Love Invincible

PYS III.24 Maitri Adishu Balani
Through friendliness, kindness and compassion, strength and success will come.

heart-meditationWhen we let go completely of the ego, our insecurities, our need to please others and ‘act’ according to societal norms, then we can live through the heart. When we live through the heart with nothing to lose and nothing to prove, compassion and kindness shine through as our true nature, and we become more capable of saying what we mean, and meaning what we say. This leads to great strength, for we are free of the fear of our potential to be greater and more powerful than we ever thought possible.

Since I’ve been in the hospital recovering from a liver transplant, my relationships have undergone a transformation along with my mind and body. So many Beautiful Beings have offered up all of themselves with tremendous power of intention to my health and healing, and this has manifested in a number of different ways. In general, I value my friends more than I thought possible – I love them like family; they are a part of me. I sometimes have difficulty compartmentalizing the animate world as everything and all of us are so interconnected; and therefore the word acquaintance doesn’t register with me; rather, colleagues, nurses, doctors, yoga ‘students’, ‘teachers’ and strangers alike all fit nicely under the friendship umbrella.

Those beings who have helped me through managing my transforming body have gotten to know me in different forms: Lizzie with more and less body; Lizzie with more and less mental capacity; Lizzie in Love with life; Lizzie in great pain. Throughout this five week process I have been 25 kilos heavier than I am now with water weight, my face and body inflated nearly twice my current size; in fact, I was so over inflated with water that it was literally leaking out from my pores. I have had friends bathing me, changing my oozing wound, helping me to the toilet, washing my hair. These friends have surrendered themselves for my well being, and I believe that I can fairly say we’ve both benefited and grown stronger from this process. We’ve become One pillar of strength and love. I am wholly devoted to this growing circle of friends, and feel truly that there is no separation of heart or spirit. The Love is a result of surrender, of devotion, of offering everything up to the supreme source, that is You, me, all of us. Together, the power of Love is invincible.

Despite the Love, despite the deep connection with so very many, I am an introvert by nature. When in the hospital, my innate tendency is not to engage with patients, keeping my curtains drawn and earphones on. While I’m able to speak casually with the doctors, nurses and support staff, I observe myself doing all I can to not get caught up in other patients’ dramas. I used to feel awkward, even guilty about this, but have since come to terms with my method of coping, which I have rationalized as related to saving energy and keeping myself as calm as possible while not yet in a stable physical condition. Perhaps this is selfish, when I could be doing so much more to help those around me in their beds. I honestly feel I do the best I can, but it can become overwhelming, especially when the three others in my bay suffer from a confused mind and are continually doing strange things that I can’t help them to avoid. Example from this morning: pouring coffee into a jug of ice and letting it overflow all over their bedstand. This is par for the course of day to day in the room I’m in, times three.

There has been one exception to my generally introverted self since I’ve been here. After being on 10N for a week in a very loud room, one of the patients was sent home, thus there was a bed free. At about 9pm on a Friday, a new patient was wheeled in as if she’d just landed in a helicopter with an entourage of very happy, excited Spanish nurses and family. A bright energetic aura blew into the room with her, and over the next days I came to know this spark of energy as Eva, from Spain, who had just had a double kidney and liver transplant.

Eva and I commiserated about many things, we shared information about our lives, and quickly we got into deeper subject matter, like how to quiet the mind and learn to let go; even discussing our experiences regarding the space between life and death. Eva’s daughter and my mother came in every day, and within a few hours, the four of us were like life long friends. Every morning we got up and ate breakfast and talked a little more. Then, two weeks ago Thursday, we were both given the green light to have a trial weekend at home. Thursday turned into Friday, but over the course of the night we both took a turn for the worse. I woke up being taken for a liver biopsy; Eva was gone.

It turns out that Eva was taken back to the ICU for two immediate surgeries to try to stop an internal bleed that was accompanied by a large blood clot. She has remained in the ICU for the past weeks in unstable condition. Then, two days ago, her new liver died as a result of the blood clot. She was put on the urgent transplant list, which meant she had 72 hours to find a new liver for her to live. Today I’m unsure of what has happened. Her daughter must be exhausted and dependent on how the call out for a donor has gone, she may even be in surgery as I type. I have been praying blindfolded.

Every moment since receiving the call on the evening of September 25th I have been basking in the glow of gratitude and compassion. I have felt compassion for my donor, for all the very ill, blessed beings I have encountered in the hospital, my incredible circle of friends, and those incredible beings of light energy, like Eva, that contribute so much to the life force. In or out of the body, I’m continually reminded of the tremendous power of compassion, friendship and the sending out of positive thoughts, words and actions into the universe. Eva is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, and that strength comes through the kindness in her eyes. I surrender all up to the great Lord knowing she is filled with God’s Grace.

When we’re down, we need a helping hand.
And when we lose our heads, it’s cause they’re always buried in the sand.
But when we get stuck on our selves, feelin’ sorry for our selves.
Will you help us grab a hold and please don’t patrionize our souls.
When we start to lose control, when we get irrational, when we start to get too high,
You see us come floating by, I say,

Touch us with the morning sun, when we feel impossible.
Touch us with the morning sun, show us what is possible.
Touch us in the morning sun when we feel impossible, show us what is possible.
Teach us love invincible.
~Michael Franti

Jivamukti Focus of the Month: September 2013: Asana and Bhakti-What does love have to do with it?

sarva-bhutastham atmanam
sarva-bhutani ca-atmani
iksate yogayukta-atma
sarvatra sama-darsanah
Through the practice of yoga, the yogi sees the Divine Self in all beings and things. Bhagavad Gita VI.29

I think when you look at the Yoga Sutra deeply enough you discover that Patanjali’s yoga is bhakti yoga. Patanjali suggests that the most direct way to attain God-realization is to surrender your self, body, breath, heart, mind and soul to God. Sutra 23 of the first chapter states, Isvara pranidhanad va, which means, “by giving your life and identity to God you attain the identity of God.” Surrendering to God is bhakti, the path of devotion. Patanjali gives this directive as the most direct means to yoga—to samadhi, to the attainment of eternal happiness. We could refer to it as the one-step path. When you can unabashedly surrender all to God, your small, conditioned self with all of its negative emotions, frustrations, sadnesses and disappointments is left behind, and you become an instrument for God’s will. This is expressed in the prayer, “Make me an instrument for Thy will; not mine but Thine be done; free me from anger jealousy and fear; fill my heart with joy and compassion.” The nature of God is unconditional Love.

So why is it so difficult for us to surrender to this eternal love? Avidya is the cause of our reluctance. Avidya means ignorance of who we really are. Instead of remembering our true nature as eternal joy, we instead insist on a mistaken identity, one that revolves around our body, emotions and minds, as well as the unresolved issues with others, frustrated ambitions, complaints and blame that are housed in our mortal bodies. Our bodies are the storehouses for our unresolved karmas—all of our unfinished business with others — all of our small self concerns make up our individual self or jiva, whereas our true Self, the atman is eternal, bliss-filled — free from all suffering.

All great beings have eventually realized that only through surrendering to love is anything of real and lasting importance attained. The inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., come to mind: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is just too big of a burden to bear.” It is difficult to have love for God when you are filled with hate, anger, disappointment and blame towards others. Our negative karmas are intertwined with our relationships. For example, we get angry with someone and it is our anger that disallows our experience of happiness, joy or love. If we can’t resolve our relationships with others in the material world we have no chance of happiness and certainly no chance of relating to God. But how do we let go of hate and all the other negative emotions that afflict our souls so that we can surrender to love, to God?

Someone recently asked me if asana practice could be a bhakti practice. Asana practice must be a bhakti practice; it must be done with love and devotion to God if the ultimate aim is to be reached. The ultimate purpose of asana practice is to purify the body, to purify one’s negative karmas so that you can open up to Love, which is God. You cannot love God and hate God’s creation. When we can love all beings and things, the veil of ignorance will be lifted and we will be able to see clearly the Truth—the omnipresence of God. When we can let go of negativity, we can let God love us.

Each asana is connected to a chakra and to specific karmic relationships. Asana practice can be a magical practice that can shift one’s perception of self and other. By practicing asanas you can resolve the negative karmas involved in your relationships. Asanas are a very exacting science in this respect: standing asanas provide us with opportunities to purify our body by resolving our issues with our parents, home and money; forward bending with romantic, sexual and creative partners; twists with those we have hurt; backbends with those we feel have hurt us; the shoulderstand series with your relationship to yourself; child’s seat with your teachers; and headstand provides you with access to the sahasrara chakra and your relationship to God. If you practice asana to purify your body of the negative emotions associated with your relationships and release your soul of the burden of ignorance, the gateway to true love and happiness will be available to you. As you practice asana remember to think of those whom you have unresolved issues with and send them love. Through regular practice this love will become more and more sincere. Love is the only power strong enough to resolve negative emotions. It is only through the act of love that we come to the realization of Love—the goal of bhakti yoga. Practice asana so that you will be able to love God more. There is no greater goal to strive for in this lifetime.

—Sharon Gannon

An Invitation

Daily I am reminded of the preciousness of life. Continually humbled by the rich and vibrant outpouring of support and love by both those whom I have the good grace to know and strangers alike, it brings a beat to my heart and a sense of great gratitude.

On Tuesday evening, the 16th of April at 8pm at Indaba Yoga Studio, a group of very special women have organized a kirtan to raise the roof and raise the healing intention on my behalf. I have the good fortune to have two days behind me at home with my pillars of stability, my mother and my husband, and my reason to smile, my son, so that I may manifest being present for this beautiful love vibration.

The kirtan will be led by Nikki Slade, a woman who helped me find my voice again after I had a trauma to the throat following an emergency procedure in 2009, and organized by a phenomenal teacher and friend, Leila Sadaghee. None of this would be possible without one of my dearest friends, Ellen Walsh Moorman, enthusiastically and selflessly working behind the scenes. I’m so very thankful to everyone who can be there to participate. If you are in London, please come.35018_10151331142882191_1936579811_n

Vibhuti – The Way of Power

Welcome into the community of the powerfully peaceful. Our tribe is carrying the banner of all the great visionaries of peaceful change, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Lennon. You are the ones we’ve been waiting for. You can change the world. You ask how can I do that? The answer is that the “you” that you know as “I” cannot do it, but the essential you – the “I AM” – is a force for peaceful transformation that can work through our bodies and minds into the world. Our first task then is to transform ourselves into an instrument for the change by being that change. What is the change that is needed? Well, for one thing, a shift away from I-centeredness to other-centeredness. This is the first step in conducting “peace-power” – seeing ourselves in others – and it is the way of the tribe. Next step: cradle-to-grave security for all life forms on Earth.

We have responsibilities in the world, and the three main ones are:
-Responsibility to the whole family of living beings – all species;
-Responsibility to Mother Earth – the natural world – composed of earth, air, fire, water and space; and
-Responsibility to world leadership and the welfare of the common good.

Our culture’s concept of power has two aspects. Power is taken to be the cause of any change that we observe, including death, and power is also a latent force within that has the potential to cause change, like muscle power or willpower. Human beings are the only animals who confuse power with force, coercion, deceit, manipulation and death. We must change this misperception in order to access “peace-power” and live up to our responsibilities. Our true power is the power of friendliness, the power of kindness, the power of One, the power of Love.

How to accomplish this transformation? The most important step is purification of all our bodies – physical, energetic, emotional, mental and causal. The yoga practices purify us on all levels and pave the way for us to become peaceful warriors.

For thousands of years yogis have been using the same techniques to re-create themselves and as a result, re-create the world we all live in. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali teaches that a result of yoga practice is power (vibhuti)…
…power to fly in the sky of infinite possibility;
…power to be invisible to the demons of envy, greed and low self-esteem;
…power to know the great forces of the universe;
…power that moves the sun, moon and stars; and
…power to channel those forces for the good of all beings.
These powers can transform the world we all share.

With a steady yoga practice, you will develop powerful calmness and joy that will allow you to express a vision of the natural world where we live together in peaceful harmony with all living beings.

With a steady yoga practice, you will develop a powerful vision that will cut through the old way of seeing the Earth as a thing to be manipulated and tamed and that will open the eyes of everyone to Her invaluable connection to our own Being.

With a steady yoga practice, you will become a powerful citizen of the world who advocates for the well-being of all, rather than the enrichment of the few.

With a steady yoga practice, you will empower yourself and learn to conduct that power into the actions of the perfect citizen of the world.

-David Life

Some sources:
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
Mahatma Gandhi
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Principles of non-violent conflict resolution

Maitri-adishu balani (PYS II.24)
Through friendliness, kindness and compassion, strength comes.

Sa tu dirgha-kala-nairantarya-satkarasevito dridha bhumih (PYS I.14)
Abhyasa, meditative practice, becomes firmly and naturally established when, over a long period of time without interruption, one fixes one?s mind on the Self, the “I-am,” with constant effort, reverent and dedicated energy, and great love. (translation by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati)

-Some styles of yoga today are described as “Power Yoga.” There are many great and distinguished Power Yoga teachers, and there is no reason to judge them negatively. But we should look at the idea of power as it relates to yoga. The distinguishing feature of these yoga methods is not the techniques that are used. The same techniques have been used in yoga for millennia. What really distinguishes these styles is the attitude and fervor with which one performs the techniques. It seems to reinforce ideas of “making” something happen by working somewhat ruthlessly -unrelentingly and with a self-improvement approach. Our culture tells us that this is how anything is gained.
-Patanjali tells us that attitude and fervor are important but he defines them differently than we do in our culture. As far as attitude, he advocates friendliness, kindness, etc. And his idea of fervor suggests working steadily, uninterruptedly, for a long period of time.
-Vira is the peaceful warrior. As we move through the Virabhadrasana series and model the archetype of the peaceful warrior, we perfect our understanding of this gentle art. From the outside two warriors may look identical, display resolute confidence, and appear formidable. What distinguishes the master, however, is not an outer display, but an inner wisdom and joy that make him or her undefeatable.
-When we sit in Virasana we learn to face adversity with the joy and wisdom that come only from titiksha (forbearance) and tapas (austerity), together with ekagraha (single-pointedness), which leads to samadhi (all-pointedness).
-There are really two issues here: the acquisition of power, and the exercise of power. We can acquire power in many different ways. As yoga teachers our power comes to us from our students. As children our power comes to us from parents and teachers. As yoga practitioners our power comes from the infinite source of all power. Whenever we acquire power we have to choose how to exercise it. For many of us it is difficult not to resort to the stereotypical power plays of our culture. For men this means exercising their power in a “manly” way, and for women it means exercising their power in a “womanly” way. These very limited expressions of power belie the true limitless potential that we have. When we do a yoga asana practice we experience the expression of dog-power, bird-power, tree-power, mountain-power, etc., and we experience an open doorway for expression of power as life itself.
-What is your vision of peace? Will war really ever stop? Will people ever stop killing the animals and forests?
-We experience power, or energy, as prana. Prana always flows…it never stops flowing. We can, like the clever rice farmer directs the water to his rice (PYS IV.3), direct the prana as a positive force of peace into the world.

Using Our Voice

Our voice is one of our most important tools in making lasting, positive change in the world. With our voice we can represent all the beings who go unheard; the trees, animals in the forest, babies that are unable to protect themselves. When speaking truthfully from a place of compassion, it can also be the greatest gift we give to those in our lives.

So often in our society we are taught to shut up and listen, yet we end up hearing the wrong voice and wrong messages; messages that make us feel small and insignificant rather than full of unlimited potential and strength. As a result we become inhibited, questioning whether we have something worthwhile and important to contribute to the world we live in. We may be dishonest in fear of upsetting others, and may even use words to manipulate intentionally or unintentionally to shield us from our own insecurities. Our throat and jaw become tight due to the stress of having an over-active, ungrounded mind.

Yoga is about learning to listen to the inner voice; watching the often turbulent sea of thoughts with our ear to the deep waters of our subconscious. We listen to our breath setting the pace of our movement, and through the steady inhale and exhale we stabilise and quiet the mental fluctuations that preoccupy us with the past or future rather than letting us remain truly present.

Sharon Gannon says we can see how our yoga practice is evolving by listening to the sound of our own voice. When we way what we mean and mean what we say our voice becomes more resonant; grounded. Compassion sweetens the voice, and awareness enables us to take the time that we need to find the appropriate words, enabling us to say less while conveying more.

One way of actively listening to own own voice and how it relates to others is kirtan. The practice of chanting sacred names creates a divine subtle energy; exercising the voice through repetition enables us to drop down into the depths of our tonality as a grounding force. By observing how our voice co-exists and intertwines with others we can connect energetically and feel more unified as a group. Physiologically, moving the jaw and relaxing the whole body through sound and rhythm softens the areas of held tension and releases past experiences that may contribute to blockages throughout the body.

A number of yogis I know dislike chanting and would go so far as to arrive late to class to avoid it; I dare say I can relate. About ten years ago I had my first chanting experience in a yoga class; the teacher had a harmonium and began the class with chanting. I was unaware at the time of the relationship between the practice and the chants, and I didn’t return for a full year. When I did return, however, something in me had shifted, and I felt the connection. From that point on chanting has been an important part of my practice to deepen my knowledge of the yoga sutras and as both a meditative and purifying tool. A wise man once told me the things we have an aversion to are the things we actually need to evolve. Though I wouldn’t like to take this too literally (for those of you who know about my aversion to mayonnaise, don’t expect me to start ingesting any time soon), there is some truth to placing oneself in an uncomfortable circumstance to detach from the (positive and negative) preferences of the mind.

A few years ago when I was pregnant with my son I lost my voice due to some traumatic events experienced at the time, including direct trauma to the throat. It took me months of working with a voice therapist to open this area back up, and through that process I found a new appreciation for the freedom of expression through the voice. How blessed we are to have a voice; may we use it to speak our truth, to live more openly and honestly, to have a positive impact on the world. Svaha!

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