Tag Archives: Swami Satchidananda

Giving Up The Ghost

It’s been a while since my last post. 2013 has been a year of incredible highs and shockingly raw lows, and we’re only halfway through March, but with that said, I have a very strong feeling that this year will be a watershed one for me. I’ve felt a low rumbling in my gut over the last few months (no, it’s not diet-related); an ever-growing vibration that is always present, and that intensifies without my noticing it. I have seen myself blessed in 2013 by the network of beautiful, empathetic people around me, have agreed to teach all over the country for the first time ever (including a 4-day stint realizing a dream by being included in the faculty of the 2013 Wanderlust Whistler Yoga Festival), and have found solace from the tests that the universe has presented me with through my classes and mentoring. After 5 years of teaching, I have discovered that my most connected moments, to my students and the source of my inspiration and dharma, occur when I completely let go of any semblance of control.

The exercise that I have been forced to practice this year has been one that I encourage others to practice in every single class or lecture I give: to let go. I realized this year that I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to shape events and plans to be whatever it is that I think they should be. Call it planning, call it controlling, call it manipulating…regardless of whatever labels we choose to affix to our habits, we nonetheless find ourselves forgetting the limitations of the words and terminology in the precise moment when we stand face to face with the stark truth of our existence. I have always considered myself to be down to earth, someone who prefers to speak to people on an even playing field. I don’t appreciate being spoken to condescendingly or in language that sounds false and disingenuous, and so I make sure that my interactions with others are devoid of any of that energy. With all that steeping in the realms of my self-awareness, I nonetheless found myself this year being forced to look starkingly and without filters at who I am, what I want, and how I want the rest of my life to be. I was forced to detach from the stories I had created for myself and how I saw my journey ahead panning out, and was forced to stop labeling, manipulating, and moulding scenarios and events under the guise of protecting others and myself from a future that I considered to be threatening to the greater good. What I never took into consideration was that I had created my own impression of what the greater good looked like. I had built my own story, and then assumed it would be the same one that others around me would follow. It was fully subjective, from my own point of view and frame of reference. I believed the story that I knew better than others what the path to happiness was, that my way was the right way. Man, was I ever wrong.

I know I’m being somewhat vague here, but that’s because the details of the past few months are irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make, which is this: I offer tools daily on how to connect to the present moment, how to let go of the intangibility of the past and the future, to focus on what is. I thought I had mastered being able to see things in their own true state of being, without meaningless words reducing them to mere concepts. I found out that I know nothing. I found out that to truly let go and focus on what is is the most challenging and frightening exercise that exists. It’s an ongoing exercise, a lifelong commitment to my Self and to living in a state of pure awareness, one with an ever-unfolding evolution throughout which there is always more to learn and see and absorb and let go of and unlearn.

Throughout the first 3 months of this year I struggled to find the peace necessary to quell the incertitude and struggle I found myself dealing with, and even with countless and incessant “inspirational” quotes being thrown around social media outlets like a random Frisbee rebounding off of invisible walls, I found no answer to my questions. I put my shorts on before teaching a class a few days ago, and when I slipped my hand into my pocket, I found a bunch of crumpled up pieces of paper with notes jotted down on them detailing my class focuses for the last few months. Indisputably, the teachings that I had been blessed to be exposed to and pass on were brilliant, yet even with all that wisdom available to me for guidance, I still found nothing that brought me clarity. Ultimately, I had to let go of trying to control things to find my peace once again, reluctantly giving it up to a higher energy despite having the full knowledge that I would land on my feet, regardless of where that would be. Sometimes the only thing that can truly bring one peace is to live what needs to be lived by letting go of the reins and giving up the control that we’ve spent our entire lives kidding ourselves into believing we had. With full faith in something bigger than us…something timeless and unnameable, subtle and dependable.

I am finally back to a place of peace. This process has been exactly that: a process. One that had its own beginning, middle and ending, all of which I acknowledged and respected by invoking the essence of the holy trimurti from Hindu mythology and their female aspects: Brahma & Saraswati, Vishnu & Lakshmi, and Shiva & Shakti. I have let the process run its course, and by the grace of a higher power, had the strength and support of my friends and beautiful family to lean on when the going got tough. And so with all that said, with the greatest year of opportunities and “firsts” lying in wait just around the corner, I feel more prepared than ever to go forward and inspire people by drawing on my own experiences and incorporating the brilliance and simplicity of the yoga teachings. I have never felt stronger or more connected to my soul and my own path than I do now, and that has only happened by barreling forwards through the face of fear, doubt and uncertainty. I believe that this time in my life has not been for naught – it has occurred to increase my compassion and ability to empathize with others, and to be the light at the end of the tunnel for those facing dark passages. I am not responsible for that light – I am a vessel for it, as is each and every one of you reading this. Despite feeling like the light went through a dimming phase of late, it now burns brighter than ever, and so I now reflect its warmth and glow onto you all. Take it in, and pass it on. Let’s go forward together and be there for each other with silence when necessary and words of encouragement when appropriate. Most importantly, understand that everything is happening at the right time and for the greater good. Write THAT down and put it in your pocket, and it will hopefully be there to inspire you when you need it.

Onwards and upwards 🙂

Addendum: Immediately after writing this blog post, I found this post from Swami Satchidananda, a constant source of wisdom and light for me and millions of others..once again, he has managed to put his words together flawlessly, and essentially sums up the intention behind my post:

Ultimately the Higher Will is the final authority. In the case of human beings, free will has been given with certain limitations. You are not free to do everything you want. You can’t fly like a bird. There are many other such limitations. Your will is limited, but within those limitations you are allowed to do certain things freely. Those things are: to be helpful to other beings, to be serviceful to other beings, and to live a harmonious and useful life. You are free to do that. At the same time, you are also free not to live that way. By your own free will, you will face the result of whatever you do. You are even told what is right and what is wrong, but nobody interferes with your free will.

 It’s been that way since the very first person. According to the Bible Adam was asked not to eat the fruit. But God had given him free will, and Adam chose to eat the fruit. Did God stop him? No. That is where your free will comes in. You are free even to do wrong things, but you cannot escape from the guilt of having done something like that. That’s why Adam felt guilty.

 Was it God’s intent to make him feel guilty? No. Through that guilt, God wanted him to learn a lesson. Learning a lesson is more important, so you are allowed to commit the mistake, feel guilty, and from that learn the lesson. Experience is the best teacher. That’s why free will is given.

 Those who really want to use free will in the right way would choose by their own free will to give themselves into the hands of the Higher Will. With your free will you say, “Lord, You have given me free will. I know it has limitations. I can only do certain things, and if I try to go beyond those limitations Your will comes and stops me. So what is the idea of having my free will? To have fun? It’s better not to use my free will because ultimately You are the boss. Your Will is the final one, so I give my free will into Your hands. You gave it to me; now please take it back and do whatever You want.” With your own free will you give yourself into the hands of God. We never lose by giving ourselves into, those hands. By giving ourselves completely, we gain more of God. We get all of God, if we give our all. Then there is no destiny, and there are no problems.

 Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi

Cultivating Contentment

How much of your energy is spent pursuing that which you covet? What do you chase after in your daily life, and what does that chasing bring you?

Most of us identify what we want and set off in hot pursuit to get it. Some of us chase after money, so we spend too much time at work banking hours or billing for our time. Some of us pursue someone, doing everything in our power to get that person to notice us. Some of us pursue fame, and do whatever we can to make people notice us and ensure the spotlight is fixed on us at all costs. Everyone pursues something at some point in his or her life, and for all of you who know what I’m talking about, then you also know this to be true: the more doggedly you pursue something or someone, the more you try to manipulate a situation to be what you want it to be, the more it becomes the exact opposite of how you projected it as being.

Within the 8-Limb Ashtanga Yoga System, we come across the Niyamas, which are essentially observances or restrictions on how we treat ourselves and the manner in which we live our lives. One of these observances is Santosha, which translates to contentment. We are instructed to live a life steeped in contentment, to not get caught up in the dramas we typically get caught up in, to stay neutral and simply find contentment in all aspects of our life, come what may. I’ve always had trouble conveying this to students, as I don’t find it helpful to simply instruct someone to be content with their lot in life. Many of us experience challenging moments throughout life, in which we find ourselves tested through moments of hardship and difficulty, and being told to find contentment can be incredibly annoying. I like to be able to pass onto students tools that they can practically apply to their daily situations, and try to stay away from flighty “yoga speak”, so you can understand why I have fought with the concept of Santosha. Until now.

After reading something that Swami Satchidananda wrote about contentment, I realized something to be true, something that has manifested in my own life and experiences: one aspect of the way life works, the way universal law works, is this:  if you are doggedly pursuing that which continues to elude you, stop pursuing. Stop running. Stop chasing. Let go of the race. When you do that, honestly and with a real intention to let go, that which you were pursuing for so long will in turn come to you. It will chase you. It will pursue you. When you let go, things just come to you. It sounds like more “yoga speak”, I know. But it has happened in my life, and I know it to be true. When I decided to leave my past career and focus my energy on yoga, I found things start to gravitate to me. Opportunities, like-minded peers, tools. All of it started appearing. But only after I gave up the chase. Only when I trusted that my feet would land on the ground as long as I kept my intentions honest and pure. As Swami Satchidananda says, “Contentment is purity of heart, not a heart that is anxiously searching for something. When you have that contentment, everything is golden to you. Keep your body and mind totally easeful and peaceful. Let things come and go as nature wants.”

When you can let go and just be, in your most natural state, as you are when no one is watching, you will find contentment. And in that state, all that you previously ran after will find you. It may not happen as fast as you’d like it to, it may not appear under the guise you expected, but with a clear heart and clear vision, you will be able to identify it. That is Santosha. That is something we can use and apply to our daily lives. That is one more tool from the yoga system. Use it. It’s been here all along, and now that you’ve read this, you have no reason to ignore it 🙂

Choosing Your Adventure

Every week I bring a new focus to the classes that I teach – one that I find helpful to me in my life and that I feel relevant and potentially beneficial to the students. These focuses are born from inspiration – the inspiration I find from a sentence I read in a book, from hearing in conversation, or simply from observing my own patterns and behaviour. The sources are many, but almost everything I’ve ever felt insightful enough to carry through to my students all boil down to the focus from two weeks ago. The focuses often present themselves to me right before I fall asleep at night, and this one was no exception.

Everything I try to convey in my classes and through the various outlets available to me, every bit of insight and advice I am approached for, all stem from one question we need to be constantly asking ourselves: am I making decisions in my life that I can be proud of? In the same way that all Hindu gods and goddesses stem from the one omnipotent energy source that is Ishvara, everything we seek and question in our lives stems from this concept of having the wherewithal and ability for staying in the present moment to question our motives for taking the decisions that we do. And boy, do we make decisions. Every minute of every hour presents us with countless options as to how we want to live this life we’ve been given. And much like those Choose Your Own Adventure books that I loved as a child, we never have only one option – if you want to do one thing, turn to page 99. If you’d rather do this other thing, turn to page 26. If neither of them is speaking to you, turn to page 155. As with those books, few of the options will ever bring you to your demise, and so we have a grand task presented to us every time we actively decide on something.

Being present and accountable for what we decide for ourselves isn’t about ensuring we’re looking for every single fork in the road to make sure that none get left by the wayside…we would go mad if we spent all our time jumping on every opportunity to make THE decision to end all other decisions…it is, however, about making sure that we check ourselves at that pivotal moment where we understand that the decision facing us has the potential to bring us closer to where we’d like to be, closest to who we see ourselves as being. We always have more than one possibility as to where our decisions will take us. As Sri Swami Satchidananda’s focus on December 1, 2011 stated, “We should be very, very careful about what desires we cultivate. There may be many other little desires, it doesn’t matter; but our predominant desire should be something elevating. Something that would take you away from this to a higher level, never something that would take you backward.” The desires we cultivate are cultivated through our choices, and with a multitude of choices available to us, we need to make sure that we find some sort of advancement or evolution through these choices. Forget about what would make others happy. Parents, siblings, friends, co-workers…it’s not about them. This journey is yours alone, and you have a responsibility to yourselves to honour who you are and how you want to live this life. Ask yourselves the most fundamental of questions when unsure of whether your decisions are proving to be fruitful or not: “Has this brought me suffering, to ANY degree, or has it brought me peace?” The answer will be clear. And it will prove helpful when choosing where your adventure will next take you. It just requires you to show up…to be awake…and to make sure that you can be proud of your choices. For no one other than yourselves. After all, it’s your adventure.