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

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."