In Yoga there is a fundamental belief that the Divine/Universe, is always bringing itself back into balance, union or Yog. It is the ultimate expression of the oscillation of our dualistic reality. Negative, Positive — Transcend. One extreme — another extreme: peace, happiness, contentment.
Limbo, or the “unknown,” has never been an easy place for humans to sit. We like certainty and control (albeit perceived), solidity, routine, things we can ‘count on’ to ‘make us’ feel calm. In times like right now, the whole world has been thrown into a space of uncertainty. The most accurate words that are coming out of anyone’s mouth at this moment are “we don’t know” and this is not a comfortable place for people to sit. Now bare with me - this is a necessary space to sit.
As Yogis, we go out of our way to actively create uncomfortableness where we stimulate and push our consciousness into opportunities for transformation. We call it Tapasya. This is a mix of austerity, sacrifice, discipline and uncertainty. Uncertainty is important, because when we engage in a Sadhana that is pushing us to our mental, emotional and physical limits we just don’t know if our efforts through the practices of Yoga (eg. Mantra, Havan, Asana, etc) are going to be successful. We just don’t know. We don’t know if all the uncomfortableness is going to bring us into the experience of more peace, more clarity, more Love. We don’t know and we learn to be ok with not knowing.
Being ok with not knowing is also called a state of Faith. Faith that every little effort we make, with the intention of stepping into health, balance and evolution in mind, will collectively, and eventually, create an outcome that is good for us. That doesn’t mean an outcome that is necessary pleasant, easy, or enjoyable but an outcome that will ultimately bring us into a more optimal state of balance, of Yog, than we were before.
Dare I say it, it will bring us closer to living our fullest potential.
The thing is, the more out-of-balance we are, the more these out-of-the-norm, out-of-our-control experiences hit us hard. If you are attached to having a screaming hot shower, then to have a cold one becomes is a big leap. But if you live a (Yogic) life where you are aspiring for nonattachement - balance at every turn, then a cold shower is a mild (mental) inconvenience only a step away from the tepid norm.
The key is to SLOW DOWN and WITNESS. Witness ourselves as the media ramps up its hysteria machine. Witness your mind in its balance between making sure that you are doing your due diligence for your own safety, but balancing that with making sure that others around you and in your community are also taken care of. It's easy to slide into the mass consciousness of fear and anxiety and that can quickly fester into self-preservation. But self-preservation has never been the point of life, for the simple fact is that we will all die. LOVE has, and will always be, the point of life.
It is not a coincidence that Covid-19 is centred around the purification of the lungs and heart centre. Anahata Chakra (heart space) holds Love, but it also holds attachment, and grief. It is these frequencies of mind and emotion that it is trying to recalibrate. And it is also no surprise that the greater ripple of this is creating economic instability for two reasons:
1) Anahata is the foundation of the 5th Dimension and that mirrors Mooladhara which is the foundation of the 3rd Dimension - which is the home of money and physical stability. These things are going to be rocked to their core — because they need to be.
2) Our whole collective-consumeristic-society is based on attachment. Mine and Yours. “I need more to feel good and feel safe and I’m attached to those things, because if I don’t have them anymore my emotional and mental well-being, ‘my world,’ will collapse.”
And this, my friends, is our opportunity - To see where we are out of balance in our attachment and to see where the past (grief) is still influencing our decisions for our present and our future.
I believe that virus’ such as Covid-19 are a reality to help us come into balance. And anything that helps us come into balance is ultimately helping us step into our fullest potential as humans. Now is the time to step up, to love, to help each other, to listen deeply to your soul, to let go of what you want, and focus on what you need. From 'Niwas, we are all sending blessings & mantras to you and to those who are suffering and experiencing loss.
May this time be a softening, of expansion and of deep connection with yourSelf and those around you.
Om and Prem.
December 2019 Satsang Notes compiled by Chaitanya Chase from Sannyasi Shivani's Satsang
Below are the annotated notes taken from the recorded Satsang in December 2019. They relay Sannyasi Shivani’s experiences from her trip to Rikhiapeeth and bought forth some of the themes and teachings that Swami Satsangi relayed in through Satsangs while she was there.
To watch the Satsang for yourself check out this link.
- By Sannyasi Shivani Howe
As we fully come into the depths of Winter I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on Self-care. Firstly defining what Self-care is: Self-care how we care for ourselves, not how we get others to care for us. This takes a high degree of self-awareness, kindness and a fierce commitment and responsibility to our own health; mental, emotional and physical.
Self-care means creating a life where we care about and prioritize (!) what is going on inside of us, and take responsibility for how we are contributing to the health and well-being of the world around us. So Self-care is really an aspect of LIVING Yoga.
Sometimes, even if we have been blessed enough to create a life where we love what we do, and are financially supported to do what we love, (as I hope most Yoga teachers out there feel) it’s still important to recognize that feeling burnt out and tapped are a very real experiences. These feelings are great signposts that we are no longer living in the flow of Divine will. The reality is that, if we are not strong, healthy and connected with our cup runneth over then, we don’t have a lot to offer the community.
The key is to learn to pick up on our subconscious cues early so we can make small adjustments to our day and routines to help us stay on track. As opposed to waiting until we are frayed at the seams and about to crack before we take a step back and recalibrate. It’s all about moment-to-moment awareness and adjustments. The little efforts add up considerably and when put together create a Sattvic lifestyle.
This means having a toolbox that we can refer to to help recalibrate, and reorientate our internal world to a state of harmony so that we can hold that space effectively in the community.
Here are a few gems in my toolbox that keep me inspired, present, my eye on the light and my cup overflowing.
MOUNA - By far this is one of the most profound and strongly recalibrating practices I have ever practised as a Yogini. Challenging if you have small children, but it's more about prioritizing it than making excuses. 2 hours. 4 hours. 6 hours. Block it off. Prioritize it, prioritize YOU. No books. No phones. No social media. No talking. (obviously Mouna is much more than no talking but let’s start small ) - IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE and literally changed my functional paradigm, especially if I can block off more than 6 hours. Not an easy practice, but nothing fills my cup faster.
UP BEFORE DAWN - Even if it is 10 mins before the sun rises, stepping into my day while it’s still dark outside is a real gift. To have the first light be a candle of remembrance and mantra rather than the blue rectangle of my phone is imperative to my mental health.
STARTING MY DAY WITH AJAPAJAPA or internal MANTRA - I’m not much of morning person. I love the mornings but I’m not always a big fan of other people in my mornings. So starting my day with my first words to be in gratitude to the Divine through mantra is really important for my orientation. My first words really need to be “Akhand-Mandalakaram” and not “Must have coffee”.
PUT THE PHONE AWAY - Seriously. It sounds do-able until I go to do it. Then I remember someone who is supposed to call, an email that I forgot to do three days ago… All of these things are Vata high (too much mental stimulation and anxiety - not enough grounding or presence) I try and keep my phone on silent or do not disturb outside of regular business hours. I love the practice of leaving my phone in the kitchen so that I can’t keep checking the time in the middle of the night or reading the online newspaper as I am known to do at 3am.
BALANCE THE WANT-TOS AND THE OUGHT-TO’S - Hopefully we are able to create a life where the ought to's and the want-to’s are one and the same. But even though I absolutely love what I do, sometimes even teaching feels like an ought to rather than a want-to. And this is my alarm bell that its time for some self-care.
Once we have established a baseline of Sattva (and I mean established - so that our wants are not just Swadhisthana self-sabotage desires holding us in Avidya) Our want-to’s will actually be showing us what we need to do to come back into balance and health so that we can serve.
And lastly, about four times a year I like to GET BORED. That’s right - I strip away any activity (sometimes I can combine this with a Mouna practice). No clocks, books, obligations, or plans. No cleaning. Just sit there. No chores. No hiking/forest walks. Nothing. I go outside, if I can, until I get utterly bored. So bored that cleaning or chopping wood or some other ought-to seems appealing. THAT’S when I know I have been reset, that my cup is full and I’m ready to serve.
I hope that some of these tools will also help you prioritize your self-care.
He used the analogy of holding a bird in your hands. You need to hold it firm enough that it cannot fly away, yet gentle enough that you do not harm the bird.
I love this analogy, it made the concept so clear in such a simple way. I was so inspired by this teaching that, while pregnant, I painted a yantra (a geometrical light formation that emanates from sound vibration) of the Cosmic Mother for the nursery, and included the image of the cupped bird at its centre. As my husband and I raise our children, this painting continues to remind me that our children are not ours, but that they are entrusted to us for a time. They are born with free will, yet we hold them for a time until they are ready, and it is safe, for them to fly.
The image of the cupped bird also reminds me to be balanced in my parenting because sometimes the power of separation anxiety and the desire to protect is so strong. I want to keep my children safe. Safe from physical danger, but also safe from emotional danger. It is easy for me to go overboard in trying to control my son's movements, activities and social interactions throughout the day in the name of "safety," or "protection," and I find that sometimes what is really at the centre of that might be my own insecurity. I do think that children need the freedom to explore, learn and discover for themselves; at the same time, I do need to be close by to step in when needed. That's the sticky bit for me right there. "When needed."
The cupped bird reminds me that, if I hold my children too close to me due to my own insecurities and fears, I may end up harming them by preventing them from developing the skills they need to thrive in this life, and the resiliency and confidence that one absolutely needs in order to bounce back from inevitable hurts and failures. I have found that it takes so much courage and strength on my part to allow my children the freedom that they need and are entitled to. To give them my love, versus my attachment.
On the flip side, what happens when we don't hold our children tight enough? My family is such a great example of this analogy. If left unchecked, I have the tendency to be controlling. My husband has the opposite tendency towards permissiveness. This is something I think we are seeing more these days in a very well-intentioned attempt at "democracy in the family." It's not bad in my eyes, as long as we strive to keep things in balance. I think we now know that, in order to feel safe and secure, children thrive with a certain amount of routine, boundaries and predictability. Otherwise, they may not feel held, but a bit lost instead as they move throughout their day and social interactions.
Lastly, the image of the cupped bird helps me reflect on my own self-care as a mother. Enter the tendency towards perfectionism as a mother, toward being the "perfect mother." Ahhh. When I had my first child, I allowed so little self-care for myself. We all know the mom-bun. I rocked that bun for weeks (maybe a month!) at a time without taking it down to comb, let alone wash it. When I would finally take my hair down, it ached from the root from being tied up for so long, and had actually dreaded in several places. I had thought that I was being a great mother, giving my all to my child and so little to myself, but in the end not being balanced in my self-care led to inevitable burn out, not allowing me to be my most healthy self for my son. This may seem obvious, but it was really difficult to distinguish when was a good time for me to engage in self-care. It always seemed equally important to be available to him, and then once he was asleep, I didn't have the energy to get up and do self-care.
The promise I made to myself before having our second son was to not hold myself so tight, to relax my ideas and to allow for a little more self-care, because I knew that I couldn't do it the same way twice. Now, I make sure to brush my hair (every few days), and my teeth (almost every day) and shower (well, more than before!).
AND I'm FINALLY writing this blog! It's not perfect... because I don't have time (or enough sleep) for that! Maybe, in some cases, good enough is perfect after all.
Om & Prem.
Gratitude and Grief are two sides of the same coin in the currency of Love. Just as fear is our experience of Apana Vayupushing up when Trust is moving down; Gratitude is the expression of Prana Vayu emanating outwards when Grief is imploding.
One of my favourite teachings of Martin Pretchel is ‘You have to praise (read be grateful/love) to the dead in order to grieve, and you must grieve the living in order to Love’. And it is through this lens that I feel the medicine of gratitude comes forth. For, when we bring gratitude, which lives in the heart and therefore is connected to the past, to the forefront of our mind we are allowing the positive flow of energy (prana vayu) of the past to empower the present.
As with Spring, Fall is also connected to one of Niwas’ Sadhanas - Navaratri; the nine nights of Durga. This Sadhana is a wonderful way of taking all that moving energy of the Fall, the change and the transition, and consciously directing it into a practice of mantra to refine and harness the energy of transformation for Spiritual evolution. The first three days of Navaratri are dedicated to Kali - in her ability to help us let go of all that is no longer serving us. The next three days are to Lakshmi, which allows her energy of abundance to come forth and fill the space created by Kali. The last three days are dedicated to Ma Sarsaswati to create integration and wisdom around the transformation (an important aspect that many in sadhana skip or avoid). The whole experience gives one a tangible cultivation of the energy of Ma Durga. Powerful, pure, loving and all-encompassing. If you missed the opportunity to practice the Navaratri sadhana this Fall, not to worry, you will have another opportunity in the Spring.
'Til then, keep your heart flowing in gratitude; love the people and beasts in your present and your past, and drink many cups of warm turmeric milk. A wonderful elixir for this time of year.
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