Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m moved by one of my favorite jazz vocalists, Dianne Reeves, and by the lyrics of her song, “Testify.”  Aside from the commercial frenzy that this holiday can sometimes be, it’s a good reminder for yogis to remember grace, and remember to love – not just to love another person, but also to love yourself and love your life.

It’s so easy to forget about love and fall back into the doldrums of limited consciousness – getting caught up in the challenges of life, the difficulties, the routine nature of life. If you’re not careful, you’ll get pulled down into the materiality of life simply by the general mainstream of consciousness, that, like gravity, weighs you down to the lowest common denominator. It’s all a matter of priority. Every day through my practices, I try to prioritize remembrance of the spirit, the essence of life. I choose to shift from living a material life to a spiritual life (which paradoxically embraces the material as well).

How to shift? Well, I think Dianne Reeves says it in her little spontaneous talk before her song,

“You know, there comes a time in your life, where all that stuff you’ve been running from, fearing from, all that stuff that really gets to you in your silent space. There comes a time when you have to stop, take a deep breath, turn around, and look at it. Then you have to stretch your arms out real wide to get ready to embrace it. You hold on real, real tight to all of that stuff, embracing it, facing it, until you find yourself embracing yourself. Then you can leave all of that stuff behind and walk on with peace of mind. That’s what I’m doing.”

You need to ask yourself, “Am I living as though life is happening to me? or as though life is happening for me?” If it’s “to you,” then you are the victim. Only when you live with the belief that life is happening “for you” can you pull yourself up out of the gloominess of the victim. How do you know you are living in victim consciousness? The main thing you’ll notice is that you are not happy. You stop smiling. Your enthusiasm for life is missing. You have to drag yourself through each day. You’ve lost your zest for life. You’ve fallen out of love with yourself. You’ll often hold on to blaming others or the situation for your misery, carry a load of resentment, and constantly feel entitled to be living a better life then what you have. Victim consciousness forces you to chase after a fantasy life you can never achieve.

You need to shift from victim consciousness to victory consciousness. In victory consciousness you take hold of your life. You stop and look within. Then, as Diane instructs us, you hold out your arms as wide as you can and embrace yourself. You love yourself. I would also add to that, reach out for support from friends, family, or a skilled therapist. Then go and do something physical that you love to do. Take a walk, ski, swim, do yoga, take a nap, take a bath – anything that shifts your energy.

The shift back into spirituality has everything to do with love. Can you love yourself? Love your life? Love your challenges? Love the support you have? Love your friends? Love to learn and grow yourself? Learn how to embrace yourself with grace as your constant friend. There needs to be an element of surrender. You need to learn how to let go and when to let go. Letting go is really pleasurable. It feels so good. This is partly what I’m doing when I meditate. I melt.

In Dianne’s song, her beautiful lyric, “Be still. Stand in love. Pay attention,” is the formula for shifting from materiality to spirituality, from victim consciousness to victory consciousness, from limited consciousness to your true unbounded, joyful nature. “Be still” reminds us to meditate. Take time to slow down your thoughts. Take a break from your fear and anxiety. You have to let it go every day, even if only for a few minutes. In Tantra, the teaching is that without practice, dust accumulates on the surface of the heart. Mala is the Sanskrit name for this dust, this lack of vitality, lack of love. “Stand in love” reminds us to recognize the power of living from your heart. Stand strong in who the universe has made you to be. Believe in the goodness of life, that life has your back. Remember that life is happening for you, never to you, and that grace is the integrative energy behind all things. “Pay attention” is the reminder to stay vigilant. Wake up. Yoga is a constant practice of “self-observation without criticism,” as taught by Swami Kripalvanandaji.

A side note: Just so you don’t get overly perfectionistic or fall into self-rejection (which is often the case when you hear spiritual teachings), it’s natural for all of us to traverse between materiality and spirituality. In fact, that’s what we want to get good at – going back and forth between forgetting and remembering. It’s in our DNA to forget grace. The essence of the Kashmir Shaiva teaching is the universe chooses to conceal itself for the delight of having a revelation. Without forgetfulness, we would never have the experience of remembrance. In fact, concealment is the fourth act of the five divine acts of Shiva. The fifth act is revelation. It’s the nature of the universe to forget and remember.

On this Valentine’s Day, I urge you to love yourself. Do something good for yourself until it makes you smile. Then share your smile with your partner, friends, and family.

I invite you to check out my teaching schedule where you’ll find about 35 ways to love yourself! Join me in 2019 for the 200-Hour Ashaya Yoga In-Depth Study/Teacher Training, the Tantra Immersion with Scholars at Kripalu, the Toronto Yoga Conference, the upcoming Great Barrington MA workshop series, or another weekend workshop. I’m teaching everywhere from Simsbury CT to Dallas TX in the coming months!  And, news just out – I’m going back to Costa Rica next year Jan. 18-25, 2020! Registration coming soon.

In the meantime, pour yourself a cup of tea, lie back in your favorite chair, and let your ears delight in Dianne Reeves’ song “Testify.”

Love and Light to you.

Namaste,

 

Todd

 

Testify, Lyrics by James Harris III, Gary Dennis Hines and Terry Lewis

Sometimes you won’t understand why life is the way it is
Things don’t always go the way you plan them
But I believe, God and time are synonymous
And in time God reveals all things
Be still, stand in love, pay attention

I just wanna testify
I just wanna testify
I just wanna testify
I just wanna testify

When I look back on my life
I shudder when I think of the danger I put myself in
But amazing grace always carried me to safety
Knowing that I’d go back to the same place again and again
No one could ever love me, the way that you do
In spirit, mind and body I surrender myself daily to you

I just wanna testify
I just wanna testify
I just wanna testify
I just gotta testify

So sweet the journey when you learn to love yourself, accept yourself
Respect yourself, forgive yourself, believe in yourself, be yourself
With amazing grace as your constant friend
I am free of anger, I am free of fear, and my mind is at ease
I don’t regret a single yesterday, ’cause yesterday made me who I am today

I just wanna testify
I just wanna testify
I just gotta testify
Amazing grace saved my Life

I just wanna testify
Oh amazing grace saved my life
Saved my life, saved my life
I just gotta testify