Established in the Self

Coming off our 300 hour YTT and Bhakti Yoga Cultural Immersion in India, we are left with several potent realizations and lessons. Chief among them is the importance of monitoring what mantras, or repetitive thoughts and sentiments, we allow and repeat in our minds. Are you criticizing, finding fault, indulging in resentment? To take notice and replace toxic mantras and thought patterns with gratitude, tolerance, and appreciation is to chart the path towards the true Self.

Raghunath drew the parallel between a luxury building with a doorman and our minds. A doorman is there to screen who is allowed in to protect the residents of the building. Similarly, we would be wise to set up a screening process of what we allow into our minds; for over time, our thoughts surely create our external reality. This screening process can be difficult if we are conditioned to place ourselves in the center, to see the world as either a place that satisfies our desires or thwarts our attempts at control and enjoyment. Duality is a tough reality of the material world and material thinking. However transcending pain and pleasure, happiness and distress is the central result of a steady yoga practice. This is the process of flipping a dualistic, self-serving world view in order to place unity, divinity, and higher principles at the center, relocating ourselves as servants of this center. 

This practice is a powerful tool in creating a clear headspace, something which is required to attain that oft-elusive state of even-mindedness lacking in our culture today. From that clear mind, we can truly begin to appreciate the eternal self residing in the heart, and live from that place. 

This month, practice cleansing the blocks to a steady connection to your true self. Notice the thought patterns that promote selfishness and encourage thoughts and actions that place service and tolerance at the center. 

by Alexandra Moga

The Other Person Is You

"We are all connected" a concept that rolls off the tongue with ease, almost as an afterthought. But if you pause to deeply meditate on this truth, you may find that the degrees of separation inevitably circle back to you. 

Every habit fostered in our lives creates an effect on the energetic frequencies we emanate and on the inner space from which we move on a daily basis. Have you ever felt another person's "vibes" to be dissonant? That feelings is an opportunity for us to turn within, and recognize the edges within ourselves which are activated or perhaps still unpolished. 

When we turn to the sacred literature of the Vedas, we can understand this point from a place of compassion and kindness. Recognizing the other person is you awakens consciousness of a unifying force, of a spark that is alive and seeking the same thing, no matter the body. 

The fifth chapter of Bhagavad Gita states:

5.18 - The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].

The purport of this verse as written by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami: "A Krishna {God} conscious person does not make any distinction between species or castes. The brāhmaṇa {priestly class} and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, or an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord, by His plenary portion as Paramātmā {the Supersoul or universal consciousness}, is present in everyone's heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge. As far as the bodies are concerned in different castes or different species of life, the Lord is equally kind to everyone because He treats every living being as a friend yet maintains Himself as Paramātmā regardless of the circumstances of the living entities. The Lord as Paramātmā is present both in the outcaste and in the brāhmaṇa, although the body of a brāhmaṇa and that of an outcaste are not the same. The bodies are material productions of different modes of material nature, but the soul and the Supersoul within the body are of the same spiritual quality. The similarity in the quality of the soul and the Supersoul, however, does not make them equal in quantity, for the individual soul is present only in that particular body, whereas the Paramātmā is present in each and every body. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person has full knowledge of this, and therefore he is truly learned and has equal vision. The similar characteristics of the soul and Supersoul are that they are both conscious, eternal and blissful. But the difference is that the individual soul is conscious within the limited jurisdiction of the body, whereas the Supersoul is conscious of all bodies. The Supersoul is present in all bodies without distinction."

In essence, if we haven't created a space to recognize, appreciate, honor and accept our own shortcomings, our own 'darkness', then it is nearly guaranteed that upon seeing it 'out there' in another person, we will be short on the understanding needed to overcome the inherent difficulties of relationships. 

But when we strengthen our resolve to approach ourselves with understanding and patience, and with an ear for spirit, we create the space to accept others in that same mood, tolerating difficulties with the equal vision of compassion, viewing all beings as parts of the spiritual source from which we emanate. This month, notice what upsets, annoys, or causes the mind to create a 'me vs them' assessment. And then approach that attitude within yourself with a humble request that you may find compassion and unity - spiritual strength - where once dissonance rang. 

by Alexandra Moga

Focus of the Month: Aligning with Truth

As we enter the final month of 2016, a year we can all agree has brought tremendous loss and change, our focus at Supersoul is on setting a steadfast foundation in the here-and-now for the coming year. As injustice is more and more evident, aligning with truth is our collective calling, the necessary response in the face of an unbearable, unsustainable status quo. 

So much of a yoga practice is a private, personal experience and dedication. As one's practice evolves, the results become increasingly evident and eventually force a rupture with the-way-things-were, so that we may embrace the-way-things-are, and live in line with the-way-things-must-be for the soul ever yearning for unity. Indeed, aligning with truth is a direct request of a steady yoga practice. As hidden pains, traumas, and dishonesty surfaces, we are faced with a choice: continue in ignorance and suffering, or make the seemingly difficult changes necessary to shed the too-tight skin for a brave new evolution. 

Facebook feeds, news tickers, and first-hand accounts of the difficulties facing us can be entirely overwhelming. A yoga practice is a sanctuary, a place to derive steadiness, strength, courage, or just help keep the pieces together. Yogic teachings offer us ethical guidelines in the yamas (self-regulating behaviors) and niyamas (personal practices) to help foster the inner resilience and clarity needed for personal evolution. While they're all valuable and necessary, at certain times in our lives, certain principles will stand out. 

They are:

Yamas:

  • Ahimsa: nonviolence
  • Satya: truthfulness
  • Asteya: non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya: non-excess (often interpreted as celibacy)
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed.

Niyamas:

  • Saucha: purity
  • Santosha: contentment
  • Tapas: self-discipline, training your senses
  • Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration
  • Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender (to God)

How can we move forward in truthfulness at this time in history? After a trip to Standing Rock over Thanksgiving week, it's become more evident that a 'tribal' paradigm of living, that is; sharing our resources, relying on local neighbors instead of big-businesses, turning to nature and nurture instead of turning on the TV, and dedicating time to weekly prayer and ceremony is a more honest, aligned way of living that truly satisfies and sustains us. 

Our big banks are tied up in the violence against humanity and voting with our dollars is another powerful way to stand by our truth. Take your business to local banks and credit unions, and then write a letter to your bank letting them know why!  Here is a list of banks currently funding the Dakota Access Pipeline

This month, we focus on thoughtful, creative ways of aligning with truth. What are some ways this might express for you? Leave a comment below! We hope to serve you in your path to alignment and harmony. And as you practice on the mat, at home or at the studio, we hope that bringing this soulful alignment into your bones will further solidify your walk.

In truth and solidarity,
Alexandra

by Alexandra Moga

Focus of the Month // Compassion & Trikonasana

It seems the more compassion is needed, the harder it is to come by. Over time, with repeated obstacles, failures, and daily difficulties, we start to shut down the feeling center of the body, and are consequently left adrift in a mode of survival, competition, and defensiveness. On the other hand, repeated successes, triumph, and praise can also lead the ego to the same place. Disconnected from the true source of our achievements, we're on edge -- defending our place on top. 

When we are not actively practicing compassion for ourselves and others, resentment and frustration, over-reaching and striving, get stuck in the body as chronic pain, replay in the mind as limiting self-talk and rigid beliefs, and extend out into our relationships; preventing communication, support, personal and relational growth, and free-flowing appreciation. 

But compassion leaves no room for these limits. Compassion is a trained response, just like anger and fear are trained reactions. Compassion is an out-reached hand, an offering of the heart to help alleviate suffering. The response of compassion requires us to dig past entitlement, expectation, and selfishness and reach into a territory of patience, breath, connection, and understanding. We need compassion like a fish needs water, like *we* need water, air, food, and yes -- love. We need compassion to survive! And moreover, to begin to thrive.

Compassion softens our hearts when they want to brace against the rough realities of life in this body, on this planet, in relationship to one another. But compassion is the window that lets a fresh perspective in, some fresh air to get out of our snap judgements and into our hearts. 

We need compassion for ourselves, and to offer ourselves compassion often means we must extend that hand, and ask for help; whether from a loved one, a pen, or a higher power. Compassion means humility, realizing and accepting that we are not all-powerful individuals, and that in order to reduce suffering, we all need help.  

We need compassion for one another -- it's the bridge between two hearts that leads to greater self-awareness and perhaps more refined choices in thoughts, words, and deeds. Compassion is the higher point of a triangle. Looking up towards that point for guidance, we can bring stability and comfort back down into the base while relating to another or our own selves. 

In triangle pose, we can stretch space into the side body and rib cage and expand the range of breath. With deeper breath comes greater control of the mind, and with the mind subdued, we are better able to connect to the truth as it is in the moment, to listening and considering versus filtered and distorted ego-based misconceptions. In the posture, the arm reaching for the ground creates an anchor in opposition to the arm reaching for the sky, and the space along the upper back and in front of the heart begins to loosen.

This month, may your practice be rooted in consideration of how to alleviate suffering through patient loving. And as you experience difficult feelings and moments, may you always come to rely on the north star of compassion. 

With love and compassion,
Alexandra

by Alexandra Moga

September Focus of the Month: Fortitide // Deviasana

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, 
while loving someone deeply gives you courage." 
 
Lao Tzu 

Goddess pose, or deviasana, taps into the supremely powerful feminine aspect. It's a primal sort of asana, which connects us to the strength of our foundation -- our legs, while reminding us that before hospital beds and C-sections, this deep squat was one that brought life into the world.

The muscles activated in this pose, the gluteus maximus, the quadrecepts, and the pelvic floor are some of the strongest in the body. And all the while, the arms are open wide, allowing us to courageously embrace the burn as we open ourselves up to the truest strength of all -- vulnerability. 

To tap into the magic and depth of this pose, keep a long line of energy through the spine. From the pelvis to the back of the neck and up through the crown, we can stand tall in the challenge, open to the possibilities of a grounded body and an open heart.

In love and fortitude,
Alexandra

by Alexandra Moga

August Focus of the Month: Handstands & Intention Amidst Intensity

There's something to be said for holding a center of integrity while the world turns upside down, it's a challenge that can easily slip when we're faced with discomfort. While our time on the yoga mat can be an empowering way to practice intention amidst intensity, it's also just the beginning. Sustainable growth can be had when we incorporate realizations and practices across the board in life. The way we practice handstands (or any other challenging part of the yoga practice) can also be the way we deal with challenges in relationships, business, or personal growth -- if we choose it. 

That's intention -- an informed choice as to how we want to direct the mind, and therefore, our lives. The pause before the panic, the breath into the core and into the heart; a 'vibe' that we can imagine, feel, and then enact. And what informs that choice? It's as easy as asking yourself, "What do I value?", and then noticing if those things are at play. 

Sometimes it takes a while to get used to it, to retrain our reflexes and find the center of calm balance in which to hold steady (in handstands and life!). With intention, we're creating a clearing and a pathway for this steadiness, and preparing the mind and heart to reveal more to us. 

Do you need to practice handstands to practice intentional living? No, of course not! But it's a great place to explore when you're ready to challenge your body and grow your yoga practice. And just like in life, handstands work better when we engage from the gut (core) and heart (chest) out into the arms and hands, reach for the sky, stay relaxed, and breathe. 

by Alexandra Moga

May Focus of the Month: Devotional Warrior & Forgiveness

Alexandra Moga, who has dedicated much thought and heart to the topic and practice of forgiveness, is our guest writer this month. 
____________________________

Forgiveness. How, when the heart is broken and the mind racked with anxiety, can we find the strength to consider its value, apply its soothing potency? Just as nature takes weeks to set trees and flowers into bloom, in our lives, forgiveness is a gradual process - a dance that asks us to lead as much as follow, to pull up our bootstraps and initiate at one step and turn around to bow in surrender at the next.

Usually, forgiveness implies betrayal- a perceived reality which did not conform to either explicit or tacit agreements made between two or more people. This betrayal is often experienced through blame - as the 'other's' shortcoming, an attack against the reality we have decided should or must be. The ego reacts strongly to this, forgetting its own potential to err, believing the shift in reality to be a threat to its identity instead of an opportunity for communion.

This begs the question: who am I? The process of forgiveness will eventually bring us to reevaluate our identity. The fall from grace provides an opening - the proverbial crack that lets the light in. When we choose to embark on the process of forgiveness, we take a step towards self-realization. To continue the process requires deep humility, removing ourselves from the self-centered position of enjoyer and controller in order to place a higher motive in the center: Love. 

As an asana, devotional warrior encourages strength through humility - a delicate balance between the fortitude to hold our piece, and the courage to relinquish the illusion that we have ultimate control. When we can let go of that need to control, we are better prepared to experience the unity that we are so earnestly seeking. Forgiveness affords us the space to give what we are looking for, and in so doing, experience it. When we forgive, we stop holding love over each other's heads and we place our hearts on the altar to be cleansed. 

500 years ago, the Bengali saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu left us with only 8 verses on the quality of this state of being:
"Thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others."

April Focus of the Month: Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute) -- Root-to-Rise

At long last we begin to shed our cumbersome layers after a long period of turning within, incubating and fortifying ourselves in the dark cocoon of winter. It is so tempting to burst our energies forth at the first warm day, sensing the long-awaited freedom that warmth and sunshine promise. 

We must be mindful during this transition from reflection to expression, to take the time to send our roots deep and wide -- drawing up nourishment and sustenance from Source, so that when we are called to express the inspiration, beauty, and the love we are meant to bring into the world; it will flow forth as a natural expression of our deeply grounded connection to Self / Spirit. 

In Urdhva Hastasana, each exhale grounds our energy down through the legs and feet into the Earth, where it taps into the Earth's quiet strength; on the inhale it draws back up through feet and legs, up the empowered spine and directs this energy through the fingertips toward the heavens. 

Try to draw out the length of your inhales and exhales in this posture, to feel into the experience of rooting on the exhale to gather strength and stability; then riding the inhale up into the fully empowered expression of this inspiring pose. I wish you joyful practicing! 

Warmly, 
Brij