From Devdutt Pattanaik’s retelling of the Ramayana:
The education of Rama, Bharata, Shratrughna and Lakshman:
When Dashratha had asked the rishi Vasishtha to teach his four sons the ways of kings, Vasishtha had said, ‘I will try my best to make them brahmin.’
‘But I am a king, my sons are princes, they must be trained to be rulers, not priests,’ Dashratha responded in alarm.
‘You confuse brahmin-jati with brahmin-varna,’ Vasishtha had clarified. ‘He of brahmin-jati is a priest, transmitter of hymns and rituals of the Veda. He of brahmin-varna is one who inspires the Brahma of limited mind to move towards being brahman of limitless mind. Whether priest or warrior, farmer, herder or trader, man or woman, everyone must expand their minds, rise from the mindset of a follower to the mindset of a trader to the mindset of a master to the mindset of a seer.
‘How can a king be a servant or trader or a master of a seer?’ wondered Dashratha.
Vasishtha said, ‘A king is a servant when he mimics other kings without understanding. A king is a trader when he uses rules to get all the things that he desires. A king is a master when he uses rules to impose his thoughts on those around him. A king is a seer when he understands the thought behind the rules and so appreciates the many reasons why a rule is followed and why another rule is not. For the king with a mind of a brahmin, rules are merely functional, they are never right or wrong, and like all actions they have consequences. For him rules are not tools or power to dominate or control. For him rules are merely instruments of society that enable even the weakest to have what is otherwise cornered by the strongest.’
‘May you make my sons brahmin,’ said Dashratha on being enlightened so.
The education of Sita:
Sita’s father never knew the world that was the kitchen. Sita’s mother never knew the world that was the court. But Sita realized she knew both. This is how the mind expands, she thought to herself. This is how Brahma becomes the brahman. She was a brahmin, she realized, seeker of wisdom as well as transmitter of wisdom. And that thought made her smile.
So far we’ve heard stories of 4 of Vishnu’s avatars – Matsya the Fish( 1), Kūrma the Tortoise (2), Rāma (7), and Kṛṣṇa (8). This week’s story is about Vishnu’s 4th avatar Narasiṃha, a part man part lion, with mention of his 3rd avatar Varāha, the Boar.
The story of Narasiṃha is also the reason for the Indian celebration of Holi – a celebration of good triumphing over evil.
The āsana associated with this story is siṃhāsana – lion’s seat.
Hey everyone! I’m currently in Maui on vacation, but filmed a special Myths of the Asanas video on location! The intro was filmed at Waimoku Falls on the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakalā National Park, and the story was filmed on the top of the Waihe’e Trail. For right now you’ll have to watch the video via the Jivamukti NYC IGTV channel (link below), until I’m back on the mainland…
The asana (or mudra) associated with this story is Viparita Karani (because it looks like a waterfall, but also see below…) Viparita Karani translates to “reversed attitude”. In the story you will hear how the urge to obtain more and more land and take over the Earth causes King Sagara’s sons to be burnt to ashes. Unless the human race reversed their attitude, we will also all be burnt to a crisp! Global warming is a real threat, but we can do something about it!
Shiva in the form of Nataraja is the Lord of Dance. His Tandava dance is said to represent the universe being created, maintained, and dissolved, and for those watching it a veil of ignorance and arrogance is lifted. So find your Atman and get your dance on!
Arjuna was the greatest archer in the world, but not always! It took a lot of hard work, persistence, deep listening, reflection. Overall he was a really great student! (And a little bit annoying – he was always underfoot! But if he weren’t then he wouldn’t have been able to save Drona!)
Dhanurasana (Bow pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward facing bow – sometimes incorrectly called full wheel) are meant to be the shape of an archer’s bow.
I went to to turtle pond in Central Park just to film Kūrma with Kūrma!!!
Vishnu, the sustainer of the earth, appears in various forms to save the planet when necessary. There are 10 avatars of Vishnu, whose appearances seem to coincide with evolution. Kurma, the tortoise, was the 2nd avatar.
Matsya (The Fish)
Kurma (The Tortoise)
Varaha (The Boar)
Narasimha (The Lion Man)
Vamana (The Dwarf)
Parashurama (A Warrior/Saint, bound by codes of honor)
I learned recently while doing research for #mythmonday that in the etymology for Ṭiṭṭibhāsana, Ṭiṭṭibha actually means “small insect” and has nothing to do with a firefly other than that it happens to be a small insect, and is the one the yoga world chose (I’m guessing because they are pretty.) In fact this asana could very well be called “gnat pose!”
An alternative etymology is from the story of a pair of Tittibha birds that nested by the sea; the ocean swept away their eggs, and the birds complained to Vishnu, asking for the eggs to be returned. The god gave the order, and the sea gave the eggs back.
According to the Ashtanga Yoga website: “The story is often used as a symbol of yoga. The sea with its might and power represents the power of illusion, ignorance and prejudice or the general Chitta (चित्त, Citta), i.e. all aspects of human existence subject to change. The small Tittibha (टिट्टिभ, Ṭiṭṭibha)-bird stands for the effort of the yogi, an effort which seems ineffectual when compared with the challenge. But just as the little Tittibha (टिट्टिभ, Ṭiṭṭibha)-bird succeeds in spite of seeming superiority, the yogi can calm Chitta (चित्त, Citta) through practice and shatter illusion.”
I often practice walking meditation, and there is always one as part of the retreats I lead!
Here are some simple instructions for a walking meditation. This can be done anywhere – even the crazy streets of NYC- but ideally you are surrounded by the beautiful sounds of nature: – if possible, leave your phone at home – if you are somewhere you can walk barefoot, like on sand or grass, leave your shoes at home too!
– if this is a group walking meditation, walk in one straight line, each person a few steps behind. Try as much as possible to follow the pace of the person ahead of you. – pick a mantra to match with your steps. I like to use lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. As you walk silently repeat each word with each step – right foot lokah, left foot samastah, right foot sukhino, left foot bhavantu… – walk deliberately and slowly, heel, ball, toe; silently repeating the mantra. If you are barefoot, feel the different textures of the earth as you walk. – keep your chin parallel to the earth, gazing forward as you walk, allowing your peripheral vision to take in your surroundings. Notice what you may see, but without labeling or judging. Just take it all in. Continuing to repeat the mantra. – hear the sounds around you – waves crashing, birds chirping, insects, leaves rustling- but without labeling or judging in anyway – just notice – if you pass any other humans along the way, just nod and smile 😊 – when you come to the end of however far you are walking, stop for a few moments – 3 to 5 minutes – and just gaze outwards at your beautiful surroundings – continue to repeat these steps on the way back. Just before you finish pause again for a moment and close your eyes. After a few moments, Om 3x out loud.
I had jury duty yesterday…so I had a lot of time to think about ‘time’.
Time is an interesting concept – a set amount of time (in this case the 8 hours I spent at the courthouse) seems to either speed up or slow down depending on our situation/frame of mind. For example – if you are at a movie with a friend and you are not into the movie, you might keep checking your watch to see when it will end, and when you look at your watch, you’re like, “how can it have only been 15 minutes! How am I going to last another hour and a half??!!” You can’t leave because your friend is totally into it… On the other hand, if you LOVE the movie, it may seem like it ended in a flash, and you want to see more! (Hopefully I’m writing this in a way that makes you want to keep reading 😉
One more quick example, because…yoga. 1 minute is a pretty short amount of time. Especially when you only have one minute to catch a train…but when you are holding a one minute handstand in the Magic 10, it feels like FOR-EV-ER.
I was a bit nervous about having jury duty because I REALLY couldn’t be picked to sit on a jury. I wholeheartedly agree with the process, I find it interesting and I actually think I would really enjoy it, but as a yoga teacher, I only get paid for the classes or private sessions I teach, and could not sub out my classes for a week or more. My mantra throughout most of this process was “Don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me.” Funny – the last time I was called for jury duty I REALLY wanted to be picked, but the attorneys didn’t want anything to do with me for that case…
This is how jury duty works in Brooklyn: you are required to arrive at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m., stand on a line outdoors (yesterday the temperature in Brooklyn at that time was already 84ºF) for a good 15 minutes while you wait to get through security. You sit in a very large, barely air conditioned room, with hundreds of other people, and go through an orientation process that lasts until about 10 a.m. This process consists of ridiculous instructions on how to fill in bubbles on a form, and a very outdated video that talks about MySpace (!). And then you wait, and wait and wait. At least 10 groups of 16 people were called before I heard my name. This was great! Maybe I’d get through the whole day without being called! It seemed like a loooooong time had passed. I looked at the time on my phone and it was only…10:30 a.m. Seriously??? 10:30? This was going to be a ridiculously long day. Rather than doing anything constructive like reading the book I brought, or doing work, I was playing a mind numbing game that was sucking up my battery life. At about 5 minutes to 11 I decide to plug my phone in, and then of course my name is called…
Once you are called into a panel room – which is SUPER tiny and has one rotating fan that really only hits the front row – the lawyers randomly split the group up. There were 16 of us in the room – they chose 10 people to question, and the other 6 had to just hang out and listen. I was of course NOT part of the first 10 to be questioned, so more waiting and more stress about not knowing if I’d get picked…
(P.S. – I have brought up the temperature multiple times now – studies have been done (check out PubMed) that show that increased body temperature can slow down our perception of time by up to 20%! If NYC were smart they would turn up the AC to cover up the slowness of bureaucracy…)
By the time the lawyers gave us background on this particular case, it was already close to break time, so they didn’t start questioning until after lunch. We were told that if we had anything personal to discuss with them, we could do so privately, so as we were about to go to lunch, I told them it would be a financial burden if I were picked. Believe it or not, one of the lawyer’s wives happens to be a yoga teacher, he totally got it, and they pretty much guaranteed that they would not pick me, but I had to still sit through the day’s process. Totally cool with me!
A weight was lifted off my shoulders. I KNEW I didn’t have to come back. I was able to sit back and relax, and enjoy (yes, enjoy) the afternoon’s proceedings. I find it completely interesting. I was enjoying hearing about the two sides of the case (the limited details they can tell you without a judge in the room) and how people answered the questions; what people’s biases are, or if they are just trying to get out of jury duty (you can tell.) The afternoon sped by. By the time the last 6 of us were questioned it was the end of the day, and they didn’t even bother with me. I just had to hang out. This is where time slowed down again…at this point I just wanted to get out of there! Finally at 4:30 p.m. we were set free, with a lovely piece of paper in hand, good for 8 years, that said JURY DUTY SERVED.
In verse 1.2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he gives us the definition of yoga: yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ – Yoga is when we stop identifying with the fluctuations of the mind. Then in verse 1.12 he gives us two ways to stop that identification: abhyāsa vairāgyābhyām tannirōdhaḥ – Through practice (abhyāsa) and non-attachment to the results of practice (vairāgyā). This is how we find yoga.
I became more engaged in jury duty when I wasn’t so attached to the outcome. I was enjoying the process, and in a way I wish I could have sat on the jury.
This also happens with our yoga practice – if we can let go of the outcome, of what we think the “goal” of yoga is – in that particular moment or if we think there’s some sort of “end-game” – then we can be in the present moment and experience the practice for what it is – a practice – and maybe even enjoy it!
Our practice will be different today from what it was yesterday or what it will be tomorrow. It changes – like our perception of time – based on how we feel that day, stuff that happened that day, injuries. It changes with time, changes with life experiences. But the practice is always there, and offers to us what we need in that particular moment, or allows us to at least recognize it. We notice where we are stuck, or what thoughts keep coming up and when, and then we work through it. And through this practice, and with time, we also change. We become more engaged in our everyday lives – not just on the mat – where hopefully rather than stressing about past or future events or projecting what we think will happen, we can move around this earth in the present moment in a way that is to the benefit of everyone. What’s the point of a “goal” of yoga if you are not living, breathing, enjoying it? (Check out the Myth Video on Bharadvaja)
I’ll leave you with some thought’s from Jivamukti’s co-founder Sharon Gannon. In this month’s focus at Jivamukti , Sharon discusses the concepts of time and alchemy. She describes alchemy as “the ancient practice of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.”
Yoga is also an ancient practice of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary: “Abhyāsa–regular continuous practice, done with detachment, meaning no matter what, will help the settling of your mind and lead to peace of mind. The implication is “with” time a number of obstacles to freedom will fall away. The practices of yoga— as well as alchemy— are magical practices that alter one’s perception of the world, one’s self and of time. Such an altered perception can help you to live in harmony with nature, rather than viewing yourself as separate from nature.”