I've been sick now for a couple of days... Trapped in the blankets of my bed, soaking in music, sleeping, reading, whining... quote acquiring. Apparently rhyming... :)
"The most pitiable among men is he who turns his dreams into silver and gold."
The sign of Christmas
is a Star
A Light in darkness.
See it not outside yourself
but shining in
the Heaven within
~ A Course in Miracles
Wishing everyone a blessed holiday! This picture was taken by my friend Mark on the Seagull River in front of mine and Mikes other life/business at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. This fox seems so at peace despite the presence of a human on the ice with it.
Guess what I did this week? I went to a Yagnya ceremony here in Sedona at 7 Centers Yoga Arts Academy. Let me tell you all about it :)
What do fire, rice, ghee, cow dung, and mantra have to offer for the spiritual transformation of humanity? A lot actually. These are some of the key ingredients that are required in performing a Yagnya, an ancient Vedic fire ceremony that dates back to the origins of the civilization of the Indus Valley area, now known as India. The Vedic cultural landscape of that time was deeply protected and prosperous on behalf of the consistent offering of Yagnya. The holy Seers and Rishis performed this sacred ceremony for many causes including the healing of diseases, proliferation of social harmony and justice, and as a connection to the higher planes of spiritual dimension for wise guidance and Self- realization. It can be observed that our current cultural and spiritual landscape is calling out for a Rebirth into a time of harmony, peace, and prosperity once again. Yagnya is the root source of cultivating a pure and positive energy field whereby all BEINGS receive the original vibratory memory of our Natural State; Pure Love.
Ancient Vedic Technology: Through chanting powerful sound currents of sacred Mantra, sublimating purifying earth elements such as rice, ghee, barley and herbs (known as Havan Samagri) into the Sacred Fire Kunda (a custom built fire ceremony pit), combined with our communal healing intention for All Beings; the performance of Yagnya holds the divine alchemical power to permeate waves of healing bliss far and wide. It allows this precious time of transformation to be protected and guided by the Grace inherent in Surrender; another translation of the word Yagnya.
Timeless Benefits: Yagnya is a Cosmic Gift that showers tremendous vital energy (Prana) and spiritual strength from the upper cosmic planes (a healing effect known a Parjanya). Scientific beyond words, and perhaps human understanding, it has been credited as the ancient creative ceremony that gave birth to ALL forms of existence. It is tremendously healing and uplifting, offering PROFOUND purification, from the densest to the most subtle, of all life forms, and is especially supportive in protecting agricultural integrity.
Modern Dharma: Yagnya is still performed in its mother land of India, on a regular basis. As a dharmic path, certain souls born here have been upholding the sacred power of this ancient ceremony through a deeper mystical understanding of how important Yagnya is for the spiritual evolution of humankind.
Swami Ghan Shyam: Born in Haridwar India at the foothills of the Himalayas,Swami Ghan Shyam was transferred the knowledge of Yagnya through his Spiritual Master, Shri Sachcha Baba of Allahabad, in the late 1970s and has been offering Yagnya worldwide since for the benefit of our spiritual transformation. He spent 11 years in silence as a personal Sadhana, graciously blending his days of tapasya with 9 hours of Yagnya EVERY DAY. The Divine Mother appeared before him in name and form, expressing her love and grace, encouraging Swamiji to share his inner findings with the world, through the amazing healing power of Yagnya. For more information read…
It was an amazing experience! If you would like to know when the next Yagnya Ceremony takes place, keep an eye on the events page here on this website or sign up for our Blessed Yoga Newsletter.
Then He looked at me, and the noontide of His eyes was upon me, and He said, "You have many lovers, and yet I alone love you. Other men love themselves in your nearness. I love you in your self. Other men see a beauty in you that shall fade away sooner than their own years. But I see in you a beauty that shall not fade away, and in the autumn of your days that beauty shall not be afraid to gaze at itself in the mirror, and it shall not be offended. I alone love the unseen in you."... and He smiled. And He said again: "All men love you for themselves. I love you for yourself."
This morning I spent time as usual, reading the Yoga Sutras as I consumed my morning beverage of choice (this morning, EmergenC in hot water) and relaxed in my favorite place in my home (the floor). I came across this description of āsana by B.K.S Iyengar in his book, "Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali". If you've never practiced yoga before, then some of the terms may be new to you, but the feeling that occurs while reading his description of āsana, is universal and easy to interpret I think.
I can't recall how many times in my life I heard the word "āsana " before I actually understood its meaning. :) So, while you're reading this, I recommend just getting to the end. There are a few terms listed throughout that might be unknown to you; don't worry, simply keep reading. You can always go back and click on those words in order to be redirected to some sort of resource that explains its meaning. I'm hoping this little blog post/share might aid you in some way in your practice. At the end, I'll share with you what effect this passage had on me in my own practice today... if you're interested :)
Asana and its effects....
Asana means posture, the positioning of the body as a whole with the involvement of the mind and soul. Asana has two facets, pose and repose. Pose is the artistic assumption of a position. 'Reposing in the pose' means finding the perfection of a pose and maintaining it, reflecting in it with penetration of the intelligence and with dedication. When the seeker is closer to the soul, the āsanas come with instantaneous extension, repose and poise.
In the beginning, effort is required to master the āsanas. Effort involves hours, days, months, years and even several lifetimes of work. When effortful effort in an āsanabecomes effortless effort, one has mastered that āsana. In this way, each āsana has to become effortless. While performing the āsanas, one has to relax the cells of the brain, and activate the cells of the vital organs and of the structural and skeletal body. Then intelligence and consciousness may spread to each and every cell.
The conjunction of effort, concentration and balance in āsana forces us to live intensely in the present moment, a rare experience in modern life. This actuality, or being in the present, has both a strengthening and a cleansing effect: physically in the rejection of disease, mentally by ridding our mind of stagnated thoughts or prejudices; and, on a very high level where perception and action become one, by teaching us instantaneous correct action; that is to say, action which does not produce reaction. On that level we may also expunge the residual effects of past actions.
The three origins of pain are eradicated by āsana as we progress from clear vision through right thinking to correct action.
To the new student or non-practitioner of yoga a relentless pursuit of perfection in āsana may seem pointless. To advanced students, a teacher teaches a whole āsana in relationship to what is happening in a single action. At this subtlest level, when we are able to observe the working of rajas (vibrancy), tamas (inertia), and sattva(luminosity) in one toe, and to adjust the flow of energy in ida, pingala, and susumna(the three principal nadis, or energy channels), the macrocosmic order of nature is perceived in even the smallest aspects. And when the student learns how the minutest modifications of a toe can modify the whole āsana, he is observing how the microcosm relates to the whole, and the organic completeness of universal structure is grasped.
The body is the temple of the soul. It can truly become so if it is kept healthy, clean and pure through the practice of āsana.
Asanas act as bridges to unite the body with the mind, and the mind with the soul. They lift the sadhaka (aspirant) from the clutches of afflictions and lead him towards disciplined freedom. They help to transform him by guiding his consciousness away from the body towards awareness of the soul.
Through āsana, the sadhaka comes to know and fully realize the finite body, and merge it with the infinite - the soul. Then there is neither the known nor the unknown and only then does the āsana exist wholly. This is the essence of a perfect āsana.
"Asana will make the body light. Pranayama strengthens prana. Dharana purifies the intellect. Meditation purifies the mind." - Sri T. Krishnamacharya
I haven't posted much lately on daily practice, so I feel due. I re-read the above passage from the Yoga Sutras while writing it to you in this blog, while editing it, and so on. The knowledge gained from repetitive reading followed me to the floor, to my mat... I couldn't help but recall certain words from the first three paragraphs of the above passage... pose, repose, presence, effortless effort... etc... and its effect on my practice today was interesting.
I've continued to carry on where I left off in here in Sedona, going deeper within each posture, finding new edges or places to enter. Even though I've been doing it for years it hasn't been boring in the least. Enriching at best. Yeah, I've practiced my flow with several certified teachers that felt I was in a good place, but I've learned just how intertwined each series really is, and how nothing is ever lost. Rediscovering familiar postures with continued enthusiasm has never ceased to bear fruit. At any rate, I feel inspired to stick with what I've practiced alone and simply be with it.
Instead of worrying about any one posture/āsana, my focus continued with how I link each posture together, flowing in a unified manner. This is where I feel encouraged to deepen. Allowing my breath to fuel the movement, and be present with each place I came into wasn't always easy, but once lost in the breath and movement, nothing felt better and somehow, the asana, the 'pose and repose' happened naturally. The formula of this connection gives boundless space to experience inner freedom. Connectedness. In the flow, I've began to notice places where I cut my breath short, having a tendency to loose focus or inner stillness. These are good places to observe, while ironing out the angst I feel when it comes to any one āsana. Can I find deeper ease and steadiness? What is it that pulls me out of center? Where do I tend to effort too much or become complacent? Obviously, these processes happen in a fraction of a second, but nonetheless it has taken me inside the depths of the mind where everything begins.
With that being said I'd like to continue with excerpts from, "Inside the Yoga Sutras", by Reverend Jaganath Carrera where he shares his insights on what it means to have a 'firmly grounded' practice.
1.14 Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and with enthusiasm.
What is a "firmly grounded" practice and why is it a desirable state?
A firmly grounded practice is one that occurs daily without strain or grudging participation. It is meaningful, inspired, and focused. It is a joyful habit that accompanies practitioners throughout their lives and becomes the unbroken thread that guides them to Self-realization.
A firmly grounded practice is not simply an ingrained routine of spiritual exercises but an anticipated time of connection to deeper levels of self. It is a time of growing acquaintance with our True Identity, of spiritual discovery and nurturance. Times in practice are times of integration and increasing wholeness. This vision of practice is the ideal and is achievable by anyone who follows the advice presented in this sutra.
The attainment of a firmly grounded practice marks an important stage in spiritual pursuits: it is the shift from "doing Yoga" to having Yoga practice become a natural expression of who we are. Practices are no longer activities outside us--techniques or observances that have been added to our daily life. Practices become as integral to our life experience as eating and sleeping.
Yet most practitioners know that there are times when practice is not a pleasant experience. Initial enthusiasm--the anticipation and zeal to experience the peace and joy of higher spiritual states--can gradually give way to complacency and carelessness. These are times when much of our energy is spent on cajoling, persuading, and sometimes even intimidating ourselves to practice. When practice is irregular, the hoped-for benefits are not realized leading to a downward spiral of even less frequent, less focused practice. To avoid this pitfall, Sri Patanjali offers a simple, effective formula for cultivation, a firmly grounded practice.
He goes on to mention the importance of patience, knowing it will take time, the value of consistency, and emphasis on enthusiasm possessing non-attachment to results, however stressing that no effort in Yoga is ever wasted. I especially like the enthusiasm part. Whenever doing something joyfully, no matter what it is, makes the process in itself a living, breathing work of art to experience in the moment.
So... āsana... you 'learned' what it means now. We understand the importance of a regular practice and of being present in our daily lives. Even if you never practice yoga, you must know and be aware of the moments that you desire this space within yourself to be cleared, clean, present...right? Yoga simply fuels that, provides it and guides you to even further and more beautiful depths within your soul. Grab your mat. Come over. Let's practice āsanas. :)
Is it cold out there? Want a little something sweet and spicy to warm you up?
This healthy herbal spin on classic hot chocolate is dark and rich and decadent. Especially with roasted dandelion root, a pinch of hot cayenne powder, a cinnamon swizzle stick, and a dollop of homemade vanilla bean whipped cream swirled on top. Ooooh! I feel all cozy just thinking about it. You can adjust the spicy heat to your liking by adding more or less cayenne. A little goes a long way in this recipe. Enjoy this wonderful treat and keep warm out there!
Hot Dandelion Cocoa & Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
In a pot, bring 3 cups of cold water, roasted dandelion root, and cacao nibs to a simmer and gently decoct for 30 minutes. Strain out the herbs and return the liquid to your pot. Pour in the milk, vanilla extract, and cayenne powder. Add one spoonful of honey at a time and dissolve over very low heat until you reach desired sweetness. Stir until combined and serve in your favorite cup. Top with a dollop of Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream (see recipe below) and add a cinnamon stick for stirring!
Whipped Cream Ingredients
Add all ingredients to a quart sized mason jar and tightly screw on the lid. Shake the jar for several minutes until the liquid stops sloshing. Open periodically to check for a fluffy consistency. Be careful not to over shake, or you’ll have a jar full of sweet vanilla butter instead!
Where to get the herbs?
I recommend Banyan Botanical or Mountain Rose Herbs or even your own garden! View the Resources tab for more suggestions and for the links to those businesses.
I hope you enjoy this recipe today! Treat yourself; You deserve it :) ♥ Ashley
My name is Julie and I am 37 years old. Just like most people I also have my own sad story, but I am pleased to say that thanks to many years of therapy, self help, meditation and recently your teachings, I identify with it less and less and rather appreciate the now and my life more and more.
In fact, I feel quite satisfied in general and I really don’t long for anything anymore… that is, except for one thing…
I am single and have been for about 6 years. I really really want to find love, a spiritual partner, and have a family. So when I ask the question ‘Is there anything wrong with this moment’, usually I answer ‘no’ and appreciate the present moment and feel the wonderful feelings that come with it. However, sometimes I feel lonely. I can usually dissolve that feeling by observing it. So the feeling does go away but it still doesn’t solve the problem that I ‘AM’ alone.
Isn’t it normal to want a partner and children, especially for a woman? Is it my ego clinging to an identity formed by society or is my need for maternity visceral and relevant?
And either way, what should I do as I really feel like this is something important that I am missing in my life and it is sometimes quite painful for me. Therefore I can accept it to a certain degree but I still long for it.
At some point, life became divided into male and female, the basic polarity. On the level of our physical form, each one of us embodies this polarity. We are either male or female, which means we are only one half of the whole (I also speak about this in the Power of Now). There is a pull in every human being towards wholeness, which in essence is spiritual, i.e. the return to oneness. On the level of form this expresses itself as a longing for completion through merging with the opposite energy polarity. On the most basic level, it manifests as sexual desire, then as the emotional need to be with a man or a woman, then as love between a man and a woman. (Even in gay couples the basic polarity still operates on an energetic level).
Ultimately, of course, a sense of wholeness and deep fulfillment cannot be found on the level of form, but only through accessing the spiritual dimension of consciousness itself. It is also true that the female body is conditioned through evolution to perpetuate life, to give birth and nurture. So your desire to have a partner and children is indeed, as you put it, visceral. This in itself is not of the ego, although it can become part of it, if it is incorporated into the egoic mind’s judgements and story-making (I need a man/woman to make me happy etc.). It is at this point that male/female relationships become beset with “problems”. Even love easily becomes corrupted in this way by the mind.
So, must you remain unfulfilled unless you find a partner, have a family and children No. (As you must have observed, there is unhappiness in many relationships and marriages).
Since the spiritual dimension has already come into your life, you are beginning to realize that the essence of your being, which is formless, is not really affected even though you may feel some sense of lack on the level of form. For some people, it is precisely the experience of some strong sense of lack that drives them deeper into their essential selves – the I Am without attributes, beingness itself. Of course, you remain open for a relationship or marriage to come into your life, of course you would be happy to have children and indeed this may still happen. But your inner peace and your sense of who you are do not depend on it.
Generally speaking, whenever you experience the lack of something on the level of form that is conventionally considered important for one’s happiness (lack of relationships, of money, lack of freedom, of health, of social identity etc.), use this, while it lasts, as an opportunity to go more deeply within to find the Being that you are prior to all identifications. At the same time, you do what you can on the outer level to remedy this lack. You are much more likely to succeed without if you have already succeeded within. In any case, there is a sense of inner freedom from what happens or doesn’t happen.
Blessings on your journey.
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley