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Mantra as the Access Key to Freedom

Twenty minutes before boarding my plane for Denver, on my way to Joshua Tree, CA for a two-week meditation retreat, I had the urge to stretch. I had to wake up before 4 a.m. to make it to the airport on time and didn’t have a chance to do my own yoga practice. My body really needed to stretch, so I found an open space just to the side of the gate area (always a portable yoga studio nearby) and began stretching and breathing.

As I looked around at the people watching me (some staring at me with the longing to join in) and at the very bland environment of the Bradley International Airport, I felt free. At the oddest time and in the most “unyogic” space, I felt free for no reason at all.

Svatantrya is the Sanskrit term for freedom, sva is one’s own, tantrya is freedom. One’s own freedom suggests that this freedom is intrinsic, it’s imprinted in our DNA, and it’s available to everyone. Then why can’t we access it more often? My guess is because we don’t create the right circumstances for it. We don’t have the right mindset. But occasionally, randomly, when you least expect it, you experience freedom.

Just by simply flowing with what is rather than resisting life, freedom arises naturally.

After glowing for a while in my own freedom while in Warrior One Pose, my mind continued to seek an explanation for what caused me to experience freedom. Then it dawned on me – I chanted mantras in the car for an hour on the way to the airport. Could it be that I was experiencing the benefit of mantra practice? I have known for a long time that mantras possess […]

Access Wonder and Astonishment

I’m here on retreat in Joshua Tree, California for two weeks. We are primarily meditating, chanting mantras, and studying/reciting sacred Tantric texts. After the first few days of struggling with mind storms and just being uncomfortable in myself, I now feel the growing accumulative power of the practices.

Over the last few days, I’ve become increasingly aware of the extreme stillness of my mind. It’s as though my senses have opened and I’ve become aware of the vibratory essence of consciousness itself. It’s still, yet vibrating. Consciousness is alive! Then a crystal clear, holographic globe of radiance appeared in the back of my skull behind my eyes. Within this globe was a pulsing, throbbing, energy of simultaneous silence, light, and sound. I enjoyed many hours of exploring this inner space with much wonder and astonishment.

Later that night, teacher and Tantric scholar Paul Muller-Ortega read a verse from one of the Tantric texts which described the experience I just had. It said that all spiritual progress and transformation will have the quality of wonder and astonishment associated with it. This state of mind is known in the circle of Rasas (tastes of experience) as Adbhuta, wonder, and is described as being able to see everything as if for the first time. Great masters say it’s like seeing with the eyes of a child. There’s no judgment or commentary attached to the experience of the moment – only direct experience.

But how do we get ourselves into a state of wonder like this? Well, I find my way back to that state through the practice of yoga and meditation. But some people find it simply through taking a walk in the woods or skiing down a mountain. The […]

By |February 27th, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|

A Shift in Consciousness is Possible: Testify!

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. […]

By |February 14th, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|

The Magic and Wonder of a Yoga Retreat

Just back from Costa Rica! It was an amazing adventure in the tropical rain forest jungle! Blue Osa, on the Osa Peninsula, is a yoga retreat center that is exquisitely beautiful and well-maintained with altars and shrines to many Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The center is meticulously cared for and artistically and architecturally designed to provide the ultimate spiritual experience in communion with nature. The ocean is steps away and you hear the continuous sound of the surf, a great reminder of the ever-flowing presence of grace.

We focused our practices on the Pancha Maha Bhutas, the Five Great Elements, earth, water, fire, air, and sky, which, being immersed in the lush tropical jungle, was the perfect topic of study. So much magic, wild life, including howler, spider, and white-faced monkeys, iguanas, parrots of all sorts, fluorescent blue butterflies, vulture hawks, and a boa constrictor snake! The jungle sounds were so diverse and interesting. Really quite beautiful but I found them humorous at times, especially the howler monkey cries. I kept thinking we were in a real life “Jurassic Park” movie waiting for a Tyrannosaurus Rex to emerge out of the jungle any moment.

The food was very nourishing, tasty, and artistically prepared, and all of the Blue Osa staff were amazingly tuned into our every need – both physically and spiritually. At dinner time each day, the students, managers, and cooks gathered around the dining table and, holding hands, the manager would lead us in a group sharing experience drawing us out to share the highlights from our day. He then read a beautiful prayer relevant to the moment and allowed me to add a few words and chant Om to bless the food. The […]

By |February 1st, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|

Play Is Good for Your Soul

Now that we’re past the darkest day of the year, the light returns. But the days are still short and it’s dark outside. Many people get depressed during this time of year, which is understandable. Even today as I sit here writing, it’s dark and rainy outside. I could be getting depressed, but I have so many aspirations I want to bring forth in the world. I am overwhelmed with joy and things I want to do. I am excited to be alive. With the new year, it’s a great time to get excited. During the dark season, it’s not easy. Especially with all of the suffering and negative news in the world today, we rarely take time to play.

In Tantra, the purpose of the entire universe is for the play of it. Lila is a Sanskrit word for divine play, game, or sport. We are here to have an experience, to savor life. Play is entering a state of mind without worry or anxiety. It’s a state of joy and creativity. It’s the pure state of being that happens for no reason at all. Work, on the other hand, is for a reason. We work to accomplish something, to get something in return for our efforts. It’s external by nature. But play is for its own sake. It’s self-fulfilling.

It’s fun to play. It’s creative and rejuvenating and it’s good for your soul. As kids, we used to play all of the time. In fact, playing is what research psychologists say helps develop the brain. We need to play for optimal development as human beings. From an article by Dr. Ginsburg and the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play allows children to use their creativity while […]