

I would have said no five years ago. I was trying to meditate then, but I just didn’t have the right tools or enough compassion for myself to be patient and not judge what arises. A gazillion inane, insane, obscure, trivial and important thoughts are just there, pretty much all the time, that is the human condition plain and simple. Just get over it, seriously, get over it. Nothing will make your mind a blank canvas, not even asana, however, the reaction you have to what pops in your head can be altered. Just as asana most certainly wasn’t at all stabile when I started yoga, why would I think meditation would be any different?

Sitting still has never been one of my gifts, at least not without something to focus my mind intently on on such as a book I’m reading, or a painting, or writing. I think that’s one of the reasons I was so drawn to Ashtanga, the intensity of the asana with dristhi, breath, and bundhas, allowed me to figure out how to calm my mind and body just enough to attempt sitting quietly without wanting to fidget, at least for a half an hour. (If I’m lucky!) Like with anything else, I fail…frequently

I meditated this morning, at points it went well, and that is the best I can achieve for now. Trying, again and again, no judgement or annoyance at what decides to be present with me, just acknowledge and move back to my breath or whatever focal point I’ve chosen to help me stay grounded. If the thoughts were important enough, I can get back to them later, let’s face it those thoughts just won’t go away…