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Dharma: Release Stress & Reconnect to Nature!

Now more than ever, we need “dharma”. Dharma, synonymous with being connected to nature, is about doing things that reduce stress and bring you back to the truth of who you are. Have you heard the new rage? It’s called Forest Bathing – It’s a kind of therapy or guided meditation that gets you to put down your device and go into nature to just be, open your senses, and experience the natural world. We are part of the natural world. But as we’ve become more digital, we’ve lost touch with nature.

Dharma, from the Sanskrit root, dhr, to make firm, to nurture, or to sustain, is the fabric of truth that underlies all reality. Sva Dharma means “one’s own dharma”. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches, “Better to act upon one’s own dharma poorly than another’s well.” He encourages us to be our unique self even if we aren’t perfect. The Tantra teaches that you are an original, a one-of-a-kind, a masterpiece of divine perfection – including your imperfections.

Dr. Douglas Brooks says, “Dharma is principled argument, law, and the deep feeling that the world has spiritual value. Without Dharma, we are doomed and with it we are held to rigorous account.”

Here’s another one of my favorite wisdom teachings on Sva Dharma from Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you’er than you.”

One of the key aspects of the yogic path is the process of finding your dharma – your purpose in life. But often our dharma is buried under our “drama”. We all get caught up in the ups and downs of life. We remain like buoys on the surface of the ocean, always being thrown […]

Nourish the Yoga Teacher

As teachers and caregivers, we need to nourish ourselves. Because we give to others all day, our well can easily dry up. Although the Tantra tells us that we are always connected to an infinite stream of ever-flowing, abundant life force, our capacity to access this is limited.

Our access is determined by our openness to grace and our alignment with nature. In the philosophy of Ashaya, these limitations are natural. In fact, it is true we are limited beings – we get tired and at times feel depleted. Out of its own delight, the great universal energy chooses to limit itself, to self-conceal (sva prachodana), in order to have the joy of revelation again, to self-reveal (sva prakasa). This is the pendulum swing of life.

Nevertheless, as a teacher, I still get depleted.

I know I’m getting close to burnout when I start doing asanas with the students during class. This happened recently in Collingwood, Ontario during a weekend workshop. I didn’t sleep well the night before and I had been running on fumes the week before working intense hours in the office. I just needed to feel alive again (which is always okay). When I recognize this pattern, I ask myself, “What do I need right now?” The answer is almost always, “I need to become a student again. I need to do my practice.”

Teaching yoga on a daily basis can be so overwhelming and draining that we forget to nourish ourselves. But this nourishment is vital to our longevity and our capacity to be inspiring day after day. One of the ways I regain my energy is by studying with the Tantric scholars. I have a whole library of inspirational recordings of my teachers. One of my earliest teachers once said, “Teaching […]

Violence is Natural

What a terrible thing to say, but it’s true.
In the Tantra, there is a teaching that everything is eating everything else.
The universe births itself, then grows itself by eating itself.
In order to survive, life eats life. I suppose humans are no different.
But we have consciousness.
We have discrimination and the capacity to think ahead and go beyond
our instinct to kill as the first reaction.
That is a choice.
We can get angry, step back, slow it down, consider the bigger picture, and then choose to act with diplomacy. But if your life or your loved one’s life is truly threatened, we are all wired to kill out of self-defense. This comes from the deepest primordial instinct to stay alive. We are part of nature. It’s a good thing. But when your ideology is rigid, narrow, and fanatical, there will be trouble. This kind of violence is a crime and is unsustainable.

In Tantra, violence is not seen as something separate from us. Ahimsa (the yama of nonviolence, or kindness) is still practiced in Tantra, but violence is embraced as a reality of life. Violence is integrated into the fabric of reality. Life eats itself in order to grow itself. Tantra embraces the acts of nature that could be considered violent, as in a violent tornado, the stalking of a mouse by a hawk, when you hit a deer on the road with your car, or even giving birth.

When I first heard these teachings, I was mortified. But then I began to understand. I was able to expand my heart wide enough to include violence as a natural part of life. This helped me understand the goddess Kali, adorned in the shadow, with her necklace of baby skulls, holding […]

Need for Certainty and Uncertainty

When your head and heart are lined up and going in the same direction, you gain the favor of grace. Your heart awakens and you return home to your center. You have coherence and resonance with the universe. The Heart Math Solution talks about aligning with your heart to get all your systems online, in harmony, and in coherence, where all parts – body, mind, and heart, talk to each other.

But most of the time the mind is going in one direction and the heart is going in another, which places the burden on your body. The body is the repository of the split between head and heart. You may have the desire to express yourself as an artist, musician, or writer, but you don’t follow through because you’re full of self-doubt, insecurity, or fear of failing. The desire to express yourself and create comes from your heart. But your head tells you that you can’t do it. You’re not enough. You’ll never be able to support yourself. It’s not the right time. You’re not talented enough. You will fail. Out of fear, you lose steam and never really fulfill your dreams or your life’s purpose. You end up dying with a dream unfulfilled.

The head represents our need for certainty. Certainty is a necessary “vitamin” of the psyche because if fulfills our survival needs to have shelter, food, and clothing. But too much certainty can lead to monotony and predictability. Every day is the same. Soon boredom, restlessness, and negativity creeps in.

The heart represents uncertainty. For your creative juices to flow, to reach for new ideas, and new passions, uncertainty is needed. Uncertainty represents the unknown and is another kind of “vitamin” necessary for […]

Faith as Confidence

I have a devotional practice I do called “puja”, which is a practice of gratitude for the blessings of life. It’s the heart’s expression of its innermost experience. It’s an expression of the longing for freedom and the awareness of the vastness of the universe that lives inside of you. It’s a way of expressing thanks for the gift of life, the blessings of love, and the opportunities of growth and awakening that come through a conscious lifestyle.

Puja is the awareness of the beauty and vastness of life assimilated into an artistry of offering. Puja can be very simple or as elaborate as you want. The offering is to yourself first and then in whatever ways you choose to share. I usually light a candle and incense and offer symbols of the five elements: earth (by offering rice), water (by offering water), fire (by offering a candle and lighting camphor), air (by offering incense), and space (all of the elements combined).
“In India, the reason why people go to the temple to be part of the puja is to meditate with eyes open. We’ll also get to close our eyes to see what we can see.  But the reason for puja is to collect, to archive, and then to create an outward presence that places intention into forms.  That’s just the beginning of it.  Puja is “ritual” because it marks the threshold, enters into worlds of conscious and unconscious reality, because it can stir the soul and conjure the unknown that lies within. Like the best rituals, it makes its point that there is an incongruity, a space between the way things are and the way we wish they were.” – Dr. Douglas Brooks
Today while I stood before my altar […]