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


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 Focus of the Month, August 2014: Identity, by Sharon Gannon

tat twam asi
That Thou Art, or You Are That
-Chandogya Upanishad

To see yourself in others, in all others, to see so deeply that otherness disappears…when that happens only One remains and that is Love. You are that. In the words of the Chandogya Upanishad: tat twam asi. This is what it means to be enlightened. An enlightened being is one. One what? One who has dropped the pretense of self, one who does not see themselves as separate from other selves. One who has lost themselves in Love, lost themselves in Oneness. My goodness, how to get there?

A person is either actively seeking knowledge of the “lowercase” self—jivajñana—or knowledge of the “uppercase” Self—atmanjñana. The Sanskrit term jiva refers to the individual self, atman refers to the eternal, cosmic Self, and jñana means knowledge. To seek atmanjñana is to seek enlightened Self-realization—dropping all egoic tendencies. We awaken to who we really are beyond our individual body, mind and personality. We let go of the sense of I, me and mine.

But before we can awaken and know the Self, we must have knowledge of the self—jivajñana. Everything in our lives revolves around identity. We spend the first part of our lives trying to find an identity and the rest of our lives doing our best to defend that identity. We are attracted to certain things, people, situations, music, books, food, clothing, lifestyles, etc., because these fit in with how we would like to see ourselves and how we would like others to see us. How can we avoid becoming trapped in the prison of our identity, disconnected from the mercurial essence that feeds and connects us all as one complex cosmic entity?

Yoga teaches that to realize the eternal Self, we must first come to terms with our seemingly individual self, and that means becoming comfortable in our own skin, with who we are as a person, with our relationships with others and the experiences of our life. No one can escape their destiny. A person must acknowledge the karmic seeds they have planted in the past and when they come to fruition do their best to work through the ripening process. The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient yogic scripture, is a story of the necessity of doing one’s duty, as well as a manual on how to reshape one’s destiny by planting the right kinds of seeds that could help one evolve and eventually be liberated from the wheel of samsara and the illusion of the ego. In the Gita, Krishna instructs Arjuna to do his work but at the same time to think of God; in that way one’s karmas become purified, as selfish motivation is overwhelmed by selfless action. Misidentification (avidya) is cleansed from our souls, and the atman is revealed. The yoga teachings are quite clear about the importance of bringing past actions to completion before we can renounce the world and become Self-realized. To resolve an action is to bring it back to its original nature, and love is the original nature of all things.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests that we offer ourselves to God and our success will be assured: Ishvara pranidhanad va (PYS 1.23). We ask to be made an instrument for God’s will as we relinquish our “own” will. Becoming a Divine instrument is to identify with the atman. A jivanmukta—a soul who has awakened to the atman while still living in a body—lives in the world and might appear like a normal person—a separate individual—but in fact they live liberated from that separateness because they don’t identify with it, but rather with the atman. The key to shifting this identification is to strive to become more other-centered, to awaken compassion, which will bring the clarity needed to see through otherness.

If we live to enhance the lives of others, by doing our best to contribute to their happiness and freedom, then eventually but inevitably there will be a shift in our perception of ourselves and others. We will begin to see in a more expansive light and perhaps get a glimpse of who we really are—tat twam asi—and that is when the magic begins. Or as Bob Dylan might advise, “So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’, help him with his load, and don’t go mistaking paradise for that home across the road.”

— Sharon Gannon

Sex, Death, Sleep, Love, Magic and Pratyahara: Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month: July 2014, by Sharon Gannon

Everything that is seen should be looked upon as the Self
Shandilya Upanishad

“Guruji, what is pratyahara?,” I asked my teacher. He came closer to me, turned my head to face a wall in his practice room and asked, “Look at that wall, what do you see?” “A wall?,” I asked timidly. “If you see a wall that means you have to practice pratyahara, then afterwards you will see God, not a wall.”

Yoga is a tantric practice in which the practitioner practices seeing all of life as alive, as the living manifestation of God. What is realized in the yogic state of samadhi is the Oneness of being. A realized yogi does not see a world populated with others—living beings or inanimate objects—separate from themselves. A realized yogi sees the Self/God in all of life. It is the illusionary appearances of others that must be overcome in order to break though the false separation between self and other, or between self and nature, or between self and God. Practically speaking, what that might mean is that you start by putting a face on the other, you relate to others that you encounter as persons, you even relate to the Earth as a person, to animals, trees, plants, even streams, rivers and oceans or rain and wind as persons. You don’t see the living world as made up of inanimate objects or unfeeling, faceless animals, plants, minerals or elemental forces, but as individuals, much like yourself. When you perceive the world as alive in this way, it is easier to interact with and relate to your environment; you don’t feel so alone or as if others or the world were coming at you and you were only a passive victim. Pratyahara is the practice of purifying your perception—not believing in only what you see with your physical eyes, but looking deeper. When you can really relate to others as persons more like you than not, that provides a way, an access point, to get underneath or through the illusion of separateness.

You know how it feels when you fall in love with someone and at first, they seem like a separate person, and you seem like a separate person, but then you become enthralled with the similarities rather than the differences between the two of you, which draws you even closer, and the separateness that seemed to separate you from them dissolves. You may even feel like the same person. It may dissolve for perhaps only a moment, but in that moment, you know that it’s possible. They say that everyone experiences the true Cosmic reality many times in their life. You don’t have to be an enlightened being or a saint to have this experience of the Oneness of being: it happens at the moment of sexual orgasm and at the time of death. And it also happens every night when you go to sleep, into deep sleep, where you lose your identification with your ego/personality, with your body and mind, and you no longer experience your own self as separate, you let it go. For most people the merger experiences of orgasm, death and deep sleep are involuntary, beyond their conscious control.

A yogi wants the deep sleep experience while they are awake, a conscious experience of continuous ecstasy, like a perpetual orgasm; well, we could use the metaphor of the orgasm, but we could also use the metaphor of death. Many tantric practitioners meditate on death, and others on sex and others on sleep. The word tantra means to stretch across: tan=stretch + tra=cross over. The tantric yogi stretches their perception of self and other so far that their perception magically encompasses all of existence, including of course the Divine. To the realized yogi there is nothing outside of, or separate from God.

The word sex means separation. Etymologically, the word sex is derived from the Latin roots seco and secare, which mean “to divide, cut or separate.” Actually the experience of orgasm is a resolve of sex or separation, where the person loses themself and feels the heightened experience of oneness, if for only a moment. At the time of death a person separates from their body and merges with the oceanic experience—no longer identifying themself as a separate being confined in a body of flesh and blood, but instead as one with the universe of potential. The experience of samadhi is akin to orgasm, death and sleep, as it is a resolving of all forms of separation into the reality of Oneness. Yoga means “to yoke, to connect, to dissolve disconnection.” Yoga is the antithesis of sex, because sex means separation—to divide or separate—and yoga means union—to yoke or bring together. The state of Yoga is the state of Love, unconditional. To see yourself in others—to see so deeply into others that otherness disappears and only the Self—only God, only Love—remains is the yogic magical quest. Through the practice of pratyahara—looking deeply within—one refines their ability to go past the outer differences apparent in other beings and things in order to perceive what unites all beings and things—the universal solvent, the Divine force of eternal love, which is actually the essence of one’s own self.

—Sharon Gannon

Jivamukti Focus of the Month: June 2014: Union Through Others, by Sharon Gannon

The state of “yoga,” or “union,” is when the individual self reunites with the infinite, undifferentiated, eternal Self. Yoga has been described as samadhi, or blissful ecstasy, because it is such a relief to finally reconnect with your whole being after so many lifetimes of wandering in the illusionary world of disconnection. The methods of yoga help to bring together that which appears to be separate.

Enlightenment is the goal of all yoga practices. Perceiving others—that is, perceiving ourselves as separate from others—is the biggest obstacle to enlightenment. For a yoga practice to work, it must address how to dissolve the others in our lives. Yoga teaches us that in truth there is only oneness; others are an illusionary projection coming from our own minds, from our own past karmas (actions). The practices help us to purify our karmas, which involve our relationships with others, so that we may perceive the oneness of being.

In the ancient text, the Yoga Sutra, the sage Patanjali suggests a few practices that may help us dissolve otherness and bring us closer to union. Patanjali is speaking to those who are still seeing others but who are interested in dissolving the disconnection between self and other.

He suggests that if we are still seeing others and not the divine oneness of being, then: Number one—don’t hurt them (ahimsa); Number two—don’t lie to them (satya); Number three—don’t steal from them (asteya); Number four—don’t manipulate them sexually (brahmacharya); and Number five—don’t be greedy, taking so much that you impoverish them (aparigraha). He gives these directives in the second chapter, the chapter on practice, and he refers to them as the five yamas (restrictions)—five ways to restrict your behavior in regards to the others you may encounter in your life.

On an immediate practical level, how we treat others will be reflected in our own experience of life. The others in our lives are a reflection of us. If we ourselves desire happiness and liberation from suffering, then our relationships with all beings and things should be mutually beneficial. No true or lasting happiness can come from causing unhappiness to others. No true or lasting freedom can come from depriving others of their freedom.

Patanjali tells us what we can expect to see happen in our lives when we become established in the practices of the five yamas. When we stop harming others, others will cease to harm us. When we practice telling the truth, we will be listened to. When we stop stealing from others, prosperity will come to us. When we treat others respectfully and don’t manipulate them sexually, we will enjoy good health and vitality. And when we let go of tendencies toward greed, we will come to know the reason we were born, and with that our destiny will be revealed to us.

If we want to know who we are, it will have to start with how willing we are to look at the way we are treating others, because how we treat others determines how others treat us; how others treat us determines how we see ourselves; and how we see ourselves determines who we are.

The simple but powerful gesture of placing our two hands together in front of our hearts when we greet or acknowledge others (namaste mudra) speaks without words of the magic of union. Two hands coming together: the left and the right, the sun and the moon, the ha and the tha, the self and the other. This is the gesture that describes yoga: union, the ultimate truth.

—Sharon Gannon

Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month: April 2014: Inversions, by Sharon Gannon

Inverted asanas are the most important of all the asanas for several reasons. Their positive effects are felt on many levels: physical, psychological and spiritual. Inversions help to bring the many systems of the body into harmonious equilibrium, balancing not only the physical, but also the energetic, emotional and mental bodies, as well promoting spiritual development. Turning upside down improves physical health, slows down the aging process, tones the muscles and the skin, improves circulation and respiration, improves digestion, increases bone density, strengthens the immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, increases self-confidence, improves concentration, stimulates chakras and makes you feel tranquil, happier, optimistic and spiritually oriented. The practice of inverted asanas may even lead to Self-realization. How can such claims be true?

Because inversions reverse the action of gravity on the body inside and out, they provide a powerful toning massage to the internal organs. This helps detoxify the organs by stimulating movement and counteracting stagnation. This internal invigoration also has a positive effect on muscles and skin tone. Turning the body upside down provides a different orientation to its relationship to the Earth and while holding the position provides an isometric experience that can increase bone density.

Inversions exercise the heart and encourage venous return. Many experts say that this is as good for the body as aerobic exercise for promoting a healthy heart and good circulation. Normally after arteries have circulated fresh oxygenated blood to all the body parts, the veins have to rely on muscular movement to counteract gravity and return the blood to the heart . Turning upside down enables this venous return to happen effortlessly. This also helps prevent varicose veins in the legs. When the body is inverted the heart gets a rest. Usually the heart has to work hard all day and night against gravity to move oxygenated blood up to the brain and throughout the body, but when you are upside down the blood flows on its own with out the heart having to do all the work.

Turning upside down causes the entire lymphatic system to be stimulated, thus strengthening the immune system. Turning upside down also stimulates and nourishes the endocrine glands, especially the pituitary and pineal glands, which when stimulated by the pressure created in inversions release hormones that regulate cellular metabolism, bringing health, balance, clarity, vitality and optimism to the whole body/mind system.

When we turn our bodies upside down, we are literally turning our world upside down. Turning upside down allows us to experience the advantage of different attitudes and ways to perceive. Everything we know as right side up, typical and normal is pulled out from underneath us. This disorientation requires us to draw from places in our psyches that we may not have accessed much before. In order to fully experience this new angle of perception we must relax both our bodies and minds and surrender to the Divine with faith.

Through inversions we can experience a kind of regression and rebirth. Especially the experience elicited by shirshasana when our head rests on the terrestrial plane of the ground and becomes the seat of the asana, we find ourselves going head first back into the Earth, our source. The feeling can be like diving head first back into the womb. The result can be a renewal of creativity. Physically elevating our hearts above our heads has a profound psychological effect as our intuitive feeling brain, situated in the heart, takes precedence over our rational intellectual judging mind.

The major inverted asanas are shirshasana (headstand), salamba sarvangasana (shoulderstand), halasana (plough), adho mukha vrikshasana (handstand), pinchamayurasna (forearm stand) and viparita karani (legs up the wall). They should be practiced daily. If you don’t have time for a 1-2 hour asana class that includes the 14 points of a Jivamukti Yoga open class, then at least practice inversions—especially shirshasana and salamba sarvangasana—remaining in each of them for at least five minutes. If you don’t have time to do that, then at the very least practice adho mukha vrikshasana and try to hold it for at least 25 breaths, against the wall if necessary. The point is to not go a day without turning upside down, unless you are a menstruating woman (in which case it may be best to rest from all inversions, because turning upside down will disturb the downward movement of apana toward the Earth).

Shirshasana is called the king of the asanas and is thus considered the most important of all the asanas. Each asana affects a particular chakra, and headstand stimulates the sahasrara (crown) chakra. The karmic relationship associated with this chakra is our relationship to God. Consciousness is chemical, and shirshasana stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands in the brain to release hormonal substances that cause an expansion of consciousness, which provides us an opportunity to let go of mundane, worldly concerns and become available for Cosmic consciousness. Inversions open a doorway to the Divine.

~Sharon Gannon

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