It is hard to believe that Yoga People is closing after 18 years of service to the Brooklyn Heights Community. Yoga People will always hold a very special place in my heart, as this is where I started my own practice 8 years ago, where I met my first Jivamukti teachers, and where I have been teaching for the last three years.
I’ve recently added a new page to this website featuring my artwork. I am not trained in any way, other than taking classes in middle school and high school (the last time I took an art class was 1998!) I actually stopped drawing in 1998, and did not start again until 2012. In truth, what inspired me to start drawing again was complete boredom, which then led to actual inspiration from living life.
What are mostly drawings using pencil, colored pencil, and sometimes marker (with a few random mixed-media projects) are placed in four categories for right now: Wildlife, Drawings Inspired by Short Sweet Poems, Yogic Artwork, and Miscellaneous.
You can view the page here: Artwork or click on the tab above.
Sometimes there is this moment when I am in class, and the teacher holds a longer pause than usual before the second Om, and I’m waiting, and waiting, and almost want to start the next Om for them, because I just CAN’T wait! It’s like, is it now? Not yet? I want to Om!
But the thing is, that long pause is supposed to be there. There are four parts to the sound of Om: Aaaaah, Uuuuuu, Mmmmm, and the silence that comes after. And although hearing the sound of Om is special, hearing the silence and feeling the vibration is even more so. This is the sound of yoga.
I have two thoughts about this:
1)Many of us are always looking to the future. We just can’t wait for the next thing. The new spring line of clothing. The newest technology. The new season of Game of Thrones. Predicting what is going to happen on the new Game of Thrones. Rather than being in the present moment, we are always looking for the next best thing. This happens in an asana class also – thinking you know what is coming next in a sequence (because trikoṇāsana HAS to come before vīrabhadrāsana II, right?) Or being one step ahead of the teacher during sūrya namaskāra. I’m ready for the next Om! Where is it??
2) In discussing this with a friend, she also brought up the idea of not being able to handle the silence. Of being afraid of the silence. Of having a moment to actually hear your constant thoughts, or citta vṛttis. We live in an age of constant worry (about the past and future) and sustained din, especially if you live in an urban area (where there is worry and din.) If you don’t live in an urban area, there is still the always available and attention grabbing phones, music, tv, etc. For many, silence is scary. It is an unknown entity. Many are afraid of the unknown, and therefore try to predict the future (see #1. It’s all just a vicious circle.)
It is not a true silence we are seeking though. Well, eventually it is. But first, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, we want to hear Nāda. I am not referring to the Spanish word that means nothing, but it’s a nice resemblance. Nāda is the sound of yoga, the sound of the universe, or essentially, Om. The Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā (HYP) is a book that outlines the physical practices that will allow us to achieve yoga. The idea of nāda does not appear until the very end of the book – saving the best for last right? All of the physical yogic practices that we do both in an asana class and outside in the “real” world, are to prepare us to hear nāda. Chanting Om gives us a little taste of what nāda is – especially that 4th part of om, the silence and vibration you feel after making the audible sounds.
In regards to eventually hearing nothing at all (nada in the Spanish sense!), the HYP also states that in Samādhi, not even Nāda is heard. With that, I’ll close with two verses from Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra:
PYS 1.1: atha yoga-anuśāsanam Now (right now! Not before or after! Now!) this is Yoga as I have observed it in the natural world.
PYS 1.2 yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ Yoga is when the fluctuations of the mind cease to exist (I am paraphrasing.)
Don’t be afraid to be in the present moment. Don’t be afraid of the silence. Don’t be afraid to sit with the silence. To listen to the sound of silence. To FEEL the sound of yoga. SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES.
I am so honored and humbled to be featured as the “Teacher of the Quarter” at Jivamukti Yoga School. I had so much fun working with Connie and Russell, the photography duo know as Guzman. They are so perfect at what they do, and make the process so enjoyable. The photo that was chosen for the wall has another magical element to it – I was actually in the middle of chanting Samadhi Pada, the first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, when they caught this shot. I’d like to think that it is the Sutras that really allows this photo to shine the way it does. You can see it in my eyes 😉
Some of the other photos from the shoot are below. I have multitudes of gratitude for all of my teachers, past and present, and to all the students of Jivamukti. Thank you.
PYS 1.28 taj-japas tad-artha-bhāvanam
By Chanting Om one realizes the meaning of Om.
PYS 1.29 tataḥ pratyak-cetanādhigamo ‘pyantarāyābhāvaś ca
From repetition of and reflection on Om, comes Cosmic Consciousness as well as destruction of physical and mental diseases.
Although our true Self is not the body and mind, we do have a body and mind, and are very often victims of disturbing thoughts or physical pain. It is the nature of the human form to feel this way sometimes, and it is often difficult to get past. Unfortunately it has become custom in our society to turn to “pain-killer” drugs or anti-depressants to deal with these issues, but there is a better way! According to Patanjali, all we have to do is chant Om!
Om (made up of four sounds: ahh-ooo-mmm, and silence), when chanted, vibrates throughout the body, starting in the abdomen, moving through the heart, and then finally through the skull. Om is the first sound that was, when the world was created, and it resonates in all that surrounds us. It is universal. It is boundless joy. We are “Om”.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Om is referred to as pranava, ever new, and each time it is said, you are re-newed, “brought into alignment again.” Repeatedly chanting Om will allow you to start fresh, wiping the slate clean of the pain we feel.
In PYS 1.29, Patanjali prescribes the repetition of Om as the cure for antarāya – blocks or obstacles; or rather, physical and mental diseases. He goes on to name these obstacles – sickness, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sexual preoccupation, error of perception, failure to be grounded, instability, and distractions of the mind. But how? What is it about Om that can cure these ailments? Well for one, Om is God (in whatever form that means to you), and if Om resonates in everything of this Earth, including us, then we are God too. When we chant Om, we are connected to everything and anything that is part of this earth, and eventually we realize we are the same as everything of this Earth. If we are all the same, then the pain and suffering we feel is unsubstantial. Unfortunately the mental and physical afflictions we feel prevent us from realizing this right away, or even realizing it in this lifetime. In order to become a Jivanmukta, one who becomes liberated, or enlightened, in this lifetime, one must realize that they are not the pain and suffering that they feel. Om can help us get there.
Om is also considered to be the most powerful of mantras. A mantra is a word or phrase that has “transcendental powers”, traversing, or protecting, the mind. When chanting Om, no other thoughts can break through. Any distractions are forgotten about. Om is like our own personal magical elixir that causes a shift in perception – the cure is inside of us. But the trick is to keep going, working at it, practice – pratyak means you relinquish going out – you want to turn back, but you keep going.
We often feel these physical and mental afflictions when practicing asana. Tightness in the hamstrings and hips, thoughts about something that happened earlier in the day, week, month, year. If we focus on the pain, it can become a burden, stopping us from becoming a Jivanmukta. But by chanting Om while in various asanas, it will allow the mind to stop focusing on the physical difficultness of the pose, maybe even make the pose easier. Om into the pain. Feel it vibrate through the body. Let the silence that comes after permeate through you. Feel the pulsation of the entire universe inside the body, and eventually realize that you are the entire universe. You are Om. You are God.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.
In April/May 2009 I went on a journey. This journey started out as just a vacation, a way to escape the corporate world for just a little bit, but soon turned into an adventure of self discovery.
I had never been to the west coast before, so decided to fly to San Diego, rent a car, and over the course of two weeks drive to Vancouver. While I had planned to visit with friends and family here and there, this trip was mostly on my own. I of course visited all of the major cities of interest: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Portland, Seattle; but it was my excursions into the wild that really changed the way I view the world.
Over the course of two weeks I hiked in the desert in 102 degrees (do not recommend), kayaked with tiger sharks, stood next to redwood trees that are thousands of years old (HIGHLY recommend), hiked volcanoes, saw spring in bloom at the bottom of mountains, and snow-covered woods slightly higher. I got lost a few times, thought I would die of thirst in the desert or get bitten by a scorpion, met lots of interesting people, had my car broken into. I came across snakes, lizards, sharks, sea lions, seals, so many different kinds of birds it was hard to keep track, orcas and gray whales, elk, deer, raccoons, rabbits, turtles, and so much more. All in their natural habitats. But what made the biggest impact on this trip was the silver fox.
I was hiking on Mt. Ranier in Washington. As it was just spring, the bottom of the mountain was a lush green, starting to fill with wildflowers, but at just a slightly higher altitude, the mountain was still covered in at least 6 feet of snow. Part of self discovery on this trip – as much research as I had done, the New Yorker in me was not prepared for this much snow in May. I was not exactly prepared for snow hiking, but pushed on as much as possible anyway. I was completely alone. I hadn’t seen another human in quite a while. At this point in my trip I had become very attuned to the nature around me, and was very conscious of any animal I had come across. As I turned a bend, I stopped. Right in front of me, sitting on a snowy hill, was a silver fox. It was beautiful, and so unexpected. To see any fox is rare; to see a silver fox is extremely rare.
I observed the fox for what seemed like quite a while. I knew what was in front of me was special. After we stared at each other for a while, we parted ways. Something had shifted. Of everything that I had seen and had happened to me, over the course of my trip, seeing the fox is what has stuck with me the most throughout the last few years. I have travelled all over the world, and I have seen things you may not even imagine, but it is the silver fox that comes back to me over and over again.
I didn’t know much about spirit guides at the time. It wasn’t until recently (being nudged by the Jivamukti Focus of the Month, ahem, ahem) that I decided to look up the symbology of the fox. Foxes represent integration. According to Animal Teachings, by Dawn Brunke, “Integration helps us to bring together that which has been separated, segregated, forgotten, or lost. It exposes us to contrasting points of view, especially those that differ from our own. In order to reconcile opposites, such as the dark and light within ourselves, we must integrate. Integration helps us to elevate our self-esteem, and value the special gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. Integration brings confidence, encouraging us to maintain our sense of self. With integration, we feel safe, supported, loved, and know that we belong.”
When I saw the fox, I was at a turning point in my life. I was 29 years old, and working at JP Morgan Chase. A year before I had gone through the downfall of Bear Stearns during the financial crisis. After 7 years working in this world, I truly knew I didn’t belong there, and never really did. (you’d think I would have realized that when I changed my major in undergrad from business to english, but you live and you learn, right? 😉 Just before going on this trip I had received my acceptance to NYU for grad school. Things were shifting, but I still wasn’t sure. After seeing the fox, I knew.
Dawn Brunke also says (from the Fox’s point of view), “Our work with humans opens up your senses, helping you observe life more keenly, and to experience the world more fully. To those who are patient and alert, we reveal passageways to different dimensions. We can also help you to find such openings within yourself. We are guides to a special form of integration. But we can only lead you so far.”
Foxes help you see more clearly, move more deftly, and find the way you fit into the world. In September of 2009 I started my grad work at NYU. Since then, I have worked as a high school guidance counselor, a college advisor, worked at a cafe, owned my own company, and became a yoga teacher. I have shifted and integrated into new worlds many times. And the silver fox is always with me. With eyes opened or closed I see him often. I didn’t know then, but I know now…the fox is my spirit guide.
Animal Teaching by Dawn Brunke http://www.animalvoices.net/
Bhagavad Gita III.21
yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tad evetaro janaḥ / sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas-tad-anuvartate
“A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.”
– Translation by Sharon Gannon
The great leaders of the world – Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. Each has a firm and steady grounding that reflects an unwavering commitment to their cause. They inspire and empower. They are also confident, honest and discerning. There is another quality each great leader has, a quality that perhaps outshines the others – humility.
According to Vedic scripture we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. As yogis, it is our responsibility to lead by example, to be spiritual activists. If we want to see peace and true happiness in the world and live on a thriving Earth where all beings are happy and free, then we need to live the kind of life that we want to see.
In an article from Success magazine, Jim Rohn says, “Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. Humility is the grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we are part of the stars.” Humility is seeing yourself in others; it is being able to see all life as holy.
The word humility is derived from the Latin word humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth,” since the word humilis itself originates from humus (Earth). We can associate the concept of humility to “sthira-sukham-āsanam” – PYS II.46 (“The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful” – Sharon Gannon). Being firmly connected and balanced with the Earth is also an expression of “tat twam asi” (You are that) – Chandogya Upanishad, the knowing that you are the same as all life on this Earth. A great yogi has the humility to understand that they are the same as all that exist on Earth. The Earth and its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to protect and equally support the Earth. A yogi has the responsibility of living life in the most compassionate way possible, following the dictates of the Yamas: ahiṃsā, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual responsibility and greedlessness) – YS II.30. When we embody these five ideals as the way of life, others will see how happy and free we are, and then they will follow suit.
A great yogi is the embodiment of what it means to stand for what is right. A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn how to be steady and joyful, to be humble and to be the change they want to see in the world. It is time for humanity to progress in a different way, to rediscover that we are same as the stars and shine just as bright, and to lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.