A brief explanation of the concepts of Ego, Universe and Integration
Let's Be Selfish
The message that often gets misconstrued as we discuss the practices of Yoga is that it is a practice of selflessness. True: we are to practice Karma Yoga by being in service to others. True: we should detach from desire and let go of that which we grasp. True: ultimately we will realize that all that we think is true is false and reality is an illusion.
Also True: we are Ego driven, Kosha limited, human beings. Our current situation is the result of the fact that we are influenced by the fluctuations of nature (Gunas) and our own consistution (Dosha). Realizing this, observing its effects and changing our behaviors is our basic goal for now. Therefore, we have to be selfish. We have to focus on ourselves, first.
When teaching the concepts of self (Ego) and Self (Atma), I like to relate them to the way in which humans have evolved to understand the universe. First, we thought the Earth was flat. Then, we thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Then, we thought there was only the Milkway Galaxy. Then, we realized there is so much more.
The self (Ego, I-ness or Individual) is who you are now. You perceive the world based upon what you think is important (the Earth is the center of all things). You are the most important thing. Therefore, everything else revolves around you.
The Self (Atma) is a tiny piece in the grand, gigantic, enormous, universe. It plays a part that is both of value, but also minor in the grand scheme of things. It is made up of all the stuff that surrounds it and, it's its own way is a tiny universe in itself (the Milkyway). It is both unaffected by the Ego and also hidden by it.
You know that video that starts out with the viewfinder on one individual or tiny speck and then pans out for what seems like forever until it has broadened the view to contain the the entire universe? That last part, when it's panned out as far as it can go; that's Brahman.
Once we realize that we are "chips off the old block" of something bigger (Atma), then we can begin to See the whole picture. Before, we were caught up in wants, desires, thoughts, nature, perception, etc. (Ego). Realization, observation and detachment has revealed that all that stuff is unreal; illusion. Now we can see. It's as though our vision has panned out from that tiny speck to envelop the entire universe.
Bliss sounds great, but integration sounds better. Would you rather be all zoned out and disconnected or fully aware and detached? This is the difference between bliss and integration. Samadhi is made up of two words: Sama meaning "same" and Dhi meaning "reflection" or "perception." Samadhi is the the ability to see sameness among everything.
When I first started learning about Samadhi it was translated as bliss. In my mind I imagined that I would be in this happy, joyful, euphoric mindset; that every experience would be wonderful. The deeper I dove into understanding Samadhi, the more I realized it isn't a state of bliss. It is a state of integration; a state of contentment. You reach a level of awareness that allows you to stop "sweating the small stuff." You get to participate, observe and be present without having attachments to emotion, energetic fluctuation or mindful chatter.
Want to learn more about the traditional practices of Raja and Hatha Yoga and how to integrate them into your life? Join us at LTY.
You are out of Balance
You night not notice it, but you have become so comfortable with how things are that you just accept that this is how you are supposed to feel. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes of time to allow your thoughts to run wild? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes to quiet those thoughts?
How well do you know your Self?
In the movie Anger Management, the main character is asked to explain who he is. Can you do this? Without describing yourself as what you do, who you know, where you live, what you enjoy? Can you describe your Self?
Try this: write down that which you do, where you live, what you enjoy, who you know, who you are in relation to others, etc. Now, describe what you look like, what you love and what you dislike about yourself.
Now, read what you have written. Is this you?
You are not your self.
Through the practice of yoga asana we develop an understanding of our habits. We learn that we have, over time, developed practices that protect us, that compensate, that hide the imabalances.
When we direct our breath, we identify the limitations we place upon ourselves and the ways in which we cheat ourselves from accepting who we are and what we need.
When we sit or rest in silence we learn to listen to the chattering within us. We begin to hear our body and breath. We notice the useless thoughts buzzing around in our heads.
Movement, breath and silence help us to identify all of the imbalances to which we are blind; it sheds light upon that which we have allowed to hide in the darkness.
You are your Self
We are not here to direct you through a workout or fix your ailments. We are here to help you to identify your imbalances. We are here to guide you through asana sequences that address physical and energetic change. We are here to guide you through breathing practices that shift your awareness and spark emotion. We are here to encourage you to be silent so that you can hear the chatter of your mind.
It's time to show up. To be here. It's time to seek synchronicity.
Yoga's sister science, Auyrveda, brings balance to our body, breath and mindful practices. By evaluating our lifestyle, eating, sleeping and working habits, we begin to paint a picture of who we are. We begin to see the difference between the self and the Self! We become whole only by breaking apart the pieces of our own individual puzzling selves. Each of us is like a puzzle that appears to be put together, but when you look closely, you see that there are pieces added or misplaced. As we practice, as we shed light upon the darkness, we begin to identify the pieces that need to be removed or replaced.
Book a Synchronicity Session today.
Identify imbalances. Learn how to return to your true nature. Return to synchronicity through specified practices.
I grew up in New England. There's nothing that can compare to the fall in the East. Maple leaves, maple syrup, pumpkin patches and apple trees, they all have a special place in my heart. Now, living in the land of arid climates and high alpine forest, I sometimes lament about what I used to have. And then, I remember, where I live.
After Labor Day, Lake Tahoe takes on a whole new vibe. As the crisp, fall air drifts in each morning and the warmth of the sun is felt later and later in the day, a peacefulness arrives. The hundreds of boats cris-crossing the lake are gone. The average driving speed has slowed, once again. All of us, who live here, take a deep breath and sit down to relax.
This is Yoga, my friends. This is honoring what we have and enjoying the present. As we sit back and review all the hard work of the summer, this is Yoga. Our lives in this community are cyclical, just like the flow of life. As yogis, it is our duty to recognize our habits, patterns and hurdles. Living in Tahoe offers a unique perspective on this practice. Every Summer, we work, we play, we sell. We rest, in the fall. Every Winter, we burn the midnight oil and rise with the dawn to hit the slopes. In the spring, we pause, again.
During these pauses, these moments of rest, there is an opportunity to learn. Yoga is the practice of understanding who you are. Of understanding our habits and changing them. As Autumn arrives and settles in upon us, enjoy the peace and quiet. Sit back and look upon yourself. As the seasons change, maybe you will, too.
One of my favorite quotes is "Yoga is not just a work-out, it's a work-in."
Something amazing happens when you begin working on something new. Whether it's skiing, playing piano, painting or Yoga; you can feel that rush that comes as you begin to develop the skills necessary to accomplish the activity. In yoga, we refer to this as Tapas. It's zeal, energy, the desire to continue.
Hatha Yoga begins as a practice with physical focus. We learn to direct the movement of our bodies, breath, internal functions and Prana through effort.
Fitness activities such as HIIT, running, Crossfit, cycling, acrobatics, etc. can help us to develop strength, mobility and physical ability. They do not qualify as Yoga practices, but do align with the idea behind Asana (postures). The more we move our bodies, the better we understand them and more control we have over them.
Beyond these work outs are the practices of Yoga that encourage wellness within. Pranayama (intentional breathing techniques), Satkarma (purifying techniques) and Bandha (pranic movement) are just a few of the practices that cleanse the physical body.
Combining the techniques of physical fitness (work outs) and Hatha Yoga can bring about general physical health and wellness.
As we keep working, practicing, and learning more, Tapas can begin to fade. Our workouts become less enjoyable, the task becomes more challenging. Our interest decreases or we become bored with the repetition. When this happens, we can become frustrated because it doesn’t feel as exciting as it did when we first began. We want to be better, to feel what we felt. We want to access what we had before or quickly become adept at something new. The challenge becomes greater and the work more difficult. This is the point in our practice when it's time to return to Svadhyaya or self-study.
Refect upon where you began and how you used to feel. Consider that which has changed about your physical body. What feels different? What do you wish to continue to change? In doing so, you begin shifting your practice from simply being about the workout and, now, being about working-in.
Stick With It
Yoga can be tricky. It offers us great gains, growth, and wellness. Each of us has the ability to maintain and move forward on our paths. However, as these tangible, physical rewards seem to decrease, the challenges begin. We must learn to honor our limitations, push ourselves further and work-in.
Be an observer of your self. Notice the subtle changes in your appearance, wellness, thoughts and general outlook on life. Stick with the practice and you will soon be practicing Yoga everywhere. As you do so, you will continue to reveal your Self.
The word Guru is of two parts: "Gu" meaning darkness and "Ru" meaning light.
In the world of spiritual endeavors the guru is the guide who helps your find your way on your path to enlightenment.
A Guide to the Path
Unlike a teacher, a guru is there to help you along without giving you the answers. Think about it this way; in school you have lots of teachers, they give you information, test your knowledge and tell you if you are correct or incorrect. When practicing on the path to enlightenment your guru is your personal trainer, therapist and swami. He or she will provide you with the guidelines, listen to your woes, provide guidance and send you forward on your travels.
The basic word difference between Teacher and Guru is the difference between 'takes' and 'makes'. For instance a teacher takes responsibility for one's growth whereas Guru makes one responsible for their growth. Similarly one beautiful difference is wherein it says a teacher prepares you to answer the questions whereas a Guru will question your answer.
Do Not Blindly Follow
I have been asked why we do not chant or do a group invocation at Lake Tahoe Yoga. My reason is because I do not feel qualified to tell you which mantra is the appropriate one. I invoke that which I need and that which aligns with the intention of the practice as appropriate based upon that which I am developing and teaching. I encourage you join in at the closing of the practice to offer peace through the words, "Aum Santi," but do not expect you to do so.
As a teacher, I am still learning. My intention is to develop a strong grasp of the practice and philosophies, to develop them in my own life and be able to demonstrate and explain these practices to those who choose to practice with me. I am a work in progress and self discovery is still out of my reach.
Seek out guides who are sincere, authentic and offering their whole self to you as they teach. A guru they may not be, but they will provide you with a mirror to your self and your needs as you prepare to discover a guru.
Seek Knowledge and Comprehension
If your instructor cannot explain or describe that which they are teaching or the reason for it, then you probably should not be following their lead. Lineage, quality training, continued study and dedication to the practice are the ways in which we shed light upon the darkness. You don't need to know everything about everything, but knowing what and why you are doing something is very important.
Do not be fearful of asking questions of your instructor. Whether new to the practice or experienced in teaching, they should be able to answer questions about why you are doing particular poses, breath practices or mindful focuses and the intention behind the practice. If the answer is less than inspiring or lacks knowledge, then move on to someone who provides you with what you need.
The Ultimate Guide
As you move forward through your practice of Yoga you will likely follow many teachers and be guided by many gurus. The ultimate guru is the one that is within you. Like your conscience, it will tell you if things are right for you. Above all, no matter what your teachers say, you must listen to your inner guru if you desire spiritual enlightenment.