Saturday, January 5, 2013

Brahmacharya: Non-Excess

Brahmacharya: Non-Excess

The Yamas & the Niyamas are the foundational principles of all Yogic thought. Yoga is a philosophy of existence that extends beyond the physical postures that have facilitated its rise in mainstream repute. Yama is the first limb of Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path of Yoga. The Sanskrit word Yama literally translates as “restraints.” In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali details five universal Yamas: non-violence (ahmisa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), non-excess (brahmacharya) and non-possessiveness (aparigraha). Over the course of the last three months Mountain Yoga has explored three of the five Yamas. This brings us to the fourth jewel, brahmacharya. Brahma is the Sanskrit word for Creative Force or God. Charya means, “to follow.” Though brahmacharya is classically interpreted to mean celibacy or abstinence, it has been secularized for today’s modern practitioner and is often understood as moderation. Yet the practice of non-excess can also be seen in an expansive light that invites us to welcome the sacredness of all life through a careful attendance to each moment as holy, and this dear ones, includes our sexuality.

We live in a culture of excess. We overdo food, work, sex, entertainment, material possessions and exercise. Not to call anyone lazy but some of us even overdo relaxatio. Why do we continually move beyond the place of contentment into excess? Yogic thought tells us that it is because our mind has an emotional investment in certain foods or activities. As we begin to become more aware of the ways in which we indulge in excess, it is important to discern the difference between what the body truly needs and the story the mind is telling us. In her book “The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice,” Deborah Adele shares:

“We are on this world, in part, to feel enjoyment and pleasure. If we are in pleasure and not addiction, we are practicing brahmacharya. If we are feeding our mental stories and have moved past bodily comfort, we are in addiction and out of harmony with this guideline….Non-excess is not about non-enjoyment. The questions before us are: Are you eating the food, or is the food eating you? Are you doing the activity, or is the activity doing you?”

A discussion of brahmacharya wouldn’t be complete without some mention of its implications on sexual energy. Someone once shared a definition of brahmacharya that stuck with me, though the person’s name did not. This person said that in practicing the first three Yamas – non-violence, truthfulness and non-stealing - within our sexual relations we, by default, practice brahmacharya. This definition is particularly relevant when considered within the framework of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutras are a series of 196 terse aphorisms that define the method and ultimate aims of Yoga. Sutra means thread. The Yoga Sutra is a carefully woven and masterful tapestry in which no word is superfluous and each thread relies upon the previous. The order in which the Yamas appear in the Yoga Sutra therefore holds significance just as kleshas (afflictions) appear in geniuses order; ignorance (adviya) being the field in which all other root obstructions grow. I digress but I hope you will humor me and give this idea some consideration.

If we find ourselves living in the throws of addiction in any facet of our life, a period of fasting or celibacy can be very useful in returning to a place of balance. These practices are powerful tools that pull in the reins, cultivate contentment and help us to regain our center. We have all, at some point or another, moved beyond the line of bodily satisfaction and discovered lethargy. That’s the thing about overindulgence; it smothers our life force like too many logs on a fire. Practicing non-excess preserves the life force within us so we may live with clarity and purity.

Brahmacharya beckons us to acknowledge the sanctity of all life and the interconnectedness of all beings. It invites us to open to the magic and fullness of each and every moment. When every task, no matter how mundane or familiar, becomes an opportunity to be amazed an avenue for gratitude is created. With an attitude of gratitude, there is no need for excess. At times, I struggle with a nagging sense of dullness that leaves me feeling sad and afraid. Deborah Adele suggests that this is a result of maintaining too fast a pace for too long. I concur. In my world this pace eventually results in living life on autopilot. She also states that we wear our busyness like a badge and go to bed with a sense of accomplishment because we checked a lot of things off our task list. “The ego likes to feel important, and it doesn’t feel very important when I am resting.” Deborah has me pegged. The desire to get comfortable in the uncomfortable place of stillness was one of the promises that first drew me to Yoga. Though I have learned to sit in silence, honor my limits and make time for the spaciousness of Mother Nature, I am still a recovering Type-A Personality. As I write these words, I can’t help but be amused and honored by how the process of Yoga continues to stealthily grant me opportunities (i.e. writing about non-excess) for self-inquiry and growth.

Brahmacharya reminds us that we are embodied to serve the world with our passion and that that vitality is best cultivated through moderation, not excess. In the words of Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 Body Prayer Playlist

2012 Body Prayer Playlist

 1). Om ~ Jane Winther ~ Mantra

2). Prana (Sahana Vavatu) ~ Shiva Rea Yoga Rhythms 

3). Invocation ~ Ty Burhoe, Krishna Das, Manorama, John Friend & Amy Ippoliti 

4). Guide My Way (Om Asatoma)  ~ Steve Gold ~ Let Your Heart Be Known 

5). Somewhere Over the Rainbow ~ Israel Kamakawiwo'ole ~ Alone in IZ World 

6). Imagine ~ Eva Cassidy ~ Imagine 

7). Orange Sky ~ Alexi Murdoch ~ Time Without Consqeuence 

8). Beloved Rafe Pearlman ~ Live From "Church"
9). Long Time Sun ~ Snatam Kaur ~ Grace 

10). Be the Change (Niraj Chag's Swaraj Mix) ~ MC Yogi ~ Elephant Power 

11). Om Namah Shivaya (feat. Bhagavan Das) ~ MC Yogi ~ Elephant Power
12). Across the Universe ~ Rafe Pearlman ~ Live From "Church" 

13.) Om Namah Shivaya (Bigger Mix) ~ Steve Gold ~ So Much Magnificence 

14). Night Mantra ~ Renee & Jeremy ~ It's a Big World 

15). Exploded into Love ~ Bob Schneider ~ Lonelyland 

16). All is Full of Love (strings) ~ Bjork ~ All is Full of Love 

17). Sea of Love ~ Cat Power ~ The Covers Record 

18). Ganesh Under Moonlight ~ David Newman ~ Stars 

19). Bija Mantras: Watering the Seeds ~ Ben Leinbach & Jai Uttal ~ Loveland 

20). Balance ~ Benjy Wertheimer ~ Voice of the Esraj
 21) Shanti (Peace Out) ~ MC Yogi ~ Elephant Power 


1/1/2012 Body Prayer Themes & Readings


The Opening of Eyes by David Whyte 

That day I saw beneath dark clouds 

The passing light over the water, 

And I knew then, as I had before, 

Life is no passing memory of what has been 

Nor the remaining pages of a great book 

Waiting to be read. 

It is the opening of eyes long closed 

It is the vision of far off things seen for the silence they hold 

It is the heart speaking out loud 

Into the clear air 

After years of secret conversing. 

It is Moses in the desert, 

Fallen to his knees before the lit bush. 

It is the man 

Throwing off his shoes as if to enter heaven 

Finding himself astonished - 

Opened at last, 

Fallen in love with solid ground. 

Buoyancy by Rumi 

Love has taken away my practices 

and filled me with poetry. 

I tried to keep quietly repeating, 

“No strength but yours,”

but I couldn't. 

I had to clap and sing. 

I used to be respectable and chaste and stable, 

but who can stand in this strong wind 

and remember those things? 

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself. 

That's how I hold your voice. 

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire, 

and quickly reduced to smoke. 

I saw you and became empty. 

This emptiness, more beautiful than existence, 

it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes, 

existence thrives and creates more existence! 

The sky is blue. The world is a blind man 

squatting on the road. 

But whoever sees your emptiness 

sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man. 

A great soul hides like Muhammad, or Jesus, 

moving through a crowd in a city 

where no one knows him. 

To praise is to praise 

how one surrenders 

to the emptiness. 

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes. 

Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship. 

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where! 

Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck 

we could have. It's a total waking up! 

Why should we grieve that we've been sleeping? 

It doesn't matter how long we've been unconscious. 

We're groggy, but let the guilt go. 

Feel the motions of tenderness 

around you, the buoyancy.


The Wild Geese by Mary Oliver 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 

Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again. 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. 

Swim With The Tide
Except from ‘Go In and In’ by Danna Faulds 

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold;
the holding of plans, or dreams or expectations – let it all go.
Save your strength to swim with the tide.
The Choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for.
Let go.
Let it all go and flow with grace that washes through your days whether you receive it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.
Take this on faith: The mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless.
Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams or destinations.
Let it all go and find the place of rest, and peace and certain transformation. 

Let Your Heart Open Gently 
Excerpt from 'Journey into the Heart’ by Melody Beattie 

Let your heart open – gently, safely, surely and certainly.
Do not let others decide when or even if you will open your heart, when or if you will embrace love. Those choices are too big, too important to let others make for you. Only you can decide when and how. There was a time when it wasn’t safe to open your heart. Pain was all around you. You were not equipped to be that open. That time is passed. You have learned. You have grown. You have learned that you are a loving being. You know now that your love comes from within you. It is safe to open your heart. The universe awaits, ready, willing, delighted to be able to help you open, the same way it aids the opening of a flower with the sun, the rain, the earth. To deny your power and ability to love is to deny joy. To deny your loving essence is to deny yourself, and the Divine within you. Look around. It is not your location that makes you safe. It’s where you are in your soul, mind and your heart. That place is good. That place is safe. Open your heart. Embrace life. Go joyfully on your way. 


Love Is Who You Are 
Excerpt from Until Today by Iyanla Vanzant 

Love is who you are. How you see yourself, how you treat yourself, how you express yourself is a direct reflection of your true beliefs about love. When you can be gentle and compassionate with yourself, you will feel love. When you can be non-judgmental about yourself, you will experience love. When you can trust yourself and tell yourself the truth, you will express love. When you can see and celebrate your worth, value, and your beauty as a divine expression of life, you will be love. 

Love is the cooperative, harmonizing, accepting, forgiving, essence of your soul. Love does not give up. Love does not demand what it does not have. Love doesn’t force itself on others in order to feel better about itself. Love doesn’t attack to avenge itself. Love does not withhold itself. When we learn to see ourselves as love and to be present with others in loving ways, love will be anchored in our consciousness and on the planet. 

Until today, you may have been trying to figure out what love is and how to find it in your life. Just for today, be aware and accept yourself as an expression and example of the love you are seeking. 

Recognize Your Strengths
Author Unkown 

A water bearer in China had two large pots hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it; the other was perfect. 

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the perfect pot would always be full of water, but the cracked pot would arrive only half full. For two and a half years this went on every day, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. 

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to the house.” 

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always know about your flaw, so I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”


Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, who am I
to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? 

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened
about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure
around you.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is
within us. 

It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.
And as we let our light shine,
we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. 

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence
automatically liberates others. 

Life Loves You 
Excerpt from the book, ‘Until Today’ by Iyanla Vanzant

Listen Carefully, as if someone were whispering into your soul. There is something you must know. It is very important, no, imperative that you receive these words into the core of your being. These words are essential to your very existence. They will feed, nurture, and nourish you. They will support, assist and guide you. When all else fails, these words will give you the strength and courage you need to weather the storm and walk through the fire. These are simple words, yet they are powerful, if you can accept them in the spirit in which they are given, you will be blessed. Receive these words— LIFE LOVES YOU!
Life loves you enough to live as you, to breathe through you, to express itself as you. Life loves you so much, it does everything in its power to stay in you, to be with you and to allow you to depend on it. Life is, at this very moment, totally and absolutely in love with you! Life wants to look like you, be like you, live as you because it respects and honors all that you are.
When life sees you coming, it gets excited! It can hardly contain itself! Life is ready to fill you up, spill over through you and experience the best it has to offer you, as you. If you were to ask life what it is about you that makes you so lovable  the answer would be simple. You are alive! That is all it takes to make you loved, loving, lovable. Now isn’t that good to know that you are loved?
Until today, you may not have realized just how much life loves you. You may have believed that life was not on your side. Just for today, be devoted to honoring, cherishing and enjoying life’s love for you. Sit silently and ask life to fill you with its love. 


Giving Up Is Not An Option 
Excerpt ‘Journey into the Heart’ by Melody Beattie 

Somehow, in the midst of what seems to be the worst possible thing that could happen, you must find the strength that you need to persevere. You must develop the courage that will be required to take the next step. You must face the challenge eyeball-to-eyeball in order to realize that challenge comes to make you, not break you. Losing a job, home loved one can be a devastating experience. Your challenge may be a child or family member who has gone astray. You could be faced with an unexpected change like a divorce or an illness. Whatever the challenge may be, it could rock you to the core. Somehow you must remember that you are up for the task. remember that you do have the strength. remember that you can trust life to give you the courage that is required to do anything or face anything. As painful or frightening as the difficulty may be, you will do what needs to be done because you have no other choice. Giving up in not an option. Give yourself a moment to take a breath. Allow everything that you are feeling and thinking to move through your body. The moment that you feel that you can’t take it or you won’t make it, reach down into the essence of your being. From that place pull out a scream. Then pull on your power, your strength, the divinity of life within you. Tell yourself, THIS IS GOING TO MAKE ME STRONGER. THIS IS GOING TO MAKE YOU WISER! This challenge, no mater what it is, have come to make you bigger, brighter, stronger, more loving and compassionate. It will not break you! Trust yourself. Trust life. You will make it through this. Until today, you may have been feeling as if you were about to break down. Just for today, call forth the strength, courage, wisdom, insight, power and love of the spirit of life. As that you be guided through the next minute, hour or day to a place of peace.

Be A Lighthouse 
Excerpt from ‘Until Today’ by Iyanla Vanzant 

At night, the ocean can be a huge, dark & scary place. When riding on the seas, you can never know for sure if the water will be calm or turbulent. You never know if you will drift off course, or run aground. That is why there are lighthouses. When ships lose their way, they are guided by the lighthouse. When there is trouble or danger at sea, you can seek refuge by the light of the lighthouse. In the midst of a storm the lighthouse will always guide the ships safely to shore. Best of all, there is always someone in the lighthouse. 

Be a lighthouse. Let your life be a shining symbol for others. Let everything you do be in service to someone. Stand tall in the knowledge of who you are. Stand proudly in the midst of difficult times. Be aware that who you are and what you have to offer can be a beacon to some lost soul. 

Be a lighthouse keeper. Be on the lookout for lost souls. Be alert to those who may be in need and have nowhere to go or no way to get there. Be a lighthouse to a child. Guide a child. Protect a child. You don’t have to say much. Just let the child know that you are there should a need arise. Be a lighthouse to an elder, someone who has traveled the sea of life, but now needs a little warmth and comfort –perhaps a cup of tea or some interesting conversation. Be a lighthouse to a young man or woman who has lost their footing or may be losing their direction in life. Remember, no matter what condition a wind-blown sailor reaches the lighthouse in, the keeper is always welcoming. The keeper always encourages. The keeper always has something on hand or knows what to do to get you up and sailing again. 

Until today, you may have been wondering how you can be of greater service to your family, your community or the world. Just for today, be the keeper of the lighthouse. 


Excerpt ‘Journey into the Heart’ by Melody Beattie 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. 

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was “thank you,” that would be enough.  
~ Meister Eckhart 

The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see. ~ Dr Robert Holden 

At times our light goes out and it is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ~ Albert Schweitzer 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John F Kennedy 

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil Gibran 

Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘you owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky. ~ Hafiz 


The Journey 
Excerpt from “Journey into the Heart” by Melody Beattie 

You are opening up more and more. You are becoming clearer each day. Embrace the changes taking place. They are good. They will last. They will take you and your life to someplace you can’t fully imagine now because it’s so different from where you have been.
All will be changes. Your love, your life, your friends, your work. Your quiet moments and your times of sharing. Your playtime, Your rest time. Your attitude will change. Your ability to fully and joyfully experience your life will change. 

Things that used to bother you, hold you down, hold you back will easily roll off you. Problems that used to plague and pester you, making you feel weighted down, will be lifted easily. You will know and trust that the answers you need will come to you.
Your powers will increase. You will find yourself doing, knowing and feeling things that you thought only certain others could do. You will find yourself gliding through life in a way that brings you joy, and touches and heals others. 

You will laugh a lot. And yes, you will cry a lot too, because an open heart feels all it needs to feel. But you will not think twice about your emotions. You will feel them with the purity of a child and the wisdom of a sage. You will see, touch, taste, and feel life’s magic in a way you never imagined. You will love, and you will be loved and you will learn that it is all the same.
You are open now; more open than you’ve ever been. Trust the process and trust your heart. The journey is not in vain. Its purpose is to lead you to love.