Dear Friends,

Happy February! It’s cold here in New England! We have over two feet of snow. It’s beautiful in its own kind of way. But then you need to be a skier and/or enjoy shoveling to be able to say that! Lucky for me I enjoy both, which is why I don’t mind the winter.

Class in San AntonioBut recently I went on a teaching tour out west where I found some warmer weather. I taught a weekend workshop in San Antonio, TX, hosted by Jane Goldstein, an Ashaya Yoga™ Apprentice. Her students were so enthusiastic and very receptive. They brought out the best in me. On the last day, I began my session with an insight I received in my meditation practice that morning. I can’t wait to share that with you at the end of this newsletter!

In San Antonio the temperature was around 65º and sunny. Then on Sunday, I continued flying west to visit my mom in Mission Viejo, CA. There it was 70-75º! The purpose of this visit, in addition to spending time with family, was to write. I completed 16 hours of writing. I was well taken care, well loved, and very well fed, which contributed to a great environment in which to concentrate. Thanks Mom.

View from EsalenOn Friday I was off to Big Sur, CA, to teach a weekend and a 5-day course at Esalen Institute. Esalen is amazing! It was like entering another world. The beauty of the cliffs overlooking the ocean was exsquisite. Temperatures were 75-80º!!! We saw whales, sea otters, seals, hawks, a snake, and condors (largest birds in the Western Hemisphere). Esalen reminded me of my early days at Kripalu because of the feeling of sacred community. Esalen was created in 1965 and has a rich history including the beginning of the Human Potential Movement that hosted such great minds as Fritz Peals (founder of Gestalt Therapy), Ida Rolf, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Moshe Feldenkrais, and many more. One of the features of Esalen is their outdoor natural spring baths. 112º water containing sulfur flows out of the mountains into pools. The water is very healing and relaxing.

Sea OtterWhile I was at Esalen, I kept asking myself, “Is this real? Could life really be this great?” The answer came unequivocally, “YES!” This is really happening. Life really can be this great. Life is this great when you are able to let life in and embrace it all, both the light and dark. According to the Tantra, you are already free. Because you are free, you can recreate freedom in any moment. Connection to the universal can be experienced any time, anywhere because you are free. You are Svatantra (supremely free). This type of freedom is not about transcendence or escape from reality and the challenges of life. Rather, it’s about the recognition of who you are underneath all of the “stuff” (resistance, regret, doubt, disappointment, fear, anxiety, confusion, etc.).

Happiness is a matter of identification. If you identify with grace, life becomes grace-filled. If you identify with your pain and suffering, life becomes painful and full of suffering. In tantra, freedom is so free that it includes bondage and limitation. Happiness comes as a result of your ability to embrace both the dark and light, the limited and the unlimited, while maintaining your connection to freedom.

If you identify with the light without embracing the shadow, you will suffer because you are not embracing the full spectrum of life. If you embrace your shadow without embracing the light, you will also suffer. It can be easy to drown in your sorrows.

The truth is we need to create a consciousness that is so spacious that it can hold both – shadow and light without making any of it wrong. Why? Because that’s reality. Because that is what it means to be human. From the tantric point of view, limitation is part of Shiva Nataraja’s dance. Shiva delights in concealing his own heart, forgetting his true nature, and limiting himself, so he can have the joy of revelation.

“Freedom has freely created freedom with boundaries – you.” Dr. Douglas Brooks.

Ashaya Yoga™ is sourced from the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and sky) applied to the physical body through the alignment techniques called the Four Essentials. But how do we align the mind? How do we create a mind with thoughts that contribute to our health and happiness and moves us in the direction we wish to go?

Answer: The five elements of thinking. Here’s how it goes:

“Thoughts are things. Choose the good ones.” quote by Mike Dooley, www.tut.com

  1. Earth is your capacity to think grounding thoughts. Think thoughts grounded in reality, thoughts that are real. Thoughts rooted in the here and now. Let go of regrets from the past. Don’t worry about the future. Think thoughts that have integrity in relationship with yourself, others, and life. Ground your thoughts in ethics, i.e., Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas. Grounded thoughts are infused with discernment, steadiness, focus, stillness, and calmness.
  2. Whale SpoutingWater gives you a creative and curious mind that allows your thoughts to move and flow. There are always options. Water moves around obstacles and never gets stuck. It always finds its way back to the source. Think freely and clearly. With the water element, it’s easy to accept and forgive yourself, others, and life. Think self-nurturing, kind, and compassionate thoughts that are in harmony with nature. Water is your capacity to flow with the current of grace and be adaptive and accommodating. When you are still and grounded, your thoughts become highly creative and ideas flow continuously like waves on the ocean. Like water off a duck’s back, water is slippery which allows insults or harsh criticism to slide off your back without harming you.
  3. Fire represents your deepest desires. What lights you up? What fires you up? The fire element gives you the energy and power to follow your heart and infuse your life with meaningfulness. Fire is your passion to make your life and the life of others around you better. Thoughts ignited by the fire element give rise to a deep inner longing for God, a longing for excellence, and a longing for freedom. Fire purifies your mind and burns away what you are ready to let go of. Fire is hot but it never burns itself.
  4. Air connects insight with action. Air gives you the capacity to recognize your purpose and breathe it into the fibers of your body. Air is the medium for bringing the dreams of your heart into the outer reality. Air is what makes dreams come true. When the air element comes into play, you become aware of your life-destiny path. Air represents a quick-sliver mind, sharp mind, creative mind, and an innovative mind. Recognizing that you are only here on earth for a short time, air brings an urgency for love – to give love, receive love, express your love to your loved ones now while they are still in their body. With air we discover that our happiness is intertwined with our ability to serve something greater than ourselves and to be used by a bigger purpose. The air element stirs up thoughts that expand and grow your life. You can’t remain small and unexpressed with the air element. You must live fully, evolve yourself, change yourself. Air puts you in touch with the legacy you wish to leave behind.
  5. Condor SoaringSky is the recognition of a presence beyond time and space. Sky allows you to remember the Absolute, to remember where you came from. Sky allows you to think thoughts that broaden your perspective. Sky can hold all of you – light and shadow, and makes space for all of who you are. Sky reminds you that nothing happens without grace. This life is a co-creation between you and grace. When you know your purpose and you let yourself be used by a bigger purpose, then you live as a conduit of something greater. You become a channel of something greater and you live in service to this bigger energy.

May you choose the thoughts that bring out the best in you!

Namaste,

Todd