Spring Brings New Ayurvedic Practices

binduBy Bindu Shortt

In springtime the ground thaws, the snow melts and there is a muddy aliveness. With a saturation of water, the earth germinates seeds. Flowers and trees blossom. Fields are ploughed and planted. Ayurveda observes that your body and mind undergo a similar process of clearing and revival in spring.

Ayurveda recognizes spring as the “kapha” (kap-ha) season. According to Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, your physical body, mind and emotions are formed of three “bioenergies,” which are made up of nature’s five elements. These bioenergies are called doshas. Vata is constituted of air and space, water and fire constitute pitta, and water and earth constitute the kapha dosha.

In Sanskrit, “kapha” means to bind or hold together. Kapha governs the structure of the body, giving you stability, strength and endurance. Your capacity for love, compassion, nurturing, empathy, loyalty, patience and forgiveness stem from kapha. You exhibit these qualities when you are kapha-balanced.

kapha-2Ayurveda observes that “like increases like.” Thus, the qualities of spring on the outside increase those same qualities inside you. After winter, kapha thaws, accumulates and moves your bodily fluids. Kapha makes its home mostly in your chest, stomach, body fat, bones and lymph. So in spring you may experience colds, sinus problems, allergies or hay fever. Your kapha dosha moisturizes you with mucus, usually in response to the buildup of drying vata over the winter.

Just as the spring thaw cleanses the land, the movement of your inner fluids cleanses your body. As the earth thaws, the first plants to come up are the tender little sprouts and then some berries. Animals seek them out for their natural cleansing properties. Like the animals, you may find that you want lighter foods such as sprouts and berries. Your innate Ayurvedic wisdom knows they support your inner spring cleaning. Those heavy winter stews of potatoes, parsnips and carrots can be replaced by lighter springtime soups made with seasonal veggies such as asparagus or broccoli. Your taste for grains may run lighter to white basmati rice, quinoa or millet. You may find you want a little salad a couple of times a week as well as more cooked greens, steamed now rather than sautéed.

banyan-botanicals

photo credit: Banyan Botanicals

To nurture yourself in sync with Ayurvedic wisdom, observe the six flavors. Favor the bitter, astringent and pungent tastes. These foods help to thin and move excess mucus. Grains are bitter; lentils and beans are astringent. For pungent, use green chilies, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric and lots of black pepper. All strengthen your agni — your digestive fire in this cool, damp season.

Keep your veggies and fruits steamed or boiled. For fruits, favor seasonal berries and cherries. In addition to leafy greens, green veggies include peas, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, sprouts, celery, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Minimize your dairy intake if you tend towards the spring imbalances of colds, sinus problems, allergies or hay fever.

Keep doing your daily oil massage before bathing or showering. If your individual constitution is kapha predominant, add another layer to this ritual. First give yourself a dry massage. Use either nubby exfoliating gloves from the pharmacy, or Ayurvedic silk self-massage gloves, found online. This dry massage helps to get your lymph moving, as part of your systemic spring cleaning.

circadian-rhythms-istl-comIn your daily life, ride the waves of natural energy. As we have more light each day, you might find it easier to be up before 6 am. That lets you ride vata — the wave of light, pristine energy from 2 to 6 am. It will support your entry into the heavier kapha energy wave from 6 to 10 am. This practice will keep your physical and mental energy higher and clearer. Take that clarity into your day to support your natural internal cleansing.

Spring is your time to ride the waves of outer and inner renewal. Revel in it!

Thanks, Mom!

karunaBy Karuna (Carolyn) Beaver

When my sisters and I came running to our mother with a scraped knee growing up, we were likely to be sent in search of a band aid. We had to take care of our wounds ourselves. We were unlikely to be coddled by her kissing our “boo-boos.” This is not to say our mother didn’t take care of us. She absolutely did. If we were really ill, she was right there with chicken soup, baby aspirin and all the time in the world. Still, part of me wanted to be coddled all the time.  My mother taught me a lot about the duality of the world, as mothers can. She loved me and pushed me hard. But it felt like she was either “nice” Mom or “mean” Mom.

In the February contemplation “It’s All for You!”, Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini explain the sages’ two-fold map of duality. Duality makes you feel separate from everyone else. That sense of separation makes you feel small.  It’s there in childhood, which is not as idyllic as everyone thinks it should be.  As a child, I experienced the world’s opposites: good/bad, black/white, me/you. I felt that smallness when I didn’t get what I wanted or what I thought I needed to feel safe and loved.

Even as an adult, I much prefer it when everything seems to go my way. I don’t like pain and suffering. Who does? But my mother taught me a valuable lesson. I have figured out my mother was loving and pushing me for a purpose. It was so I could learn to take care of myself. It’s not about what happens to you or even necessarily what you do about it. It’s about who you are in the midst of whatever is occurring in life.

thank-you-lotusI’m still learning this lesson, sometimes daily. I imagine you are too. Family members know you best, and they’re experts at pushing you past your limitations. Swami and Rukmini say, “They want you to be a saint and they are doing their best to help you get there.” In fact, the contemplation article says my mother was pushing me right into enlightenment. Thanks, Mom!

It is just as the yogic sage Patanjali says, “The purpose of the world is solely for the sake of the Self,” your own Self. Everything in the world, seen and unseen, is for you to discover svaroopa, your own Divine Essence. This even applies to taking care of your own “boo-boos,” especially from an expansive and deep place within.

Living this world view can be difficult in the midst of hardship or conflict. Do you give in to the small-s self or dive deep into your Self — to soar past your limitations? I hear Swami’s familiar phrase, “do more yoga.” My yoga practice and Swami’s teachings help me choose to let go of my desires and fear. I tap into my deeper essence; I am reminded of who I really am. I am Consciousness. The world is providing me the experience I need in order to know that, more consistently. Thanks, Swamiji!

This Stuff Really Works!

dasiBy Dasi Trautlein

Since I completed the Treating Pain training last year, all of my clients have had less pain. That is, when they do the practices I recommend! My 68-year-old client Karen has had the most remarkable results.

She came to me with over 50 years of chronic pain, affecting knees, hips, lower and upper back, and shoulders. She also suffered from headaches, sinus congestion and insomnia. Karen explained that her muscles were very tight. When she turned quickly, she would lose her balance and experience vertigo. She had shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat. She was under tremendous stress at home. When she filled out her intake form, she marked eight spots on her body. On a scale of 0–10, her pain level in every spot was between 3 and 9. With tears in her eyes, she said coming to see me was “her last hope to avoid living on pain medications.”

After her first session, her body hurt in only three spots. Their highest pain level was 5 & 6. After her second session, again three spots hurt, but their pain level was 2. During her third session, she recognized that during the session she had two minutes of no pain at all.

She completed an 18-session Overlap Healing series; at the end she had no pain to report. She was just tired from all the activity she had enjoyed the day before. Karen became able to play with her granddaughter, participate in family adventures and help with home projects. After her series, she eagerly attended yoga class to learn new ways of using her body. That keeps her from reinjuring herself. She also comes in for weekly yoga therapy sessions. And she is so committed to her weekly class that she quit her book club. Karen says her yoga is “more of a priority.”

pain

photo credit: floridapainreliefgroup.com

With the pain treatment protocols, I have also been able to work with a client who winced with pain when touched. When she first came in, I could not even give her Shavasana adjustments. The protocols soothed her mind, as well as helping her body. Now she is able to let go and open to the healing possibilities that Svaroopa® yoga therapy offers. I did not have to try to convince her, or explain why. I simply applied the tools that I was given, and they worked.

ATT 262 also taught me how to deal with my reactions to a client’s pain, as well as my desires for Svaroopa® protocols to work. I learned how to rest deeper into my Self, to serve from this place while engaging with someone in pain, fear and doubt. The training increased my confidence in offering and recommending these amazingly powerful practices. The sutra studies helped my mind let go of fear of pain. The sutras led me to understand how pain works in the body and mind. Someone who is gripped by pain, even when Western medicine cannot solve it, can receive lasting change from our simple, deep and incredibly effective Svaroopa® yoga practices.

rukminiWhen I could offer only Embodyment® sessions, my clients would experience change, but it wouldn’t last. This outcome confused me. But the Treating Pain course taught me why and how I could really help clients maintain their openings. What I have learned has translated to all my clients and students. I have also benefitted.  Using these treating pain protocols on myself, I have become a healthier, happier and more energized teacher. As I have changed, my current students are more inspired and motivated.

Having also attracted more students, I have more income and look forward to more trainings. It has been satisfying to serve in this way, and I am so grateful for these tools. I look forward to deepening my skills even more with the yoga therapy trainings for neck and shoulders, and for spine, knees and feet.

True Seva

binduBy Bindu Shortt

When I was growing up, we always had a mother cat and some kittens in the house, plenty to share among seven children. I loved to take a cat into bed with me and pet it. I remember exactly the moment when I was scratching a cat under the chin and thought, “Who is giving here and who is receiving?” I had thought I was giving by scratching the cat. But I realized that the cat was giving me something also.

cat-istock

photo credit: petmassage.com

Now I won’t go so far as to call petting a cat seva. It’s more a story about the disappearing of the lines between giving and receiving. Seva does this, while it is also a deeper process. The Sanskrit word translates into “selfless service” or “actions taken without thought of reward or payment.” True seva contributes to your spiritual awakening, through your contributing to the Guru.  True seva makes the lines between giving and receiving disappear.

My first Svaroopa® seva was at my Foundations training. We each pulled tasks out of a hat.  I pulled the job of cleaning out the refrigerator. At first I grumbled. I had seen the stuff left from the prior students, and it wasn’t a pretty sight or smell. But as I put my awareness solely on cleaning the fridge, I was able to land in the moment and be fully present with the task. As I yielded to the simplicity of the doing in the moment, I could feel myself relax and — dare I say it — enjoy the process of doing, as service.

When I decide to do seva I am not thinking about how it will advance me spiritually. In fact, that seems antithetical to what seva really is. I’m not so sure I’m “thinking” at all. I’m not weighing the gains against the effort. Choosing to do seva is simply a matter of “what is.” It is a natural process. The sun shines because that’s what it does. The wind blows, the water flows. Similarly, gardeners garden, editors edit, computer people do computer stuff (can you tell computers are NOT my seva?). Yogis give.

Some years ago I heard Swamiji say, “When you are Self Realized, all you do is give.” At the time I thought that sounded exhausting. I was thinking of it as a one-way street. I was very familiar with that old martyrdom identity of “I just give and give and give.” I depleted myself trying to construct an identity of being a “giving” person.

But now I understand Swamiji’s words differently, through my own experience of seva. There is a joy in doing, in giving, unfettered by a personal agenda. Seva as a practice is part of this mystical Svaroopa® Science.

the-yoga-of-grace-copyI can’t explain how seva works. I only know that by offering seva my capacity expands. It’s like my pot that holds Grace and Truth and Self becomes bigger. I become free-er. Free-er to do more, to give more. The flowing of giving from this free place affects me as it flows out through me, as me. If seva is “selfless service,” then there is no small ‘s’ self-involved. And the “service” is given to Self.

Certainly in our Svaroopa® community it is easy to see that the actions of many are needed to sustain and move our community forward in its evolution. To be one of those included in this process is a privilege. As I immerse myself in my seva — whether it is gardening at the Ashram, emceeing a Swami Sunday, or offering Ayurvedic guidance to staff — I am immersed more deeply in the flow of the Grace of this lineage. So much has been given to me, such amazing abundance of Grace and gifts, that my seva is my sincere expression of my gratitude and giving back. Ironically, seva is another way of expressing my Divinity out into the world.

New Year’s Ritual

It All Melted into a River Of Wax

Priya KenneyBy Priya Kenney

I’m deeply grateful that Swamiji offered the Ashram’s New Year’s ritual for us in our own homes. It was powerful and profound. I want to do it every year. My husband joined me for parts of it. New Year’s morning we lit candles and set our goals, he sat with me while I chanted Jaya Jaya Arati Nityananda.

On New Year’s Eve, what stood out for me was a line from Guru Gita verse 32: “Guru brings an end to all things.” Everything comes to an end.  I really felt that. By placing the tray full of candles by Nityananda’s photo, all of it was dissolving — all the events, large and small, difficult and joyful, scary and not scary. In the end, they were all just events, just experiences. All burned down into the same river of wax. All were the same. As will be the experiences of this year. Now, to remember that.

ny-ritualWe used Crayola candles because that was what we had in the house. The colorful river of Crayola wax reminded me that it’s all a play of consciousness.  There was no fear, no need for things to be a certain way. It is all just a palette of experiences for us to play in as we remember who we are, the Self.

I loved knowing that the Guru, Ashram residents, and svaroopis all over the world were doing this ritual for New Year’s eve and morning . It was so uniting. All borders fell away and everything was one big play of consciousness.

A Tidal Wave of Shakti

sue-ciley-copyBy Shuchi Cilley

Oh my gosh, shaktipat for New Year’s eve — at home, no travel. What an astounding surprise! What a gift! What a celebration — bliss bubbles and beyond. What better way to end one year and start another? We’re already grateful for so much, now I thank Swamiji yet again!

We didn’t read the Shishya email until late, so there was a bit of last minute chasing around to find birthday candles and concoct a suitable tray.  First we chanted Jaya Jaya Arati Nityananda, then chanting Jyota se Jyota to Baba, and then offering our own candles and experiences, followed by chanting Om Namah Shivaaya.

Grace poured in. A veritable explosion, a tidal wave, of Shakti visibly poured from all three photos, immediately saturating everything. It’s the last thing I remember — Guru’s Grace nityanandapropelling us so deeply inside that we were still established there days later. Dare I call it a hangover? (I am not looking for an antidote, hee hee.)

“From the timelessness of her own beingness, the Guru gives with joyful and unbounded generosity.”
— Rukmini Abbruzzi

Again and again and again I bow. Thank you.

Cosmic Maps Point You Home

yogeshwaree up to dateBy Yogeshwari Fountain

Not so long ago, we all depended on paper maps to show us how to get where we wanted to go. If someone asked directions to my yoga studio in my home, I’d draw them a clever diagram. Now, that’s a quaint relic of the past. In less than a decade, technology has given us a smart phone app to take us where we’re going. Travel is so easy that we forget there’s more to where we think we are, or have been or even are heading.

In any moment, and in every moment, you have a deeper dimensionality to you, hidden just beneath the surface of your mind. You focus on the surface level of life, losing the multidimensionality that is your birthright. You need the ancient sages’ maps of Consciousness to “find your way home to your Self, your own Divine Essence.”

“Exploring Yoga’s Multidimensionality,” the theme of our 2017 contemplation articles, “will offer us a variety of maps to explore the inner realms.” In January’s article, Swamiji and Vidyadevi gave a succinct overview of the 36 tattvas. This is a cosmic map that explains the movement of Shiva within Shiva, contracting through increasingly denser levels of energy to become matter. Matter includes you and me and all else that exists. It’s personal. Every cell of you is made of Shiva. There is nowhere you can go to not be Shiva. But it’s hard to see this reality when you get entangled in life’s fluctuations and dramas.

Svaroopa® yoga enabled me to live in my body, not my mind. Then I could begin to fathom the vastness of my own existence. The poses and breathing practices were my launching point, but meditation is what took me into Self. With every step, I have relied on the different cosmic maps to route me in the direction of my innate capacity. The ancient sages knew that “our brains aren’t trained to see anything other than our world, and it will likely take something from another dimension to make us understand.”

yogeshwari-group-photo-copyWhen I contemplate the involution that Consciousness takes, even before becoming my mind and senses, I can feel it expand my perspective far beyond whatever my small “s” self is experiencing in that moment. Currently, I am following the map of yoga’s ten lifestyle practices: the yamas and niyamas (see Swamiji’s articles in 2010-2011). When I’m lost or off course in my life, I reset to the first yama, ahimsa, non-harming, and begin again. It’s a wonderful freedom.

Yoga says you have a mind and body, but you are so much more. In this coming year, these maps of Consciousness will reveal the “more” to each of us. They will point us inward to arrive at the experiential knowing of our own Divinity.

Body, Bliss & Beyond Retreat

sue-ciley-copyBy Shuchi Cilley

It seems like such an indulgence to give yourself a five-day retreat at Lokananda. But it’s not. In fact, I found it to be a vital part of the care and feeding of my Self. Ah, but it’s not my big-S Self that needed it; it’s my small-s self. And while my mind whined a bit about all the logistics, finances and the time away, the deeper part of me was relentlessly pushing to make sure it happened. Not only that it happened, but that I add on an extra night at the beginning, with a Tuesday evening satsang, and the half-day workshop before the program started.

Right from the beginning there it was: Bhairava at work. Arising within you, Bhairava is the force that propels you, compels you, impels you forward, beyond your own understanding to the knowing of your own Self. Bhairava shatters your limitations and sets you free. As Swamiji says, “Go ahead, try to deny it. It will move you anyway.”

So I went with great joy. And, of course, at the feet of the Guru I experienced what I longed for, and more. A recent Daily E-Quote advised, “You need a system, a system that works, a spiritual system that has already produced mystics and saints and continues to do so.” At the retreat, our Svaroopa® Sciences system was on full display in all its scintillating wholeness — so many facets sparkling with, and in, the light of Consciousness — such abundance: blissful asana, chanting and deep meditation with Swamiji, japa, seva, arati ceremonies, darshan, sparkling discourses.

lokananda-swamiHow do I describe the experience of Swamiji demonstrating and teaching us the simultaneous vibrations in OM or immersing us in the poetry of Lalleshwari? Add in vichara, repeatedly shining through the dark spots of my mind, and enclose it all within the Shakti of Lokananda. There’s more — the company of so many deep Svaroopis, new friends and old, flying in from across the continent. I savored the bedtime discussions with my dear roommates, the food at Lokananda and our Ashram lunch with Swamiji. Time and space had no meaning; past, present, and future all together, right now, right here.

Sometimes it’s not til you open your eyes that you know what your meditation has given you. And sometimes it’s not ‘til you get home that you know what a program has given you. In teaching our asana classes, Rukmini beautifully layered in my transformative experience, giving rise to all I have described here. At home again, I found the deep benefits of that experience: the fatigue behind my eyelids — gone; a few less tight spots in my mind; an open heart full of gratitude; and so many other transformations from physically being at the feet of my Guru.

In telling you, I’ve only touched the surface and it’s all still present — and more — when I try to describe it for you now. It was the full experience of the Bliss of Consciousness, playing the edge of individuality and the infinity of Consciousness through the Grace of the Guru.  Guru’s Grace showered without restraint. How could I be so lucky?!