“I have actually seen people contemplate their navels.”
John Heilpern

Conference of the Birds

Yoga Practice – Closing Ritual

n

I have an instinctual distrust of ritual behavior. Though I can understand that rituals can act as anchors for desired attention and action, my impression is that they can easily default into a training of absence – blind repetition devoid of attention or context. So it was interesting for me to witness over the last year or so, a ritual form at the end of my practice. It is a living ritual that has been changing, growing and refining and may continue to do so. It comes at the end of my sitting practice and before my chanting practice. This is its current state:

  1. Inhale opening and raising my palms up in front of me.
  2. Exhale covering my eyes (still closed from the sitting practice) with my palms.
  3. Stay for a breath or two.
  4. Inhale moving my palms away from my eyes back to an open and raised position.
  5. Exhale placing my hands on my heart space.
  6. Staying here at least for a few breaths … though this is growing and becoming a place I can inhabit for quite some time. It starts by bringing my attention to my own heart, offering softness and inviting healing. If there is something in my body that calls for healing, I spend some time there. After settling in my heart, if I feel called to do so, I open my heart and send it outwards. Sometimes I connect with one specific person. Sometimes I connect with “everyone and everything”. Sometimes I invite connection with people in my life … and I let them flow freely through my consciousness … offering them, as they appear, my heart.
  7. Inhale moving my palms away from my heart space back to an open and raised position.
  8. Exhale bowing forward my head and bringing my two palms together – cupped forming a space between them – to my forehead.
  9. I stay one or two breaths to arrive at this place.
  10. I dedicate a breath to the student in me.
  11. I dedicate a breath to the teacher.
  12. I dedicate a breath to my teacher Ziva.
  13. I dedicate a breath to my teacher Paul.
  14. I dedicate a breath to Paul’s teacher Desikachar.
  15. I dedicate a breath to Desikachar’s teacher (and father) Krishnamacharya.
  16. I dedicate a breath to all of their teachers.
  17. I dedicate a breath to all their teacher’s teachers.
  18. I dedicate a breath to the teachings.
  19. I dedicate a breath to prakrti – that which is eternally changing.
  20. I dedicate a breath to purusa – that which eternally sees.
  21. I dedicate a breath or two to the wholeness held by the preceding breaths – to Yoga. I  imagine breathing that wholeness into a small ball of light cupped in the space between my palms.
  22. I inhale moving my palms away from my forehead back to an open and raised position.
  23. I exhale opening my palms wider and lowering them further down. Staying for a breath or two, I offer the fruits of practice to … all … and imagine the small ball of light growing and expanding infinitely.
  24. On the next exhale I lower my palms to my knees and turn them facing down to indicate completion of the practice.
  25. I stay for another few breaths and gently open my eyes.
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We don’t stop the bad, it stops

n

“Even when some things are good, we cannot prompt ourselves to do them even by will. Some people try forcibly to restrain themselves from doing certain things. This will never work because the activity of forcing, constraining, and struggling tends to become a distraction. We become so involved in the negative action that we never progress … Someone might smoke sixty cigarettes a day, and he might understand intellectually that he should not smoke, but he cannot stop. Nobody smokes because they like the idea of inhaling tar and nicotine. There is some other reason … something must happen to such a  person that will tell him, “Look here, I can do without cigarettes.” Ideally when we move into the practice of yoga, we begin to develop a process that stops the detrimental. This stopping is not caused directly — we don’t stop the bad, it stops.”

TKV Desikachar – Religiousness in Yoga

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Deeper & Discerning Perception

n

This scientific article was not written for me to read, but the essense of it does resonate with me: there is value in learning to better discern between how things appear and what they are, to learn to perceive deeper, beyond surface phenomena to deeper underlying dynamics:

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Emotions & Feelings

n

A few days this thought seeded in me:

emotions are a scent from the past, feelings are aromas from the future

I feel a need to discern, at least for myself, between emotions and feelings (I can think of reasons why, but that may become more clear in the future). The question this seed left in me was: how can I tell the difference between emotions and feelings?

Emotions are intense and demanding. They are extreme – they can suddenly lift me very high or drop me very low. They tend to fill me up and overwhelm me. They want to occupy me completely. They demand attention and they demand it now. They reject reflection and demand immediate action. It is as if they block me out: I become the emotion. They activate mind and make it bounce around considering options, leaving a trail of doubt.

Feelings are soft and subtle. They can be penetrating but not overwhelming … somehow they appear, in a just right intensity, at the edge of my peripheral vision as if to inquire if I am ready for them. If I’m not ready, they go away, they don’t hold a grudge, and if the circumstances are right they appear again. They are not imperative, they generate peace, presence and contentment. They settle in heart, leaving a sense of sweet, clear, vague knowing with a scent of soft confidence.

Emotions erupt from the inside out, consume and burn out wildly. Feelings move gently from the outside in and light a delicate candle that burns slowly and gives good light.

Emotions are social, they seek others, they want to be spoken out, shared, acknowledged and celebrated. Feelings are private and shy, they seek a quiet, undisturbed presence in heart.

The purpose of of emotions seems to be conservation through inhbition. They are an established past meeting an unknown present. They sense change and ask for re-consideration. They ask that what is established not be blindy rejected for an unknown promise. If possible (depending on both past and present) they speak moderately. If unheard they speak louder.

The purpose of feelings seems to be to navigate gracefully into an unknown future. They are stepping stones that appear just in time, forming a path that has not yet been traveled. They are like magical breadcrumbs that show not the way back to a familiar shelter, but a way forward to a new potential.

Confusion seems to live amongst emotions. There is an abundance of not-knowing in feelings, but since they live in heart, they seem to be relatively immune to confusion (which seems to be a capacity of mind). Clarity, not specific, seems to live amongst feelings.

There is a shifting, living relationship between emotions & feelings, (confusion & clarity). An excess of emotions creates an imbalance that leans towards excessive and ineffective action – doing much of little consequence. An excess of feelings creates an immobilizing stillness. Excess emotions create instability outside, excesss feeling create instability inside.

These features are indicators of what is manifesting. I want to be able to recognize when I am emoting from the past and when I am sensing from the future. I want to be able to experience both clearly and know which is which. I want to be held by both: supported by the familiar ground of emotions, levitated by the flickering invitation of feelings.


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Yoga of Groups

n

Yoga is a solitary practice, it focuses inwards … my body, my breath, my attention. Maybe that is one of the reasons it appealed to me. When I researched Yoga, I also considered martial arts where there seems to me to be more potential for interaction with at least one other human being. But I settled on Yoga.

The deeper I ventured into Yoga practice the more I experienced meditative qualities in action. I became convinced that such qualities are key to good outcomes. Yet in business meetings I felt these qualities were, for the most part, absent. I wondered what could be done to improve the business environment? My naive conclusion was that everyone needs to practice Yoga before we get on with business. That conclusion did not lead me to profound discoveries but, ultimately, away from work and deeper into practice.

Fast-forward 8 years and I had a chance meeting with Sociocracy in Cluj with Andrei Iuroaia. Annelieke and Iulia “convinced” me to go despite my skepticism. It was a one day workshop and I was surprised and impressed (even though the work and presentation did not yet feel mature). I felt then and still feel that this is the most practical (sensible, accessible, inexpensive to adopt… ) framework I’ve encountered for good group decision making.

I haven’t gone deeper because there are currently no social contexts in my life where these tools can be applied. However, I’ve been watching it from the sidelines (and occassionally sharing it where I felt it may be relevant). Fast-forward another 4 ot 5 years and this video is published. In it James Priest demonstrates, in a facilitator role, decision making guided by Sociocracy 3.0:

I am grateful and relieved that this modality of being, discussing and deciding together exists and that it is penetrating into organizational bubbles. It confirms that better group decisions are possible and it softly (yet undeniably) illuminates the flaws and limitations of current modalities. Our current hierarchical societies, on so many levels, seem to take for granted the capacity of a group to come together and make informed, good, safe, gradual decisions. I felt sad that this was not around when I was engaged and working. It feels that this approach would have greatly altered my experience of working with others and my potential to contribute.

From where I am now though, this work shimmers as an expression of Yogic qualities in group settings. I see parallels to my experience of personal Yoga practice. I see a practice space where a group, as a cohesive entity, can explore and discover itself in action and that the exploration itself is the technique through which subtle change is introduced. I sense a clear path of invigorating (awakening ideas – asana), containing (giving the awakened ideas coherent flow – pranayama) and focusing energy (directing ideas toward specific outcomes – dhyana).

Beautiful and inspiring work.

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