October | Saucha

By David Rinaldi

Saucha is the first of the Niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and is usually translated as ‘Purity’ or ‘Cleanliness’. This can be one of the trickier Niyamas to nail down due to its subjective nature. What is pure? What is clean? How is this measured? This is especially true in Tantra, where all things are viewed as divine. If dirt and clutter are simply different forms of supreme consciousness, how can they be “bad” or “impure”?

Instead of trying to apply arbitrary universal rules of cleanliness and purity, it makes more sense to look within when contemplating Saucha. Rather than things being inherently “good” or “bad”, it’s more appropriate to look at how they affect each person individually.

During yoga and meditation, we are working to detoxify our system and this process goes much faster if we are careful about what we take in on a daily basis. This includes the environment that surrounds us – our home, our workspace, the people we surround ourselves with; our diet – what we eat, what we listen to, what media we consume, the conversations we take part in; and our thoughts – are we constantly thinking negative things about ourselves and others?

Saucha is about creating a sacred environment that supports your spiritual development. As you contemplate your home, your work space, the things you consume, and your thoughts; consider how you can make each one more sacred. Take baby steps. Make the intention to make one thing in your life more sacred every week and commit to keeping it that way. Take the time to observe the effects of each change and use those observations to encourage future changes.

September | Aparigraha

Aparigraha is the last of the five yamas of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga.

The practice of non-attachment. This is the experiment of the month at Yoga Lab.
As far as I’m concerned this is the practice of circulation and exchange. How often do we hope for something new and fresh to come into our lives without thinking of how we’d clear space for it? How often do we crave change without loosening our grip on expectation?

We can feel how futile this is in the simple act of breathing. Go ahead; take the deepest breath you can. Hold it. Now try to inhale some more. No room.

Now, exhale as completely as you can. Every last bit of air. A fresh inhale avails itself effortlessly. The work was in letting go.

Attachment is sneaky. It can take the innocent form of “preferences,” or more obvious forms like actually holding on to material objects, circumstances, and relationships. In both cases this clutching blocks movement. The natural state of all living things is movement. Come breathe and move with us this September as we do an in depth study of non-attachment and moment-to-moment awareness.  - Cory Nakasue

August | Brahmacharya

The fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, is often translated as abstinence. Abstinence is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the practice of abstaining from something the practice of not doing or having something that is wanted or enjoyable. This begs the question, what is the benefit of staying away from something that brings me joy?

When we add another popular translation of Brahmacharya, skillful use of energy, into the picture it helps us answer this question. It's may be less about totally abstaining from things that bring us joy and more about bringing mindfulness to our actions so we don't get confused about what brings us true joy. And caught up in actions that do not. So if I'm practicing Brahmacharya, I'm not mindlessly eating a quart of ice cream, mistakenly thinking it will bring me joy. Instead maybe I'm mindfully taking a walk out in nature? Maybe this would be more skillful use of my energy?

Brahmacharya can be an invitation to pay attention enough to know what actions in our lives bring us true joy. What does true joy look like? This question is a good place to start exploring...

July | Asteya

Asteya commonly translates as non-stealing. Similar to Ahimsa that translates as non-violence, I have a hard time relating to the "non" language. It's easier for me to work with the teaching if it is switched into the positive. For example, Ahimsa as loving kindness instead of non-violence.

As it turns out, non-stealing is not quite so easy to turn into the positive. During our group discussion in class, we talked about compassion and respect being positive aspects of non-stealing. These are both close, but we all agreed, they don't really capture the spirit of non-stealing. When one of our Yoga Lab teacher's Clara Diamond came up with a beautiful and simple definition - a commitment to maintaining balance - most felt like this hit the mark. 

What does non-stealing - a commitment to maintaining balance look like? Some examples are when I'm doing all the talking in a conversation without tuning into the other person in the conversation. This is out of balance. In a way I'm "stealing" this person's time. Or in relation to how I use my own time. If I am always striving to get things just right, I may be missing out on what is happening in the present moment. Reaching for some unattainable goal. Robbing myself of enjoying what's happening right here right now.

Test it out. See what non-stealing means to you.

Shawn

June EOM | Satya

Satya or "Truth" is the second Yama, or ethical/behavioral obligation.  The five Yamas from Yoga Sutra of Patanjali can support and ground our entire practice through the way we live.  

However, the first Yama is Ahimsa, non-harming.  Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the truth seemed to conflict with desire to "not harm"?  How do we negotiate that conflict?

hope you agree that we need an open mind and heart for this question.  Krishnamacharya said that a yoga mind is a young mind, always questioning always learning.  And there's a lot to learn!  As an old Indian metaphor for truth-seeking has it, we're all like three blind men touching an elephant: one blind man says all elephants are warm and squiggly (like a trunk); the other blind man (at the side) says they are all big and heavy; the last says they're thin and sharp (like a tail).

We're all blind, and yet we're all capable of touching into truth.  Let's just pause and make room for a "slow reveal".  Before we react we may want to pause and remember that we may not be seeing the whole truth just this second. Please notice and take a breath right now.  There. That's a piece of Satya, a small, beautiful piece.  Your own aliveness.

The mind can't fix this problem of only seeing a part, when it longs for a wholeness, a truth that is authentic, broad and embracing.   A big step in our learning in yoga is when we discover that what we're hunting for is not a truth to impose on others, but a personal truth through the "slow reveal" of embodied awareness.  This embodied, authentically experienced truth can bring us as close as possible to purusha, the witness part of our awareness that can see everything and everyone in our life with compassion (karuna) love (maitri) and equanimity (upeksha). When we tap into purusha more and more, we're seeing the whole elephant, and we can support people to tap into their own awareness just by being fully present with love, and with compassion.

So maybe there is no Satya for everyone, except the embodied sense of our inner and social reality, right now, and to act from that place.  To see and be seen as truly as is possible with the context of our own process and other people's process, all held lovingly within our awareness.

-Susanna Nicholson 

 

 

May EOM | Ahimsa

One way to explore yamas is to apply the framework as a way of approaching, interacting, and moving throughout the world. We can use yamas as gentle reminders to bring awareness to how we are approaching challenges, situations, and people. Ahimsa is the first yama.

April EOM | Ishvara Pranidhana

Ishvara Pranidhana can be defined as surrender to the Divine. A good starting point is simply to consider surrender without adding the element of the Divine in just yet. When I first began studying the Yoga Sutras I can remember being averse to this teaching of surrender.

March Experiment of the Month | Svadhyaya

Svadhyaya | Self-study

In any given day we have countless thoughts that cross the mind.  Many times for me they are so rapid that the individual thoughts merge into a pattern and these patterns can play on repeat. 

February Experiment of the Month 2 | Tapas

I started off this month’s experiment knowing that I don’t want to repeat my usual pattern of setting up a rigid expectation for myself. In my experience, all changes must come from within. Internal shifts and rearrangements then ripple outwards - my task is to allow myself to be moved, to be changed.

February Experiment of the Month | Tapas

Our Experiment of the Month for February is the third Niyama, “Tapas.” Literally, this word means “to heat” or “to cleanse,” and is sometimes translated as “austerity” or “discipline.” For our experiment, we can also look at this principle as “Determined and Consistent Practice.”

January Experiment of the Month | Santosha

January’s experiment of the month at Mudita lab was Santosha, which can be translated as contentment. Santosha is deep stuff! A blog post can’t truly do it justice but if you didn’t get a chance to take part in the exploration with us, perhaps this bite will inspire you to check it out for yourself. I highly recommend it.

July Focus of the Month | Ahimsa

In July we begin a 10 month study of the Yamas and Niyamas. There are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas, so we will spend a month on each.

June Focus of the Month | Expansion

    When you meditate you realize we all belong to one single space. The space is home for all of us in which all the worlds exist, no matter how many worlds exist we don’t know.

June Focus of the Month | Expansion

We just started talking about EXPANSION and already so many questions and thoughts have come up. Things like... considering the balance between expansion and contraction... is empathy expansion or contraction or both?... If I am going to expand, first I need to locate myself... Is meditation expansive? This month is going to be interesting!

April Focus of the Month | Mind Your Own Business #2

We covered a lot of ground with this FOM. Starting with some resistance to the mantra "Mind Your Own Business". Many people had a reaction, feeling like it was harsh or scolding based on their past experience with this phrase. After some time I got reports of this old pattern dissolving and an opportunity for thoughtful contemplation arising.

March Focus of the Month | Peaceful Warrior

We say we want peace in the world, but we are not each peaceful ourselves. My teacher Babaji talks about this state of confusion: thinking that the external world is where we will find peace, believing that changing things externally is the path to freedon.

February Focus of the Month | Division

A word that conjures up many thoughts. And not all good. However, I believe that whatever exists in our reality exists for a reason, that is, it is there to serve some purpose. Division is no different.