Jivamukti Focus of the Month: Time was, is and will be, by David Life


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ksana-pratiyogi parinamaparanta nirgrahyah kramah
The succession of changes (the uninterrupted sequence of moments) is only recognized as distinct moments when one has transcended those moments and is at the other end.
Yoga Sutras IV.33

We regulate and evaluate our lives by time. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and decades are all measures of time. Time – that you can see passing in the sweep of the second hand and the sweep of the Sun across the sky. But how accurate are the measures of time that we judge our success or failure in living, the length of our yoga practice and the paycheck we receive? Do past, present, and future actually exist, and can you visit them?

The age-old quest into the nature of time floats somewhere between physics and philosophy. Time is a very mysterious thing. The best scientific minds do not agree on the qualities or nature of time. There are basically two modern theories of how time works:
A theory – past present and future exist and time passes
B theory – no time is objectively past, present, or future, the passage of time is an illusion.

Either theory could be true, or both. We accumulate memories about the past but we have no memory of the future, so time does seem to be traveling from the past to the future. Time moves slowly sometimes and faster other times…or at least it seems to. For example, raising your body temperature can slow down your sense of time as much as 20%. That is why yoga class seems to contain so much – in so little clock time. Time runs faster at elevation too, so clocks run faster if they are raised by just 12 inches. People who live on the top floor apartment age more quickly than on the ground floor. Time passes more slowly at sea level than it does in the mountains. (Time passes slowly in Shavasana.) Your head ages faster than your feet – unless you invert everyday!

Could we travel through time? The grandfather paradox states that if you went back in time to a period before your parents were conceived and killed your grandfather before he had a chance to father your parent, you will never be born — which means, you could never have existed to go back in time and killed your grandfather which means backward time travel will interfere with the future path of the thing which travelled and that the inherent impossibility of this makes backward time travel impossible. This paradox makes sense from a physical point of view, but perhaps time travel takes place in other dimensions, perhaps in the realm of Super Consciousness itself.

The yogic method for transcending time is to dive deep into it. In Hinduism, god is personified as time – Kala, and Time moves in relentless and bloody cycles that repeat. In yoga sutra ksana represents the smallest increment of elapsed time – a moment. A ksana is so small that it actually has no duration. Ksana is time out of time. It is much like the point in geometry. In the same way that a point has no dimensional existence of height, length, or width – the ksana has no duration. The point that is repeated creates the first dimension of length. The ksana that is repeated creates the arrow of time that seems to move from the past to the future, the kramah. The trouble is (according to the sutra,) that we don’t realize the impact of our actions, until it is too late to do anything about it by changing our actions. Hindsight is 20/20!

The reason we cannot seem to link our current actions, with past actions and future results, is because we act unconsciously. When consciousness lapses the continuity of actions is lost. The present moment seems to have unrelated challenges and novel inventions of fate. “How did I get here?” “Why is this happening to me?” The world seems to be coming at us for no fault of our own. Yoga practices reveal how your actions result in the life you experience, and your projections appear – as the world before you.

Too bad we can’t pierce the veil of time and inhabit our past, present and future now!

But you can…and you will reach a state, through yoga practices, when there are no more unconscious lapses – we call it Super Consciousness. You will experience past, present, and future time as continuous and connected. You can free yourself from a time-bound existence.

January 2015 – David Life

Teaching notes:

Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month, December, 2014: Mantra, by Sharon Gannon


IMG_0151-0.PNGThe ancient yogic scriptures declare that God is sound and sound is God: Shabda Brahman. There is nothing but God. God is everything. God is real. God is reality. God is sound. All forms of reality are sound forms—music—their very substance composed of vibration. What we see as material existence, matter, is sound slowed down so that the eyes can see it, the ears can hear it and all the other senses can cognize it. Sound gives birth to matter—in the beginning was the word.

Our minds—through our words, whether spoken out loud or silently—create the reality we live in. Most people are unaware of the powerful force their words unleash upon the world. None of us like living in a world of chaos, conflict, destruction, pollution, disease and despair, yet few of us realize that it is our words that create and maintain such a world. We misuse our words when we use them to deceive, condemn, complain or blame others. Words spoken in anger and despair create a destructive atmosphere.

If we feel bound or limited by our reality, if don’t like what we see, a mantra enables us to change our perception of what is by going beyond what appears as normal to us. The Sanskrit word mantra means to “cross over the mind”: man means “mind,” and tra means “to cross over.” Mantras are magical words with the potency to shift reality, or at least our perception of it, which may well be the same thing. But to utilize this magical potency of mantra to shift our perception of reality, we must acknowledge that mantras are spells, and like all spells, to be effective, they must be uttered with sincere intention and pronounced correctly. Most of us must repeat a mantra many times for the desired effect to manifest. As the alchemists of old used to say with encouragement, “with repetition the magic will be forced to rise.”

One might ask, If God is everything then how come there is so much ugliness and suffering in the world? Think of it this way: Right now the Earth’s environment is being destroyed due to human greed and ignorance. Nature is harmonious with God’s laws. We take naturally occurring, pristine resources and refashion them into all kinds of material things to buy and sell. Money seems to be our God and money is our mantra. Most of the things we manufacture end up as garbage thrown into landfills and the ocean, creating a polluted world and releasing toxicity into our environment. Nearly all of the stuff we have made from the Earth’s basic raw materials we have also altered in such a way that this stuff is unable to break down naturally into components that will biodegrade and re-nourish the environment. The garbage we have made is poisoning our world and causing all kinds of suffering—an indication that we have lost our musical sense and have become out of tune with the Cosmic laws of harmony. God provides the basic raw materials but gives us the option to fashion those materials in accord with the laws of nature or not. In a similar way God gives us voices and a choice to play and sing in His orchestra or one assembled from our own selfish, short-sighted egos. God allows us to choose which words we want to think and say, and our choices will determine the kind of world we live in now and in our future.

It is said in the Bhagavad Gita and in other scriptures that whatever you are thinking of at the time of your death will propel you into your next life. That being said, it is sad to know that many people when they meet death unexpectedly, like in an accident or plane crash say the mantra, “Oh Sh-t!,” unconsciously giving direction to their next incarnation. The great yogi Gandhi was practiced in his recitation of mantra, and when the assassin’s bullet hit him, he remembered to utter “Ram,” which no doubt pointed his soul in a good direction for his journey.

The nature of God is satchidananda—existence (sat), knowledge (chit) and mostly bliss (ananda). God is omniscient and omnipresent, but if you want to know His blissful form—and who wouldn’t?—you must focus on that with every thought or word you say. God is polite and does not interfere with us unless we reach out to Him and ask for His presence to be in our lives. When you want to get someone’s attention, knowing their name is important. It is the same with God: to get God’s attention you must call his name. “Hey you” is not enough. It is better to be specific.

Sanskrit is the spiritual language of refinement. Sanskrit mantras composed of the names of God are particularly potent. Most people unconsciously fill their minds and their world with words that manifest as mundane, destructive forms, ensuring negativity and suffering. The wise work to deconstruct a negative reality through chanting God’s holy names. Sound precedes form. His name (nama) creates his form (rupa). There is no difference between God’s name and God. If you want to dwell in the bhav of the Divine then use the mantras of his holy name to lift your mind from conflict, fear, anger, despair and all ordinary concerns and bring you into the reality of ananda—your true h(om)e.

—Sharon Gannon

Jivamukti Focus of the Month, Nov 2014: Soul Power, by Sharon Gannon


fom_nov_v1_0hanam esham kleshavad uktam
The greatest obstacle to the practice is one’s own prejudices 
based on one’s own preferences ~ Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (PYS IV.28)

Yoga is the practice of getting happy. Not ordinary happiness, but deep and lasting happiness that is unshaken by the ups and downs of life. Through yoga we wake up, slowly and over time, and as each bit of the veil of ignorance that keeps us from knowing our true selves falls, we see more and more clearly what is, and with that we gain power to choose to live life aligned with the flow of Divine will. Those of us on this path face both tremendous challenges and tremendous opportunities at this time. Our culture of materialism, exploitation and utter disregard for the well-being of other animals, all of nature and the Earth herself is inching us ever closer to a breaking point, while at the same time we are undergoing a huge shift in consciousness. To navigate through this tumultuous time and emerge into the light, we must dissolve a crippling prejudice that has put many of us to sleep for thousands of years, distorted our minds and coerced us into viewing slavery, exploitation and the mass murder of other animals as normal. The root of that prejudice is the lie that animals don’t have souls.

In the sutra above, Patanjali identifies prejudice as the greatest obstacle to yoga. Prejudice is always based on misperception, which comes from ignorance. Ignorance arises from being told a lie and believing it and then continuing to tell yourself and others that lie—deepening your belief in it to such an extent that it affects how you see yourself and the others whom you are prejudiced against, resulting in a distortion of the truth. Prejudice is a mental affliction that pollutes the mind with deception. To rid yourself of prejudice, you must destroy the lie at the root. Only knowledge can burn prejudice at its root and reveal the truth.

Many religious traditions maintain that non-human animals do not have souls, or that they do not have the kind of souls that enable one to connect to God. Patanjali tells us that if we look deeply we will see the truth. In fact, you don’t even have to look that deeply to see that other animals have souls. If they are breathing and the heart is beating, this is evidence that a soul is present. To be alive is to have a soul. All living beings, regardless of the color of their skin, hair, feathers, scales or fur, and whether or not they walk on two legs or four or none at all, are persons—they have souls.

This is evident in our language: the word anima is the root for the word animal, and it means “soul, that which animates.” Thus, by definition, all animals have souls, whether human or non-human. Every living being has a soul. When someone dies, the soul leaves the body, and that is the only time that we can justifiably point at someone and say they don’t have a soul. It is the same no matter what kind of person you are: you may be a human, a cat, a dog, a cow, a bird or a fish person, but regardless, all living beings have souls; if they didn’t they would be dead.

It is also evident in countless stories of animals behaving in ways that go far beyond the rigid notions of animal behavior that culture and science have limited them to, ways that in many cases display more humanity than many humans display. For example, dolphins caring for their dying friends, dogs who forego food themselves in order to have enough to feed their families, octopuses who decorate their dens, birds who use words to express regret, and many more. If these animals were nothing more than automatons whose behavior is dictated entirely by their genes, how could they demonstrate such connectedness with others and the world around them?

Jivamukti means liberation for the soul—all souls, not just human souls. To reach liberation, we must rid ourselves of prejudice. Asana and meditation practice can help. Bhakti can help. Being vegan can help. But no practice will be effective unless we are willing to open our minds and hearts to see beyond the “reality” presented to us by culture. When we reach liberation, we will find that there is actually no difference between individuals of any species. We are all one—we are all one Divine soul.

-Sharon Gannon

Live Music, Saturday October 11, with Luc Acke


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I’m so excited to be teaching with Luc Acke again on Saturday, October 11th at Indaba Yoga Studio, 10-11:30am. There is nothing like practicing to live music, and Luc’s voice and the harmonium are especially grace-filled. If you have never practiced to live music before, come and experience the live vibrations and incredible sweet bhav (mood). Hope to see you there (to sample Luc’s sound, click on the link below his picture).

Twist and Shout


 

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Twisting plays a vital role in maintaining the health of our bodies and minds. The twisting motion is important because it incorporates so many central points of the body, and encourages movement in the spine as well as the organs. Yoga twists require the work of the abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, spine, neck, shoulders and pelvis. Each twist improves the strength and flexibility in all of these areas, resulting in two distinct and essential benefits:

The Relief of Back Pain and Pressure
The lower back region bears a considerable amount of weight when you are standing or sitting throughout the day. This can put pressure on the lower vertebrae and restrict circulation. Yoga twists can reverse the daily damage to your lower back by restoring circulation, increasing flexibility and correcting posture. These positions rejuvenate the spinal column and improve range of motion. This makes daily yoga twists an excellent way to relieve back pain.

Cleansing and Detoxifying Body Tissues
Performing yoga twists massages inner muscles and organs, essentially wringing out toxins while bringing in a rush of fresh oxygen and nutrients. This flushes impurities from inner tissues and helps organs perform their functions properly. Among other benefits, this is an effective method for improving sluggish digestion.

Join me on Sunday, October 5 to learn more about twisting and the relationship of twists and front, back and side bending in the Central Column: Architecture of Asana Series at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, from 1:30-4:30pm. There will be twists aplenty and backbend merryment too. Please come!

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