This will change your life! Enjoy never being the same again! x
This will change your life! Enjoy never being the same again! x
Tomorrow September 22 2016 at approximately 14:21 GMT we will reach the Autumnal Equinox of 2016.
What on Earth are you talking about Jen???
The name "equinox" is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because at the point of the equinox, the night and day are of equal length.
The Equinox phenomenon occurs twice a year (around 20th March for the Spring Equinox and 22nd September for the autumn).
The reason of this being, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the centre of the Sun lies on the same plane as the Earth's equator, resulting in an equal duration of daylight hours to darkness. From here on in the nights will creep in consuming our daylight hours making them shorter until we reach the shortest day of the year - Winter Solstice, 21st December.
This equal length of night and day, offers us an opportunity to balance the light of our consciousness with the darkness of our shadow that resides in us all. This process involves letting go of anything that no longer represents us so that we can exist in our most pure form, our “truest self”.
The natural cycles of our planet remind us of the universal laws that govern all of life (and none us are immune to that – although we often think that we are). We are not in control and we should come to honour the Bio-Rhythms of Mother Nature just as all non-human life does, the Winter, with its long nights, encourages us to sleep more and focus inward, whereas the summer, with its long warm days, beckons us to sleep less and venture outside.
The Equinox is the perfect opportunity to find our centre and walk in a place of balance.
But isn’t that why we come to yoga anyway???
Seeking balance between the Ha and the Tha (Hatha yoga, being ALL physical Asana), strength and flexibility, night and day, Masculine and Feminine, yin and yang??? etc.
Yep, it is! This day (although definitely not restricted to this day) is a perfect time to release, restore and reflect on our experiences of the year thus far. But tomorrow we will have the power of our whole Solar system behind us!
You may of noticed last Friday 16th sept, the Harvest Full moon, signifying the end of the summer of growth and abundance. The harvest being a time of gratuity and humility, while we appreciate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying and the impermanence of everything, as the Northern Hemisphere now moves into its time of restoration and renewal over the winter months.
So I invite you tomorrow to just sit for a moment to find balance between reflection and intention. Take time to consider
- What is your own personal harvest?
- Who has helped you to achieve this and how could you thank them? (this could be a negative experience as well as positive)
- As the trees let go of their leaves, what do you wish to let go of?
- And what seeds do you want to incubate over the winter, ready to grow and blossom next spring?
Bring forth your intention to your yoga practice, today and tomorrow consider your physical practice as a means of releasing any negative mental and emotional patterns we have stored up in our physical bodies. Cultivate a sense of presence in our bodies and minds which facilitate inner peace and wholeness in our being. And plant the seeds of your intentions for manifestation in the coming spring.
I hope you are well, healthy and happy.
May I share with you this month an article written by one of my teachers Srivatsa Ramaswami, he is one of the longest students of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (The Godfather of "Modern" day Yoga), I was fortunate to do a Teacher training in Vinyasa Krama with him back in 2014. He is deeply routed in the Vedantic system of philosophy and the true meaning of yoga (i.e the other 7 limbs apart from Asana).
I invite you to go deep and explore your consciousness, one thought and breath at a time!
Physiologists and psychologists have been studying why and how of dreams for a long time and have produced impressive amount of information about dreams. Some study the electro-chemical changes and patterns that take place in the brain while others try to find out if there is a connection between the dream manifestation and the underlying sub conscious cause for such dreams. Why do some people seem to have pleasant and happy dreams while others dread going to sleep because of the recurrent nightmares? Why does a pauper has a dream of plenty while a billionaire nightmares that he is penniless. Why does the professor of physics, a Nobel Laureate has a bad dream of flunking his high school physics test? Why someone with a huge walk- in closet full of fancy expensive clothes dreams of cringing unclad in the open?
Vedic philosophers also have studied dreams with a view to understand-get some clues about- how we experience the world around us when awake. It is common knowledge that the dreams take place inside the head inside the brain. Sometime while one is sleeping the brain picks up some memories and creates a dream world out of it. The common understanding is that the dreamer experiences the dream within the brain. However the dream is not merely neurons floating around and the brain cells undergoing chemical changes. The dream is seen in space, three dimensional space. The old philosophers were not satisfied with the commonly held bland belief that the dream is experienced by the dreamer in the head. It is not a complete narration of what is happening. One has to explain how the dream is visualized, seen in three dimensions. The dream world occupies vast space much more than what the head could accommodate. The brain not only picks up some data from the memory, creates a dream space, creates dream objects and creates dream creatures, a la the world we see in our waking state, it also writes the script and produces a video called dream--sometimes pleasant ones and often times horror movies. Additionally the brain identifies one of the creatures it has created as the dreamer self to complete the dream operation. The brain is a creator, it plays god. It is capable of creating space, objects and creatures and a dream self to boot and make one believe that it is all true and really happening.
The Yogis and vedantins say that all that we experience in dream takes place not in physical space which is obvious but in mental or mind's space called citta akasa. In this virtual space the brain projects the dream and it is experienced. Who experiences that? It is identical to waking experience of the physical world. There is space, there are objects, there are creatures, there are experiences and the individual dream self who acts just like the waking state physical self. It, the dream self, appears to have a body, limbs and senses and a brain too. Who is the experiencer here? Is it the dream self or the fellow who is fast asleep? Neither of them. While having a dream, according to physiologists there is partial paralysis of several motor functions and one becomes completely oblivious to one's own physical self and only the prana keeps vital functions like heart beat, respiration digestion etc going. There is no awareness of the physical self but there is awareness of the dream world and the dream self. The brain shuts off its awareness of the dreamer and identifies with the dream self it has created. The voluntary movements are inhibited during periods of the dream process. All brain signals to the voluntary muscles are stopped. In both the cases-waking and dreaming-, the common denominator is that awareness, that unwavering awareness of both the waking state world during waking state and the dream world and dream self during the dream state. That unvarying awareness is the experiencer that the yogis and vedantins call as the real self as distinct from the physical self and the dream self. They call it drashta (seer), bhokta (experiencer) purusha (the indewelling principle), jnaH (the knower) etc.
The other or more significant state is the waking state, and how does one get the waking state experience? Of course there may be some mystery about how dreams are visualized but what is there to discuss about the normal waking state experience? I have written about it in a few articles earlier but it may be of interest to consider along with the dream state. It is common belief that we see the outside world with our eyes. Likewise we hear sounds of the outside world with the ears, then taste with our tongue and so on. But the scientists say that the eyes do not see nor do the ears hear. They are like gate keepers which have the capacity to let in only the appropriate impulses and not other impulses. The eyes let light particles whereas the ears let in sound waves. According to them when light falls on an object the object absorbs some light and reflects the light at different angles; the reflected light (light particles as rays) reach the eye which lets them to the retina by focusing the incoming light on to it. Then the retina converts the signals into electrical impulses which are transmitted through optic nerves to the sight center at the back of the brain where it is processed. Simultaneously impulses through the other senses also reach their respective centers in the brain. Then they are coordinated analyzed, compared and finally a picture of the object is created in the brain with emotions, recognition, understanding added to it. Additionally—it is very, very important to note-- the brain constantly gets impulses within the body and collates them and creates an impression of the physical self in the brain. So the brain has the impression of the physical self and also the impression of the object from the outside world one sees and there is a composite picture of both the outside world and the subject, exactly as we feel when we see an object, simultaneously being aware of our physical selves..
While a bit clinical, a scientist Antonio Demasio’s definition serves us well: A dynamic collection of integrated neural processes, centered on the representation of the living body, that finds expression in a dynamic collection of mental processes. That is, this thing we call the ‘self’ (the physical self) is the result of our neurochemistry interacting with our physical body and the outside world, resulting in not only what but how we think.
So what we call the ‘self., 'the physical me' is a re-construction of our brain and the yogis and samkhyas call it 'asmita". First, think about what the term ‘self’ implies: understanding a separation between what you are, both physically and mentally/emotionally, and whatever is outside of you, or non-self. This total experience the yogis call as the cittavritti. Now this composite picture is in the form of neurons flinging all over the brain. But we see the object in three full dimensions and it cannot take place in the limited brain space. Just as we saw with respect to dream state here also the brain will have to project the impression in three dimensional space. Yogis say that it is done in virtual space the mental space (citta akasa) like the dream space. So both the dream experience and waking state experience take place in similar virtual mental space in the brain. We may say that what we experience takes place within the brain and like the dream objects the brain projects what we experience in the waking state in a virtual space within the confines of the brain. Then who and from where we experience it, we cannot get into the brain and experience what is happening within the virtual space of the brain. The brain projects the whole experience. Since it also projects the physical image of the subject which itself is part of the cittavritti, it cannot be the observer too. The observer is the awareness which is unvarying. Further the brain is just matter made up of proteins and lipids or fat cells like the cells of the other parts of the body and do not have consciousness. While scientists have been able to identify the sense centers and understand the functioning of the brain, they do not appear to have located any awareness or consciousness in the brain. Even so the scientists hold that the brain processes the information, modifies it and also sees it. But the brain is a lump of protein and fat cells. It is a piece of organic matter. There is no capacity in it to observe its own created images, or to create consciousness. Inert matter cannot create consciousness
The awareness or the self experiences the physical self which itself is seeing or appears to see the external object at once. Thus we can not know and explain how the physical self sees the external object. When you start analyzing how we see the external objects we end up understanding that one (the awareness or purusha) is aware of one's cittavritti consisting of both the physical world and physical self. Let us take the example of you and I sitting and talking to each other. Let us take a snap shot of what I experience at this moment. What do I experience? I experience “I am talking to you”. So the totality of the experience consists of both you, the object and me the subject. And the experiencer is the unvarying awareness which the old vedic philosophers call as the real self. It is not some speculative soul which has to be searched. It is immediate. And it could also be seen that there is no plausible explanation about how I (the physical self) see the objects outside, like you even as it is the first question the discussion started with.
So in the dream, the brain picks some information from memory and converts them into a dream that can be witnessed in the virtual mental space. Likewise the brain receives information through the senses from the outside world and also inputs from one's own body and creates a composite image in the mental space within the brain, Both are witnessed by the same consciousness and that consciousness the yogis vedantins and some religions call as the self or soul. Puruha/soul/self is not just a concept but the real witness of all what we experience all the time, the one that is aware of me writing this article. It is the real awareness of what we consider as the subject and the object in one mental frame. We start with the ordinary question about the relationship between the subject and the object and end up with Patanjali's purusha as the subject and cittavritti as the object. This analysis helps the yogi to focus on the subject which is pure non changing awareness on one hand and the succession of cittavrittis, the objects on the other. Here Patanjali advises the yogi to focus on the cittavrittis which according to him are predominantly painful for most people most of the time (parinama taapa...) His prescription is to reduce and completely stop all cittavritti so that one remains for the rest of the life in absolute peace
There are some philosophers who while agreeing with the above line of logic, raise a significant objection. The brain is just organic matter with the ability to receive, collate,analyze, modify, add emotions and then project a composite cittavritti of both the objects and the physical self. But the brain is part of the physical self , and how can it project the physical self which contains the brain. It would amount to an anomalous situation, where the brain projects itself.
The view of Samkhyas, yogis, scientists and the common perception is that the world is real,, made up of infinite space, many trillions of tons of matter and trillions of BTU of energy. There are a few ancient philosophies and faiths that address this objection raised above. One line is that since what anyone experiences is only cittavrittis it is not possible to assume that the waking state cittavrittis are caused necessarily by actual objects. There is no way one can ascertain if the cittavrittis created during waking state are actually caused by objects and if they are similar to dream vrittis. This indetermination is known as anirvacaneya. There are a few others who aver that there is no substance to the forms that we see outside. One popular far eastern religion/philosophy would say that the world is an illusion and the division of the thought or cittavritti into the subject and object is unreal and is the cause of suffering. It would advise working towards eradication of the subject object barrier by meditation and view one continuum of cittvritti—a continuum of what is inside and what is outside.
Some religions imply that the creation is a grand illusion. One well known religion would say God created individual souls( the ones that experiences) and continuously creates the universe—like a succession of impulses. He also through scripture advises the individual souls not to be attracted by His creation but turn towards Him. In the puranas, even though one gets the impression that the creation is real, there are instances where it is indicated that the world is not made of brick and mortar. In the Bhagavat Gita the Lord says that He created the universe with the power of His Maya, and Maya is the power of creating an illusion. According to the advaitins, the universe is an illusion that appears to be created within the one and only universal consciousness or awareness called Brahman which is identical with oneSelf, and the universe appears to exist without.
Even science agrees that what we deal with is taking place of the mind. Yoga says that what we deal with is the projection of the mind observed by the individual consciousness or purusha. Vedanta would say that there is only one consciousness the Brahman and the entire creation is an illusion just like the dream projected within the absolute consciousness. If one can completely understand it by regular contemplation one will be less and less disturbed by the tumultuous happenings of the outside world. They would encourage to meditate upon the Self the Brahman because engaging with the outside world through the senses creates not only considerable unending pain as Patanjali would say but also because the the whole experience is an illusion like dream. Once we wake up after a dream in the night we dismiss the dream experience as frivolous . So would the yogi/vedantin dismiss the waking experience as an illusion without substance.. It is because he knows that both waking and dream experiences are on par,-- both are essentially painful on one hand and are also just illusions on the other. Just as one dismisses the dream experience as 'just a dream' the yogi/vedantin dismisses the waking worldy experiences as “Just a painful Illusion. '“Why perpetuate the painful nightmares, lifetime after lifetime?” I should tell myself.
The Universe is within Brahman but appears outside of it like the dream that takes place within but appears to be without and like the city (space and objects) which is within a mirror but appears to be without. On waking up one realizes that all the dream which appeared to take place outside is actually within one's own person. That is the power of Maya or the power to project an illusion but not actual substantive creation. The above analogies are from a beautiful verse of Sankara in his Dakshinamurti stotram
Vishvam Darpanna-Drshyamaana-Nagarii-Tulyam Nija-Antargatam
Pashyann-Aatmani Maayayaa Bahir-Ivo[a-U]dbhuutam Yathaa Nidrayaa |
Yah Saakssaat-Kurute Prabodha-Samaye Sva-[A]atmaanam-Eva-Advayam
Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye
In case you have no idea (or often wondered) what I am doing to you in your peaceful Savasana, wonder no more...
Smudging is an indigenous and shamanic practice dating back centuries, it is used to clear and transmute “mala energía” (bad energies) by burning certain sacred herbs or plants. Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies to return you back to a state of balance, peace and harmony. The smudging and burning of incense is a preliminary and integral part of many indigenous ceremonies and practices from all over the world, throughout history dating all the way back to the Inca’s, Mayan’s and Egyptians and most likely way beyond that.
The linage I follow is Shipibo a Shamanic Amazonian tribal region from the Amazon basin region, and the incense that I use mainly is Palo Santo which I brought back with me from my Shamanic initiation in Peru last year.
It is used for its spiritual and energetic cleansing and healing properties similar to White Sage and Cedar. In the Shipibo tradition Palo Santo is used in smoke baths, a method of clearing negativity and demons and as a means of protection and drawing good fortune to the beholder. It cleanses your auric field (which for most of us extends anywhere from 1ft in front of us to 9 ft, the latter for the highly attuned human). In Kundalini Yoga we call this the 8th Chakra. Our aura provides protection and acts as a filter for negative environmental influences - a strong aura automatically uplifts and improves the working of all the other chakras’. It is said that the scent raises your vibration in preparation for meditation and allows for a deeper connection to the Source of all creation.
Not only do you smudge yourself (or others), but you can smudge spaces in your home or workplace, it can be used to clear the air after an argument or negative experience or even for a special occasion. If you plan on doing this, don't forget to do corners………. bad shit likes to hang out in corners! It is a strong medicine and is said to be effective in keeping energies grounded and clear, which is why it is particularly effective after Yoga in Savasana to help you come back down and out into reality a little bit more stronger and resilient to the negative effects of the external environment. It is great for calming the immune and nervous systems for a deeper relaxed state and in increasing Theta brain waves, it is also said that it can speed up the recovery of illness. The wood is extracted from dead trees and fallen branches without the use of dangerous chemicals or solvents and therefore makes the method far more sustainable and environmentally friendly, despite this unfortunately Palo Santo is very much a finite resource.
Of course (like with most Esoteric practices) the effectiveness of the smudge depends on the strength and clarity of your intention (or the person using it on you), so make sure you ask the Palo Santo or Sage clearly for protection, clearing and connection before you begin.