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Shiva Nataraja: Navigating the Cycles of Life

Puja
As I was offering puja (a ritual of devotion) this morning to Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Cosmic Dance), I reflected on the great wisdom this deity represents. I pay homage to these teachings by offering various elements of the heart like flowers, rice, water, a candle flame, fruit, and incense. Afterwards I always feel refreshed. The puja is a way to restart and clear the past to begin again from a place of wholeness and positive vision. It’s like pressing the life-reset button.
Imp of Forgetfulness
Nataraja, standing on one foot on the back of the “imp of forgetfulness” (Apasmara Purusha), or the ego (that’s us!), does not kill the ego. He permits it to live. He just keeps it at bay under the foot of the dance of the universe. The deeper symbolism is that the entire universe is dancing on the “back body” of your ego. (Remember that your back body is where the universal hangs out. You cannot see your back body. It’s the mystery of life.) Your ego provides the dance floor for grace. Hmmm. That’s interesting. Maybe I need my ego. Yes, that is correct. Tantra teaches that YOU matter. What you think, say, and do is really important. The universe helps those who help themselves. Grace requires effort to be received. “The winds of grace are always blowing. But you have to set the sails.” Sri Ramakrishna.

The imp has his eyes cast upward to the lifted foot of grace above him. As long as your ego is aligned with grace and you remember the bigger energy (basically you remember your heart and the deeper purpose of what it’s all about), you will thrive. Either way, whether you align or […]

Freedom & Bliss

The temperature was a perfect 32º F, at 1:30 p.m., crystal blue sky and sunny. I had on my red and black ski shirt with one layer underneath and a single layer pant. Wearing my red headband and my new Smith sun glasses, I held my skate ski poles firmly in my hands in disbelief, skis on, standing in front of the lodge at my favorite place to ski, Notchview Reservation in Windsor, MA, ready to go. “Could I do it?” “Would I have to go slowly?” “Would I be in pain?” I was about to find out…

My heart thumped with the exuberance of a teenager. I was so excited to try out my new hip on skate skis. My smile broke ear to ear and off I went. A little timid at first, I was amazed – no pain. As I warmed up after a few minutes I began to dig in as I loved to do before my bone-on-bone hip a few years ago. Having skied since age five, my body knew exactly what to do. It was second nature. I gathered up speed and roared down the trail, down hills, up hills and around turns, whizzing by people, dominating the trail with authority and prowess! I am back! My hip is back!

After a quick 45 minute sprint, I returned to the lodge glowing more brightly than I can remember. I told everyone I saw, “I just skate skied for the first time with my new hip!” “Congratulations”, they exclaimed back to me. My joy was contagious. As I walked into the lodge a woman asked me how the skiing was. She told me I had the glow of great conditions. I […]

Release Blame & Bring Comfort

I sometimes think in my fantasy I am a transcended yogi free of blame and suffering. But that’s not true. I had an experience recently that revealed to me how quick I am to assign blame.

Somehow if I can blame someone for something that’s irritating me, it justifies my discomfort. I feel righteous in some way that reduces the pain of guilt or shame. It seems silly to think that projecting anger toward someone or something is a way of unburdening myself. But really, does that help? Does blame unburden anyone? Well, yes, in the short term but never in the long term. Blame is a way of venting pain or discomfort in an attempt to quickly relieve myself of the pain, hurt, anger, embarrassment, or humiliation. It’s an attempt to solve the problem quickly so that I can get on with my life. (Code for skimming over my pain and not embracing my shadow as though life should only feel good always.) This isn’t anyone’s fault. Our nervous system is wired for moving toward pleasure and resisting pain. This is a survival mechanism we absolutely need.

But there is another way to deal with discomfort. It’s yogic: hold the posture and breath into the pain. In asana practice, we are encouraged to go to our edge of discomfort, pause, breathe into it, become aware, release and let go of tension or self-judgment, and try to bring comfort to our discomfiture. Yoga is the life training to “hold the pose” of the unknown and the uncomfortable momentarily before doing anything, deciding anything, or assigning blame.

This moment of awareness is the gap, like the space between two trapeze bars. If you can put a space between […]

Healing is Part of Our Nature

Healing is part of our nature if we allow it.

Since having my hip replaced the first week in January, I’ve been recovering at home and learning a lot about letting go and allowing nature to heal me. The first week was a little challenging.  Physical challenges from digestive issues to a fever thankfully passed in a couple of days. The second week was much better. Now walking without crutches and doing my PT and yoga exercises, I started to gain back my strength.

In the first 10 days, I tried to soldier through the pain. I had an aversion to taking the pain medication since I have heard so much negative about them. However, I was in more pain than I knew and lost hours of sleep every night trying to tough it out. Then I learned that getting a full night’s rest is the key to healing.

Inspired by a friend who had hip surgery recently and claimed her healing increased when she took her medication regularly and slept well, I decided to surrender my resistance and take the pain medication. What an amazing difference that made! I slept well and found new strength the next day. In fact, that day, I added on more yoga poses and then drove to my friend’s house to watch the Patriot’s game. What an amazing game! I really enjoyed myself. Just the release I needed after feeling so bound up with pain.

Now in my third week post-surgery, everything is going well. I feel less pain, am able to move around better, and I can finally flex my hip a bit. Hip flexion takes a while to come back but it helps tremendously with walking, putting on socks, and getting dressed! Today […]

By |February 13th, 2018|Yoga Off the Mat|1 Comment|

Enlightenment: Simple Pleasures & Regular Practice

Welcome to 2018! May this be your best year yet!

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the term “enlightenment”. It’s a big word that holds a lot of meaning, power, and misconceptions. I honestly do not know what enlightenment means, nor am I focused on reaching it. In fact, I think the whole idea of achieving enlightenment is a diminishment and insult to consciousness itself. If there is an “end game” called enlightenment, is that something we’re supposed to be going for? Doesn’t that suggest that we are deficient and somehow flawed as we are now? If you believe that, then you might also believe that the universe is flawed. And if the universe is flawed and has made a mistake, then you might subscribe to the belief that YOU are a mistake. Yikes! This kind of view really smacks of a shame-based paradigm that is outdated and no longer useful. The superficial understanding of enlightenment to me is tinged with perfectionism, hierarchy, and judgment.

In the Tantra, you are already free.

Enlightenment is not something other than you that exists somewhere else. It’s a state of recognition that comes from the heart with clarity of perception of what’s happening now. It’s like trying to tune into a radio station (non-digital) with a fuzzy connection compared to a clear, pristine, static-free connection. When your connection is clear, you hear the music. When it’s fuzzy, you hear the static. Instead of being a state of consciousness or a place you go, to me enlightenment is a simple experience of clear perception, free of past conditioning, free of the angst of worry, free of any pattern of unworthiness or personal struggle through your willingness to embrace all states and experiences […]