A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO LETTING GO
I woke up today still feeling warm and fuzzy from yesterday's New Moon workshop, and since I made a commitment to a more consistent meditation and journaling practice for 2019 (and forever after, hopefully!), I figured it was a perfect opportunity to invest in those intentions I set at the beginning of the year.
I've also been working on giving the blog more love, and while I'm not super proud of what I've accomplished here so far, getting back to journaling and poetry, as well as exploring different photography, illustration and painting techniques, is proving to spark my creativity and offering the necessary inspiration and motivation to begin sharing in a more meaningful way again.
For a few years, I felt completely without direction or a sense of purpose. I asked the Universe for clarity for a very long time before I recognized it in my life, but the main reason I wasn't receiving any messages was because I wasn't really listening - I wasn't properly tuned in.
This past year, for me, has been all about seeking clarity, particularly around flowing more in harmony with the Universe. I wanted to properly let go of the things that were holding me back so I could find greater purpose in my life. (*less tension and resistance, more flow*)
Maybe this sounds vague, esoteric, abstract, or complex, and it has definitely been one of the greatest challenges of my life so far, but I think this is a primary root of the struggle - we overcomplicate the process of surrender.
*HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY "LET GO"?*
I've been working through this difficult question in my mind for quite some time, and it has come up with my students, family and friends enough for me to see that it's a pretty universal struggle. I haven't uncovered a perfect process, but I've noticed that certain techniques are more helpful in releasing heartfelt tension and moving forward into joy - or, letting go.
This, too, takes time, practice, and patience. Focus on cultivating compassion for yourself; observe your experience with a loving eye, and when you are ready, begin to relax your mind. (*move from the head into the heart*) Notice the sensations that arise and lean into them enough to properly hear and feel what comes up for you. Maybe you choose a mantra that resonates with you, or focus on the energy within your heart space to keep your mind centred and still.
*meet whatever comes up with loving kindness. say thank you. let it go.*
None of this is easy work; it can be messy and painful and it takes courage to embark on this journey, so it's important that you practice compassion and patience for yourself throughout the process.
Do your best not to focus on the feeling of loss with letting go; rather, try to focus on your intention for this transformation, your gratitude for the experience and the lessons behind you, and the direction you're headed now. We're leaving behind our life's conditioning and ignoring the pull of the ego so that we may come home to the true self.
REMEMBER: LETTING GO IS A PRACTICE OF RETURNING
Kendal, Dorothee and I have been talking about a collaboration for a while now, and we're so happy to announce our first offering - MANIFEST: a journaling, bracelet-making and yoga workshop to send you off in the right direction for 2019.
Held on the first new moon of the new year, this workshop will focus on practical ways to manifest our dreams and goals and will encourage participants to set meaningful intentions for the year to come, or perhaps to solidify those resolutions they've already made.
This workshop will include a (semi-guided) journaling session to help focus our creative energy and solidify our intentions, followed by bracelet-making with Kendal of This is Chill where you can adorn your wrist with a customized representation of your own personal manifesto (remember carrying around a lucky charm of some kind as a kid? This is like that, but elevated), and closing with a gentle yoga practice and guided meditation session to bring us more clarity and focus for the year ahead.
Because we know that some of you might not want to stop at just one bracelet (we don't!), we're offering a additional bracelet options at $15 more.
We're so grateful for the beautiful studio space at CASA and we hope you'll join us for our first event of the new year. Head over to This is Chill to choose your beads and register for the workshop. All you'll need to bring for this event is a yoga mat and your favourite journal.
We can't wait!
*coziness, comfort, peace, togetherness*
Dorothee wrote a really nice explanation of this Dutch term on her most recent Instagram post, which doesn’t have a direct translation in English, except maybe ‘warm fuzzies’.
The holiday season can be chaotic and tense for many of us, and we spend so much time thinking about our offerings to others; it's important that we also set aside some time to nurture ourselves and prevent holiday burnout.
To celebrate the winter solstice this year, Dorothee and I wanted to host a rejuvenating event where we will unwind and connect with other local yogis, make an adorable hand-poured soy candle, and share a gentle yoga practice and relaxing meditation.
It's going to be cozy - bring your comfiest sweater.
These candles make awesome little gifts (right in time for the holidays!) or just a lovely homemade addition to your existing collection. (*We encourage you to bring your favourite essential oils to customize the candle’s scent to your liking!*)
This will be a fairly intimate event, held at the Sarasponda Yoga residence. Space is limited! Please message us to reserve your spot. 💌
Date: Saturday, December 22
Time: 6pm-9pm (ish)
Location: Sarasponda Yoga
(West Lethbridge ~ full address will be provided with registration)
(includes 6.5oz soy candle in a jar, gentle yoga & guided meditation practice, and refreshments 🍵🍷)
Registration: (Please DM to confirm space first) ~
Itinerary: Once everyone is settled and acquainted, we’ll begin the workshop with candle-making, and as our creations set, we will guide you through a relaxing and rejuvenating solstice-inspired yoga and meditation practice.
Dorothee and I are really excited about this event and we hope you can join us for some candle-making, yoga, and great company! #yqlyoga
When I was growing up, exploring my interests and discovering my skills, I had a massive fear of failure that often kept me from even participating. If I couldn't be the best at the thing (whatever 'the thing' happened to be), I didn't see the value in trying. My ego was fragile and desperately trying to protect itself as it grew and hung on to the things that made me feel special. I hated competing, especially if I felt I wasn't at the top of the pack; second or third place eventually became acceptable to me, but anything less felt humiliating.
This fear stuck with me through my early adulthood, and in fact, this is something I continue to work on to this day. But, my yoga practice gives me the opportunity to confront my ego and examine the ways that it holds me back. It also reminds me that failure is ultimately just a step on the path to success. (I am so sorry for the cheesiness but there's just no other way to put it!)
For the past few months, I've been practicing in group classes at a local studio, and I noticed that I would often avoid variations of postures that really challenged me, because I didn't want others to see me struggle. This is almost embarrassing to admit, but having gotten back to my home practice recently and revisiting challenging drills and asanas without the fear of judgement helped me realize just how much I was avoiding because of my fear of failure.
Our greatest successes in life come from trusting ourselves and taking some (intelligent/calculated) risks, not tightly holding on to all that feels safe and familiar without ever really pushing through our perceived limitations. When we fail, we assess where things went wrong, and (*hopefully*) move through the challenges that held us back initially: in failing, we grow. Anaïs Nin said, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to our courage." Here's the secret: permission to fail is actually permission to succeed.
This post covers days 12, 13 & 14 of the Purple Valley Yoga challenge. If you'd like, you can read all previous sutra posts in the Exploring the Sutras category.
*all translations of the Yoga Sutras are by Sri Swami Satchidananda*
Sutra 1.40: Paramānu paramamahattvānto'sya vaśikārah ~
"Gradually, one's mastery in concentration extends from the primal atom to the greatest magnitude."
Sutra 1.41: Ksīna vrtter abhijātasyeva maner grahitr grahana grāhyesu tatsha tadañjanatā samāpattih ~
"Just as the naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colours of objects placed near it, so the yogi's mind, with its totally weakened modifications, becomes clear and balanced and attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower, knowable and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is samādhi."
If we return to the previous sutras for context, Patanjali has instructed the spiritual aspirant in various different paths to samādhi. All methods and practices share the common aim of stilling the mind in the pursuit of self-awareness and absorption with the divine.
These sutras could be the root philosophy from which "The Secret" was born -- Patanjali is suggesting here that the devoted practitioner will eventually reach this state of unity and bliss with unwavering dedication and single-pointed focus, and when they do, everything will be knowable to them, or within their reach.
Without getting too scientific, in his commentary, Sri Swami Satchidananda discusses neuroplasticity and the yogic belief that the mind can give power to those thoughts it focuses on, essentially building pathways either toward imprisonment or liberation.
I've always struggled a bit with understanding samadhi, which I don't think is unusual, but here's why: there have been two particular instances in my own life that I have understood as samadhi, and they've felt like an incredible gift from the divine to remind me of my nature and purpose here, but they have (obviously) been temporary and fleeting; sutra 1.46 helps explain why this might be.
Sutra 1.42: tatra shabda artha jnana vikalpah sankirna savitarka samapattih ~
"The samadhi in which name, form and knowledge of them is mixed is called savitarka samadhi, or samadhi with deliberation.
Sutra 1.43: smriti pari-shuddhau svarupa-shunya iva artha-matra nirbhasa nirvitarka ~
"When the memory is well purified, the knowledge of the object of concentration shines alone, devoid of the distinction of name and quality. This is nirvitarka samadhi, or samadhi without deliberation."
Sutra 1.44: etaya eva savichara nirvichara cha sukshma-vishaya vyakhyata ~
"In the same way, both savicara (reflective) and nirvicara (super or non-reflective) samadhi, which are practiced upon subtle objects, are explained."
Sutra 1.45: sukshma vishayatvam cha alinga paryavasanam ~
"The subtlety of possible objects of concentration ends only at the undefinable."
Sutra 1.46: tah eva sabijah samadhih ~
"Each of the above kinds of samadhi are sabija (with seed), which could bring one back into bondage or mental disturbance."
In sutras 1.42 - 1.46, Patanjali returns to the different types of samadhi and paths of reaching them. With savitarka ("with deliberation") samadhi, the understanding of the object of meditation is concrete and thorough, with the ability to separate the whole into its most minute parts. He continues with nirvitarka samadhi, which is "without deliberation", when only the pure knowledge of the object remains and everything else fades away. Sri Swami Satchidananda claims this practice gives you the knowledge of the Knower also.
Sutra 1.47: Nirvicāra vaiśāradye 'dhyātma prasādah ~
"In the purity of nirvicārā samādhi, the supreme Self shines."
Sutra 1.48: Rtambharā tatra prajñā ~
"This is rtambharā prajñā, or the absolute true consciousness."
He continues on in his commentary of the following sutras with an emphasis on purity of mind, as obtaining this sort of control of the mind and freedom from the mental modifications is extremely powerful.
"Rtamharā" can be translated as "wisdom-filled-with-truth", or a complete understanding without the need for study.
Sutra 1.49: Srutānumāna prajńābhyām anya visayā viśesārthatvat ~
"This special truth is totally different from knowledge gained by hearing, study of scripture, or inference.
Sutra 1.50: Tajjah samskāro'nya samskāra pratibandhi ~
"The impression produced by this samādhi wipes out all other impressions."
Sutra 1.51: Tasyāpi nirodhe sarva nirodhān nirbijah samādhih ~
"When even this impression is wiped out, every impression is totally wiped out and there is nirbīja [seedless] samādhi"
With these last three sutras in Samādhi Pāda, the book on contemplation, Patanjali comes to the most complete form of samādhi, which fittingly translates as "seedless". Here, Sri Swami Satchidananda says, you realize your immortality and break free from the bonds of birth and death.
I think an interesting distinction here is that even the division of the wisdom (prajñā) and the owner of that wisdom keeps us from becoming completely absorbed in this divine bliss.
Sri Swami Satchidananda talks about jivanmukta in sutra 1.50, which he describes as a "realized saint", and I've absolutely met a few people in my life who I'd describe this way. There are teachers everywhere for us on this path - the key is recognizing them.
The past few weeks have been full, and I've totally slipped with the blog. I guess I could've set aside a particular chunk of writing time every day and kept up with it better, but I didn't anticipate the asana portion of this challenge being so difficult for me; the postures and transitions are often quite advanced, so they require a lot of warm-up and usually several attempts. I'm modifying, I'm resting, I'm listening to my body and trying to be a good yogi. And now, I'm drinking my super mushroom coffee (medicinal, not magical) and taking the day to catch up on this blog. It's all as it should be, and I'm not even mad at myself for falling behind; I'm feeling really at peace with everything lately, just as it is. (That's probably temporary, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts.) I'm trying to soften, listen, connect, and move through it all with grace.
As we near the end of this challenge (next week), I'm finding that most of the asanas are either unfamiliar to me or out of my wheelhouse, but that is also an important lesson in moving from a place of love instead of ego.
I'll keep these next few posts relatively short and sweet as we move through the end of Book One of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Samādhi Pāda (Portion on Contemplation). That being said, I'm really enjoying Sri Swami Satchidananda's commentary (all translations are his as well) and I'd definitely recommend a more thorough read through it if you're interested in exploring the sutras yourself.
Sutras: 1.32 - 1.39
1.32: tat pratisedharthamekatattvaabhyasah ~
"The practice of concentration on a single subject [or the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments."
1.33: maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam ~
"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness."
1.34: prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama ~
"Or that calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath"
1.35: vishayavati va pravritti utpanna manasah sthiti nibandhani ~
"Or the concentration on subtle sense perceptions can cause steadiness of mind."
1.36: visoka va jyotismati ~
"Or by concentrating on the supreme, ever-blissful Light within."
1.37: Vitaragavisayam va cittam ~
"Or by concentrating on a great soul's mind which is totally freed from attachment to sense objects."
1.38: svapna nidra jnana alambanam va ~
"Or by concentrating on an experience had during dream or deep sleep.
1.39: Yathabhimata dhyanad va ~
"Or by meditating on anything one chooses that is elevating."
In these sutras, Patanjali is offering a number of methods of meditation and contemplation with the intention of finding and maintaining single-pointed focus. I love that Patanjali does not seem concerned with the particular path a yogi takes, as the end goal is the same, and what's important is that we stay focused on the methods that best resonate with us in our pursuit of self-awareness and transcendence of the mind.
In sutra 1.32, he emphasizes the importance of single-pointed focus, and this one resonated with me the most. In my life, I've noticed that a lack of focus generates more chaos and unease, and I think this is one of the main things that both led me to the 26&2 yoga practice, and also kept me loyal to that method and practice alone for so many years. Now that I'm teaching these group classes again and have resumed my own practice at Harvest Yoga Studio, this understanding has become even more clear; when it comes to asana, having a set sequence (like 26&2 or Ashtanga) to practice on a regular basis is an incredible tool for stilling the mind and getting closer to the true self. As the asanas become more familiar and comfortable, we have the opportunity to focus more on our breath and internal environment, which (*potentially*) offers a more meditative experience as we practice.
The following sutras offer various practices (or perhaps more accurately, objects or ideas to set your focus upon) with the same intention behind them: remove the obstacles; still the mind.
And still, if none of the above suggestions strike a chord with you, Patanjali says you can always find something else that lifts you up, and meditate on that.
My instagram page contains shorter versions of these blog posts and covers up to Day 20 of the challenge, hosted by Purple Valley Yoga and Laruga Yoga. If you follow the hashtag (#purplevalleyyogachallenge2018) on IG, you can read some different translations and thoughtful commentary from the other participants in this challenge.
You can also find all other blog posts related to the Yoga Sutras (and the yoga challenge I'm participating in this month) in the category:
Exploring the Sutras
I'm so happy I joined this challenge. Usually, it's all about the photos in these instagram yoga challenges, but this one is totally different. In fact, my recent photos have not been great at all, but I'm not bothered by that; I've already gotten so much out of studying the sutras every day, before I can contribute anything to the (very saturated) world of #igyoga , and we're only 10 days into this challenge.
I knew that taking on this project of daily blogging about the sutras would be a fairly time-consuming endeavour, but I'm so glad that I decided to create this series (which allows me a little more room for reflection than Instagram does); I'm using this as a sort of online journal, and the practice requires a lot of thoughtful contemplation, careful planning, and the commitment to something that's meaningful to me. In the past, I've started more projects than I've finished, but I'm fully committed to continuing this blog project of exploring Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, at least throughout this challenge, for the remainder of the month. (*For posts on Days 1-8 of this challenge, click the 'Exploring the Sutras' category in the right sidebar.*)
Day 9 of the Purple Valley Yoga Challenge studies Sutras 1.30 & 1.31, with Virabhadrasana 1 as the accompanying asana. This particular Warrior was captured (by broken tripod precariously balanced in the grass) during Mister Bowie pup's morning walk. The sky was a bit temperamental, which made for a beautifully moody background. (And edited for enhanced moodiness!)
Vyādhi styāna samśaya pramādālasyāvirati bhrāntidarśanālabdha-bhūmikatvānavasthitatvāni cittaviksepāste'ntarāyāh ~
"Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground and slipping from the ground gained -- these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles."
Dukha daurmanasyāngamejayatva śvāsa praśvāsā viksepa sahabhuvah ~ "Accompaniments to the mental distractions include distress, despair, trembling of the body and disturbed breathing."
*translations by Sri Swami Satchidananda*
Sutra 1.30... it's is essentially a description of my twenties, or the majority of the past 10 years since that profound experience in Goa. During my conversation with Shilpa Joshi in Rishikesh (see the blog for Sutras 1.17 - 1.20 if you're not sure what I'm talking about) I was looking for some sign that I was actually on the right path and not totally deluded in my relationship with yoga. I've been practicing for 10 years, and although I'm not attached to the final destination, for a long time I questioned my purpose and doubted my path, wondering if I was just a charlatan expounding ancient Indian wisdom without any real connection to the yoga nor any business in sharing it with others.
Since that day on the beach in Goa, I have put in thousands of hours of asana practice and meditation, traveling all over the world in pursuit of this yogic knowledge and understanding. And yet, I still have not had any form of samādhi experience in over a decade. Shilpa softly assured me that I'm following my path exactly as it's been laid out for me, and essentially to simply continue on with pure love in my heart.
Sutra 1.30 also provides one of my favourite bits of commentary from Sri Swami Satchidananda in regards to losing footing. He says, "Another obstacle is slipping down from the ground one has gained. This puzzles many people. Beginners, for example, will practice with intense interest; everyday they will feel more and more interested and feel they are progressing steadily. They may even be proud of their progress. All of a sudden one day they will find that they have lost everything and slipped down to rock bottom. It happens to many people. If we know it is a common occurrence on the spiritual path, we won't get disheartened. ... Let us know that this is common in the case of every aspirant. The mind can't function on the same level always -- it has its heights and depths. If there is going to be steady progress always, there will be no challenge, no game in it. Remember: Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand and express our own capacities."
There you have it, friends. This is your story, and it was never meant to be a steady upward trajectory. The beauty and power of the practice lies in overcoming the obstacles.
These distractions that Patanjali notes in Sutra 1.30 seem to be pretty universal aspects of the human experience - I certainly know them all quite well (some better than others). I think the important practice is to deepen our awareness of these obstacles so that we may eventually move beyond them in this lifetime, toward total surrender to the cosmic will.
In Sri Swami Satchidananda's commentary of Sutra 1.31, he mainly refers to physical strength and the ability to sit for meditation, and advises us to keep our bodies healthy and fit with "right diet, exercise, and proper rest." This is all good advice, but not always within our immediate control...
What I find really interesting is that the effects of the obstacles Patanjali lists are also symptoms of trauma. These qualities or symptoms can arise in varying degrees of intensity, and therefore the challenge of overcoming them to find peace of mind can be incredibly difficult, depending on the extent of trauma one has experienced and the ways in which they relate to it. Although these symptoms are often painful and avoided as much as possible, I think they're also inevitable parts of being human; we are united in love, but also in pain.