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Surrender, Surrender, Surrender

Posted on 4 December, 2017 at 6:30 Comments comments (4)

The Yogic practice of Letting Go! The concepts of surrender, individual faith, and commitment to a higher reality than the self may be a weird concept to many, as to “let go” is a massive step when confronted with financial problems, unemployment, sickness, heartache, and loss. In times of hardship, we tend to cling more desperately to the idea that money, career, and status give us our identity. Holding on to routine, habit, possessions, and materialism, we try to control the uncontrollable. Ishvara Pranidhana suggests the opposite. It implies complete trust and willingness to open your heart and be in the moment. In the words of Ramakrishna, “Surrender is like falling from a tree without flinching a muscle,” further implying to “let go’” to any preconceived notion or idea of “what it should be” and to just “let it be.” Paul McCarthy and John Lennon said it in their famous song and so did Swami Niranjan when he said “Hari Om Tat Sat” at the conclusion of his visit to Australia. For Patanjali, Ishvara Pranidhana is to open your heart to a higher reality other than yourself. It is a way or means of dissolving the constant fluctuations of the mind in an attempt to reach samadhi, the unified state of yoga. This element is an essential key to yoga. Why is it essential? It’s essential because Ishvara shifts the focus from the “self” from individual concern and perception that causes much pain and distraction, but mostly separation from the higher source. Since Ishvara Pranidhana focuses on complete surrender of one’s ego to unite with a greater power, its essence then is to dissolve the concept of the ego and move towards unification with the universe. Here the concept of duality is destroyed and dissolved. “What is duality?” you may ask. Duality is the ego and the ego is the constant reminder of the self. As long as you remember yourself, you cannot forget yourself. With the memory of the self, you cannot become one with the universe. Therefore, when the ego dissolves and the individual becomes one with a higher reality, there is no more duality. How do we do this? In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali repeatedly highlights Ishvara Pranidhana as one of the five niyames, or inner practices. Let’s pause here for a moment to discuss the yamas and niyamas. Within the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gave equal importance to the yamas and niyamas within the eight-limbed yoga system. Many practitioners jump straight onto their yoga mat and start bending and twisting into asanas (poses). However, the second limb, niyamas, contain five essential internal practices, which extend from the ethical codes of conduct provided in the first limb. Niyamas provide a basis for a yogi’s internal environment of mind, body and spirit. To incorporate niyamas into daily practice helps provide a positive environment in which self-discipline and inner strength are required for progress along the yogic path. Within the niyamas are five parts. The first, shaucha, is purification. This extends beyond asana, pranayama, and meditation. It involves positive thoughts and foods. It includes socializing with positive, happy people and undertaking healthy activities. The essential message here is to eat healthy and nutritious foods, drink plenty of water, and avoid drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, and saturated fats. It is best to avoid negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and hatred or at least find a healthy way to express them for healing to take place. The next niyama is contentment, santosha. This is a toughie for some. For reassurance, take comfort in the wisdom of Mother Teresa, who said, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Great yogis tell us that when we are perfectly content with what life gives us, we feel true joy and happiness. The mind can be easily distracted into thinking that material possessions, wealth, and success can bring happiness. However, these feelings are usually temporary. Practising santosha frees the mind from delusion and unnecessary suffering of wanting things to be different. Instead it fills the soul with gratitude and joy for all of life’s blessings. Having to do something that you don’t really want to is the key issue of tapas, the third niyama. I can completely relate to this one. At the ashram, I really struggled with karma yoga, especially when the chore didn’t make sense to me. During my years of study, I have carried rocks to the top of a mountain, made a road with the same rocks, weeded and planted gardens, painted buildings, painted T-shirts, cleaned toilets, cleaned rooms—the list goes on. After years of karma yoga, emphasis on the word karma, I finally understood its meaning. I recall the time our house was on the market and everyone at home was busy cleaning and preparing for the sale. I rang my husband and asked what he was doing, to which his reply was cleaning the screens. I was pretty pleased to be at the ashram avoiding boring but necessary jobs. After lunch, on the same day, I asked the swami in charge of kitchen duties, was there any other chore. I didn’t expect a reply. To my surprise he said, “Yes, you can clean the screens!” Like tapas, karma yoga is doing something you don’t want to do, but in the big picture, it will have a positive effect in your life. How does it work? A fire or heat is produced when our will conflicts with a desire. This fire burns up mental and physical impurities, which transforms laziness and selfishness into motivation and kindness. Therefore, tapas can heighten one’s experience of spirituality by the purification of unconscious impulses and poor behaviour to build willpower and personal strength. Through my experience with karma yoga, I struggle less when doing things I don’t enjoy. Rather, I see the task at hand as an opportunity to do something that is bigger than my own needs and personal satisfaction. To perform a task for the greater benefit of others and not just myself certainly makes cleaning screens easier. This leads beautifully to svadhyaya, the fourth niyama. Svadhyaya is the ability to learn from life’s lessons. Self-study allows the opportunity to see our flaws and weaknesses, to examine our actions and responses to everyday situations. It is from this awareness we grow and learn and become the best person we can be. OM namah shivaya! Ishvara Pranidhana is the last of the niyamas. Surrender, surrender, and surrender! In summary, the fifth niyama is the complete surrender to a higher source. This niyama fuses two concepts together, the devotion to something greater than the self and karma yoga. To do this, our actions must be altruistic and seen as an offering to something greater than ourselves. This could be as simple as a hand gesture (mudra) in your yoga practice or salute to the sun (worshipping the sun), or chanting the Gayatri mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya or the Durgas. Enjoy the practice of “letting go”! By Mish Mockovic Martin

Living in the Moment

Posted on 4 December, 2017 at 6:25 Comments comments (0)

To derive greater satisfaction and enjoyment in life we are told to “Live in the Moment” but what does this actually mean? It’s like trying to find your pelvic floor muscles, Are they really there, Can we do it? There is a host of literature that suggest receiving maximum happiness, experiencing more joy, becoming more empathetic, more secure and having higher self-esteem we have to be in the moment. If this is true being in the moment can reduce stress levels, boost immune functioning, minimise chronic pain, lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. So why is it so difficult? The most likely the answer is life is full of distractions. As I sit and write this, I am consciously aware of each and every word but am I really in the moment. I have my phone nearby, the radio on, there’s constant background chatter of my husband and I am thinking of my tax return while planning my next holiday. To be in the moment means being mindfully aware of what is happening right here and now, in real time and in your experience. It is a state of active, open, intentional attention to the present. When you become mindful you realise that you are not your thoughts but the witness to your thoughts. However much of our time is spent in thought, usually about the future or past without actually any quality of awareness or mindfulness. Moving with habitual tendency from the moment we rise, to commuting to work, undertaking menial tasks to ensure employment that involves working toward a purpose, in most cases to pay the mortgage and build a retirement. Ultimately, over time our sense of responsibility and duty have untold effects on our nervous system in the way of unrelieved mental, physical and emotional tension. However, this is not a new phenomenon. The causes of stress have been documented in historical texts, where the sage Patanjali attributed the ego, spiritual ignorance, desire, hatred and attachment to material possessions, as factors contributing to stress. In a world where technical and scientific achievements define a modern civilisation, there still remains financial tensions, emotional upheavals, environment pollution and above all the feeling of losing control by the speed of events which have increased the stress in daily life. All these factors strain the body, causing nervous tension, which adversely affect the mind creating feelings of despair and isolation. Thus removing the possibility of being in the moment. It is true we live in an age of distraction. In The Art of Now, Six Steps to Living in the Moment, Jay Dixit states, “One of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that your brightest future hinges on your ability to pay attention to the present.” In the Power of Now, a Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle says for the journey into the Now we need to leave the analytical mind and the false created self, the ego behind. The following quote captures this sentiment, “Realise deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make now the primary focus of your life.” Mindfulness is the core of Buddhism, Taoism and of course Yoga. Yoga encourages awareness and the ability to be still. On a physical level, it gives relief from countless ailments. The practice of asanas strengthens the body and creates a feeling of well-being. Pranayama, breathing techniques, calms the nervous system and helps steady the emotions. Yoga sharpens the mind and aids concentration through the practice of meditation, particularly Antar Mouna (Inner Silence). For reassurance when dealing with the complexities of “living in the Moment”, take comfort in the wisdom of Mother Teresa, who said, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Great Yogis tell us that when we are perfectly content with what life gives us, we feel true joy and happiness. The mind can be easily distracted into thinking that material possessions, wealth and success can bring happiness. However, these feelings are usually temporary. Practising yoga frees the mind from delusion and unnecessary suffering of wanting things to be different. Instead it fills the soul with gratitude and joy for all of life’s blessings. Above all, yoga offers hope. By Mish Mockovic Martin

The Real Self "ie"

Posted on 4 December, 2017 at 5:45 Comments comments (0)

We live in the age of the Selfie. Selfies have changed social interaction in the way of public behaviour, body language, self-awareness and transparency. The primary purpose of the selfie is to be casual, improvised and spontaneous, to be seen by casual acquaintances and strangers on social networks as an expression of personality, capturing a moment that has meaning. Interestingly, it could be said that the selfie is the opposite, carefully staged to present the perfect image of a life that may or may not be lived. If this is the case, does imply the presence of performance even a sense of falsity to portray a life that is not real? The real question therefore is “Are we the real self or a masked representation. Many fret that the explosion of selfies proves we are entering a narcissistic age. The New York Post cites selfies as “the global calamity of Western decline”. A study by Fox and Rooney concluded that both narcissism and self-objectification were associated with spending more time on social media. Furthermore it stated self-objectification tends to be associated with low self-esteem. In terms of the selfie, especially the manufactured selfie and yogic philosophy it could be said that the individual is moving away from their truth and this relates directly to Vishuddhi, the Throat Chakra. When energy is blocked here, communication can become an issue, individuals may feel timid, be quiet, feel weak, or can’t express their thoughts. They may experience low self-esteem, self-doubt and self-sabotage. Constantly in conflict with the ‘self’, there are feelings of inferiority, helpless, powerless even paralysis and often as a survival technique present a false image of their self. The pain of the masked self can surface many times and in many forms but typically the mask is worn for protection and disguise. Sometimes the masked self appears as a clown, always ready to be funny to avoid sensitive or emotional issues that may be hurtful. By making jokes, laughing and refusing to be sensible in most situations is an attempt to be heard and noticed for they believe the ‘real self’ would go unnoticed. The fear of the ‘real self’ being present is a real concern. The term became more popular in psychoanalysis, when it was noticed by D.W. Winnicott in the 1960’s, that his patients were unable to feel spontaneous, alive or real in any part of their lives. Most likely they had suffered emotional issues and yet they were able to put on a successful display of being ‘real’. Such patients suffered inwardly from a sense of being empty, dead or phoney’. (Ego Distortion in terms of true and false self. 1965 pg 146). For Winnicott, other peoples’ expectations can become an overbearing influence on the original sense of the self, so much so that an extreme kind of false ‘self’ results. This may begin in childhood as a defence against an environment that is harmful or unsafe. This is an extreme form of a negative archetype associated with the throat chakra. The ‘Masked Self’ is usually an individual who is incapable of expressing their feelings. Hence communication and purification are key principles here. Vishuddhi in Sanskrit, the word shuddhi means ‘to purify’ and in this chakra, the cleansing and harmonising of all opposites takes place. Here the nectar ‘amrita’ drips down from Bindu and is said to split into the pure form and poison. If the poison is discarded through the practise of Yoga, the pure nectar nourishes the body, ensuring excellent health and well-being. The concept of poison and nectar, being complete opposites, can be understood by the dualities in life. Without light there can be no dark. Likewise, at Vishuddhi, the poison and nectar are consumed together and as such, they are understood to be greater parts of a whole. In its more abstract form, Vishuddhi is associated with higher discrimination, self-expression and creativity through sound. An individual who is strong at Vishuddhi speaks with great purpose, are articulate and eloquent. Incredibility wise, they usually possess great knowledge in all aspects of life. They tend to be great listeners with acute hearing, often listening to the messages from meditations. Hence there is no mistake that the organs of action are the vocal chords and the organs of knowledge are the ears. It is written in many yogic texts that, when an individual has experienced an awakening at Vishuddhi, they enjoy eternal youth avoiding death and decay. By the practices of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga or Tantra, spontaneous physical rejuvenation begins to take place. This is due to the tissues; organs and systems of the body are in contradiction to the aging process, which is man’s normal condition. They become free from disease and poor health. Vishuddhi chakra can be directly awakened through the practices of jalandhara bandha, ujjayi pranayama, and vipareeti karani and hasta utthanasana asanas. When Vishuddhi chakra is blocked it is typical for an individual to become opinionated, judgmental and critical of others. It is this chakra centre that the negative energy would collect. Sore throat, frequent colds, and headaches would be a physical symptom of a blocked Vishuddhi chakra. Whatever the selfie represents, they are here to stay. When dealing with the real self, the image can be seen in a positive light. An image that represents love, life, adventure, friends, family, fun humour and health. In this way the selfie can represent the millennial stamp and impact on the earth that documents time, events and place and as individuals we have made a difference, regardless of what form it took. References Fox, J and Rooney, Mc. 2015 Personality and Individual Differences. New York Magazine, February 3, 2014 Issue of New York Magazine Seidman, Gwendolyn PhD, Are Selfies a sign of Narcissism and Psychopathy Winnicott, DW. 1971 Playing and Reality. Books google.com You can watch an interview with Mish Mockovic Martin on YouTube. http://youtu.be/UxWbvoBOq68 For further information about Mish’s new book visit Insights of a Yogi by Mish Mockovic Martin available at amazon.com


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