Greetings! Happy July!

Morning prayer for sunriseI’m excited to share my inspiration recently generated from listening to Brene Brown’s CD set, “Men, Women, and Worthiness”, which is a beautiful piece on dealing with shame. She mentions how everyone experiences shame. Brown says that shame is one of the root causes for other dysfunctional or unskillful patterns, such as, perfectionism, addictions, rage, depression, and victimhood.

I’ve been riveted on this teaching as it relates to the authentic practice of yoga and to the power of the real light which can only be sourced from embracing our shadow. This is a new day. The light of yoga today is only true when it includes the power of self-acceptance and self-compassion for our blind spots, limitations, and our shadow. Brene Brown says that we have no choice but to walk through the shame in order to get to the light. Ashaya Yoga™ teaches you how to embrace the less evolved parts of yourself in order to weave back together the dispersed parts of yourself you’ve put out of your heart. This makes so much sense to me. How can I feel a sense of connection to life if I’m constantly pushing away the parts of myself I don’t want to face?

In the teachings of Shiva and Shakti, you can’t jump directly to Shiva, universal consciousness. You need to pass through Shakti. To reveal the great light of consciousness, you need to go through the darkness. You go through the limited to access the unlimited. I always say that I’ve never met anyone enlightened who didn’t have a body.

The shadows that cover the light of consciousness go by many names in yoga. In tantra, it’s the 3 malas. Mala means dust that covers the surface of the heart. In Patanjali’s yoga it’s the 5 kleshas. Klesha means affliction or stain. Of course the positive spin tantra puts on the malas/kleshas, is that the stains are what gives us our unique character. Our patterns and behaviors are what define who we are as a unique individual. Therefore, we don’t want to erase the stains or we’ll erase our character. True, and I believe we do want to become conscious of our negative, self-sabotaging patterns, and strive to refine them and change them into positive, life-affirming patterns. Thus the need for spiritual practice and study.

Plus when we are conscious and we experience the “dust” or “stain”, we gain perspective. The negative pattern opens a gateway of knowledge to be able to see and know our nature better. As we can be with our own darkness more fully, we are able to be with others in theirs. Pema Chödrön offers a beautiful definition of compassion:

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

The grooves in our consciousness are called samskaras and are accumulated imprints from the past. Samskaras are like the grooves in the old LP records where the needle gets stuck. With samskaras, the needle of consciousness keeps skipping and can’t move forward to get out of the groove. The groove itself is neutral. But each samskara is characterized by a negative or positive quality. The negative grooves keep us small and hold us back.

I always say to my teacher trainees that teaching yoga is a sadhana. Your students will reflect to you your own samskaras and unfinished business for you to choose to deal with. When you recognize this as the deepest set up for teaching, to work on yourself and to weed out old habits replacing them with new, more conscious, healthier habits, then your teaching becomes a spiritual practice.

You say, “I just want to get connected to a bigger energy. I just want to feel a sense of belonging.” The need for belonging, connection, and love for who you are, in all of your greatness and weakness, is inherent in your DNA. We are all wired for belonging. But in tantra, this connection begins with weaving back together all of the parts within you into an integrated matrix of meaningful relationship.

When you are weaving yourself well with life and with nature you will begin to feel an inner sense of belonging. You release any sense of self-rejection. You begin to accept and embrace the parts of you that you feel are unworthy of your love. This embrace begins the process of healing. In most psychological systems of transformation including Internal Family Systems (IFS) and Gestalt Therapy, the un-evolved parts of yourself are only trying to protect you and keep you safe, but in an unskillful way. When I can remember that, I can ease off my own inner critic. I can begin to soften when I become aware of my perfectionism or my inner judge.

The shift from rejection to embrace takes you deep into your heart where you recognize the peace and joy that is already within you; already there underneath the covering. You recognize you are already whole and complete just as you are. You realize that the universe doesn’t make mistakes and that you are not a mistake. I remember a poignant teaching from one of my philosophy teachers, Dr. Douglas Brooks, “We live in a perfectly unfinished universe.” In other words, the universe is constantly growing and changing, perfectly in the way it is happening.

path through woodsWe need to learn how to open to a bigger energy and give ourselves the space to learn and grow in exactly the way we need and in time frame we need. Often we want to grow faster and “get it” quicker. But you know what? We can’t. There is a gift we get through the process of slow transformation through time, that we would miss otherwise. In the slowness of time, in the struggle, in the space where you are confused and trying to figure it all out, where you are trying to heal, metamorphosis happens. In tantra, we want to savor the time it takes to transform. This path is not a path of instant enlightenment. Rather, it’s a path of evolving slowly and consciously savoring each step of the journey. It’s like opening a beautifully wrapped gift slowly and then savoring each part of the unwrapping. Much can be learned during this phase of growth.Boy doing yoga

Let go. Relax. Stop pushing the river. Stop forcing yourself to be perfect more than you already are. The truth is, you are perfect just as you are now. And with the tantric definition of perfection (Purna), perfection evolves. It expands and grows. Today you are perfect. Tomorrow you will be even more perfect.

Many of you know that about three years ago I injured my neck. I was in pain for about 7 months and almost had neck surgery. I had a bulging disc, which eventually healed with therapeutics and other natural healing methods. About 2 weeks ago, I reinjured my neck. I ignored it for a few days thinking the pain would go away. But it didn’t. It got worse as I continued my advanced practices, teaching, swimming, and biking. I was in denial during that time, but I somehow managed to remember what I learned from the first time. I had to sift through my feelings of denial, disbelief, and rejection. I didn’t want to be injured again. And didn’t I learn something the first time? How could this happen a second time?

I reached deep inside myself and scooped up the younger voice of denial and defiance inside my heart and held it in my arms. I told myself that everything was okay. I’m not a bad person. These things happen. I will heal again. Life loves me. God loves me. And most of all, I love you (me). I have much more experience and knowledge about how to heal my neck this time around. I’m still in the healing process, but my neck is getting better. The point is, once I released my refusal to accept the situation, I began to heal. I used my wisdom to recall all of the ways I healed last time. I realize that I now need to care for myself in a deeper way by slowing down, resting, laying off intense practice and exercise, getting some healing bodywork, and taking Epsom salt baths plus a host of other healing practices which will help me heal. As much as I wish I didn’t have to go through this again, guess what? I do. Healing happens in God’s time, not your time.

Earth from spaceLife is a journey. Wake up and become conscious of the glory of being alive. Be grateful for how healthy you are right now and for all of the ways life supports you. Remember that you are connected to the universal energy already, which is infinite, unbounded, unlimited, and pure. In your essence you’ve never not been connected. When you begin to embrace your weaknesses and insecurities, rather than feeling shame for having them, you will learn and grow yourself. You will begin to see the miraculous healing power of life unfold before your very eyes. You will see all of your dreams come true and you will feel connected to life and to all those around you. This is your destiny.

Namaste,

Todd