Posts Tagged With: consciousness

Letting my wild woman roar

Kali is the fierce powerful goddess we all have in ourselves and an incarnation of Parvati. She was born out of the third eye of the goddess Durga, who got so enraged that her anger burst from her forehead in the form of Kali, representing hatred. Kali is the one full of confidence and strength. She is also known as ‘Crazy Kali’ and her feature confirms that: she looks scary and wild and has wide open eyes with her tongue sticking out and four arms. She is usually symbolized with a sword in one hand and a cut off head in her other hand. She is also called the ‘Black Mother’, ‘the Dark’ or ‘the Awful One’. Kali is the female counterpart of Shiva and is symbolizing transformation through destruction. Her energy is purifying, since she destroys all demons and evil that keeps us from living our life to the fullest and in order to let the light of good triumph.

Kali is the one to call upon if you would like to transform or change aspects of your life and shed unnecessary baggage or to connect with the fierce goddess within you to cultivate courage, inner strength and confidence. Kali often appears in dark tough times when change is unavoidable and necessary such as illness, heart break, financial loss and career change, when boundaries are being pushed. She is done with the old way of doing things. Without her husband Shiva, Kali’s power could go unchecked and destroy the universe. Shiva’s clear light of consciousness gives direction to this powerful energy. Kali’s energy isn’t only about destruction, power and strength. She also reminds us to incorporate a feminine energy that is creative and playful. Kali is also connected to the first chakra and therefore has a grounding and stabilizing effect.

I can definitely use some fierce Kali energy. I recently discovered that I carry an unhealthy vow or belief with me. I felt responsible for the emotions and happiness of those people around me that are vulnerable or can perceived as weaker. When I discovered this (with the help of family constellations and journey therapy) I transformed this belief into a more healthy and supporting one: My happiness inspires people around me to choose for happiness as well. I can be that fierce and crazy Kali lady that walks her own path and chooses happiness without being responsible for the reactions of others.

This for me represents Kali: to shed away any dark layers and unhealthy habits that prevent you from living your life and follow your dreams. A couple of weeks ago, I also decided to delete my facebook account which has given me space and time to live my own life and be more focused on my immediate surroundings. I kept holding on to my facebook account, because I kept telling myself that it is necessary for growing my work as a yoga teacher. However, it was mainly an energy and time sucker and it feels much more peaceful and calm not to spend my time on social media platforms.

Kali also reminds me not to carry my sensitivity on my sleeve. Instead, share my struggles and worries with the right people at the right time. Lately, I have received plenty of reminders that sharing my emotional and mental world can often be misinterpreted. When I let my inner Kali be present, I can stand firmly in my shoes and beliefs and not to let me throw off balance by other people’s opinions and judgments. The reality is that not everybody will like me or what I am doing. So instead of pleasing others, I focus more on pleasing myself. I invite you to let your inner Kali roar too and be a bit crazy like Kali at times and stick your tongue out!

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Goddess Kali standing right on top of her husband Shiva (Source: http://www.drsvoboda.com/resources/articles/when-kali-comes-to-call/)

Categories: Chakra, Happiness, healing, Inspiration, Sharing, spirituality, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Do make a difference

 

A couple of days ago I saw the movie I am a slave. I was upset while watching and still feel emotional if I think about it. This 2010 movie shows the story of one woman’s fight for freedom from modern-day slavery and gives insight in London’s shocking slave trade.

It makes me feel frustrated, angry and sad to see the reality of these inhumane practices which are still going on. I can’t understand how you can treat other people like that, how can you lack so much empathy and compassion? Africa and its culture are close to my heart. I always tell myself I was probably born in Africa in my past lives to explain why I was drawn to this warm continent from a young age. A lot of movies about Africa mainly show the dark, sad and scary parts of Africa. Africa is so much more than that. The culture is warm, friendly & loving. It is hard to feel lonely in Africa surrounded by curious, helping and supporting people. The music is transforming and the attitude and wisdom of the people is inspiring. They live in the Here and Now like their second nature, no need to learn mindfulness or relaxation techniques what is so needed in our hectic busy Western society. After watching ‘I am a slave’, I felt a strong urge to help, to make a difference. How? While I was doing voluntary work or research in Africa, I had the feeling that I wasn’t actually making a difference. Gradually I moved away from development cooperation and the wish to work for Non-Governmental or Not-for-profit organisations and shifted more towards yoga, holistic health and health promotion in the country of residence (New Zealand at this stage). Is that selfish? I don’t know. I only know that I believe you can make a difference by starting with yourself. So what does that actually mean to me?

  • Building peace with who you are
  • Making peace with your family
  • Forgive wholeheartedly
  • Living your life from your inner truth
  • Speak and action from your heart
  • Listen with lovely ears to the world around you
  • Choosing for love instead of hatred or anger
  • Decide to be mindful and have compassion for yourself and the ones around you
  • Shift your thoughts from what you don’t like to what you do love in life

I believe every day you can make a difference. Meditation or mindfulness connects us with the wider consciousness – that we’re we all part of. This connection makes us realizes we’re One. Your happiness is my happiness; my grief is your grief. Every day I choose again to see the best in everyone by realizing we were all born the same; as innocent shining little creatures full of potential, freedom and joy. Our thoughts form us. So choose wisely. Choose for Peace & Compassion. For me this is True Yoga. I can be exactly who I am with all my weaknesses and strengths and thereby I hope to inspire you to be who you are. Together, we create a more peaceful, healthy, balanced and happy world.

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Which direction are you going?

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In the yoga sutras Patanjali describes two guiding concepts: abhyasa and vairagya as a key to yoga and to gain control of the mind. Abhyasa refers to persevering practice: a spiritual practice which is regular and constantly practices over a long period of time. Vairgaya can be described as non-attachment or abandonment, in particular from the pains and pleasures in the material word. On the surface these two concepts can be seem as opposites: practice requires the exercise of the will or discipline, while non-attachment seems more a matter of surrender. In fact they are complementary within your yoga practice. Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way. There are basically two directions you can go in live: towards truth and away from truth. Let’s have a closer look.

Abhyasa implies action without interruption or action that is not easily distracted, discouraged or bored. It means cultivating the lifestyle, actions, speech and thoughts, as well as the spiritual practices that lead you in the right direction. Abhyasa is its own catalyst: the more you practice, the more you would like to practice and the faster you develop. Another meaning of abhyasa  is ‘to be present’. This is a reminder that for an effective practice, you should aim to be intensely present to what you’re doing. Eventually, this mindful doing and being becomes part of your everyday life and is present in everything we do. To truly achieve this kind of commitment and constancy, vairagya or non-attachment has to be included as well.

Vairagya can be translated into ‘growing pale’. Our consciousness is typically ‘colored’ by our attachment to objects, other people, ideas or other things. These attachments influence how you identify with others and yourself. Vairagya refers to letting go of the mental coloring, so your consciousness becomes a transparent jewel. This allows the light of your authentic Self to shine through brilliantly without distortion. You will no longer thirst for either earthly objects or spiritual attainments. Another translation of vairagya is release, surrender or letting go. Though, the first step should involve the practice of discrimination: becoming better at discriminating between what actions, speech, and thoughts take you in the right direction and those which are doing the reverse. Gradually, non-attachment can expand to the depth of the subtlest building blocks or gunas of ourselves and the universe, which is called paravairagya or supreme non-attachment.

Abhyasa and vairagya are often compared to the wings of a bird; every yoga practice should aim to include these two elements equally. The persistent effort to realize the goal and a corresponding surrender of worldly attachment that stand in the way. In life as a whole it is important to alternate periods of intense activity and rest. Abhyasa can also be translated into ‘constant exercise’ and vairagya into ‘dispassion’.

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Within your yoga practice and within your life it is all about creating a healthy balance. At times you need that extra push to get yourself on your mat or to a yoga class. Other moments some more feminine or soft energy is welcome to surrender to the magical experience of life and yoga. At the moment my focus is on vairagya or to surrender to my life exactly how it is now. Letting go of the need to rush the process and developing more trust in the universe and myself. Aim for more rest in my life and in my yoga practice and above all find and enjoy the peace within myself.

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A – U – M………..

Do you end your yoga class or practice with the ‘Aum’ now and then? How do you feel about it? Do you feel awkward and inhibited while chanting the sacred sound Aum? Or is it part of your standard yoga practice and do you feel incomplete without it?

Either way, it is interesting to know more about the Aum. Personally, I quite like chanting and I don’t have any problems with inhibition or awkwardness. As a teenager while in my mother’s yoga class, I was always curious how long I could make my ‘Aums’. For some reason, the chanting brought me in contact with something deeper, something steady, still and strong.

Aum is the most sacred of holy words, the supreme mantra and symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality. According to the Hindu and yoga philosophy, Aum is the primordial sound from which the whole universe was created. Another word for Aum is pranava, which means ‘the best praise or the best prayer’. The Aum mantra is constantly repeated in unison with the breath and the purpose is to become free from suffering and limitation. The symbol AUM is composed of four elements: the first three are vocal sounds: A, U, and M. The fourth sound, unheard, is the silence which begins and ends the audible sound, the silence which surrounds it.

  • The letter ‘A’ resonates in the center of the mouth and symbolizes the conscious or waking state. This is the level of mechanics, science, logical reason and the lower three chakras.
  • The letter ‘U’ transfers the sense of vibration to the back of the mouth and symbolizes the dream state. This is the realm of dreams, divinities, imagination and the inner world.
  • The letter ‘M’ is created while humming with lips gently closed and resonates forward in the mouth and buzzes throughout the head. This sound represents the dreamless sleep state of the mind and spirit. Only pure consciousness exists.
  • The entire symbol stands for the fourth state, which combines all these states and transcends them. This is the state of Samādhi.

The three letters A, U and M also symbolize the absence of desire, fear and anger, while the whole symbol stands for the perfect man, one whose wisdom is firmly established in the divine. They represent the three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter and the three tenses – past, present and future – while the entire symbol represents all creation together with the Creator.

The symbol AUM

The symbol AUM

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The Sahasrara Chakra

The seventh and last chakra is the Sahasrara chakra or the ‘crown chakra’. This chakra resides at the crown of the head and connects you to higher consciousness and pure awareness. The Sanskrit word Sahasrara means ‘thousand fold’ and therefore this chakra is also known as ‘Thousand Petaled Lotus’. This lotus burst open when you remember your true nature and experience enlightenment. The crown chakra is the foundation of your spiritual body and links you to the highest spiritual consciousness. This chakra relates to spiritual will, inspiration, idealism and intuitive knowing. It is about integrating your consciousness and subconsciousness and living in the NOW. The associated glands and body parts are the pineal gland, brain and central nervous system. The element of the seventh chakra is thought or cosmic consciousness. This cosmic consciousness can feel like an ultimate intelligence and a sense of all knowing. The associated colour can be violet or white, a combination of all colours. This is in line with the chakra as an integration center of all the other chakras.

A white lotus, the symbol of the crown chakra

A white lotus, the symbol of the crown chakra

A blocked Sahasrara chakra

A blocked crown chakra can result in the following physical and mental problems: diseases of the muscular system, skeletal system and the skin, depression, chronic exhaustion, headaches, coordination difficulties, poor balance and clumsiness, sensitivity to light, sound or the environment. Emotional issues related to an out of balance seventh chakra can be; lack of purpose, loss of meaning or identity, trust, selflessness, lack of devotion, inspiration, values or ethics. If you have a closed crown chakra, it is highly likely that you are unable to live in the present and unable to gain closure on unfinished business. You always seem to be either revisiting your past or looking ahead to the future. You are normally confused and have no purpose in life. You may live on poor quality food, exhaust yourself and are probably ignoring your bodily needs. Fear of religion or spirituality and frustration can also be experienced. There is little joy in your life and you are afraid of things that cannot be understood with the physical senses. It can lead to unwise decisions, unhappiness and a sense of indecision. You can feel alone and separate and feel cut off from spirituality. An excessiveness in the seventh chakra can appear as being overly intellectual and feeling superior to other human beings. It can be described as ‘being in your head’ and you may possibly show some hysterical, psychotic and/or manic-depressive behaviour.

In the Here and Now

In the Here and Now

Yoga and other stimulants

There are different ways to balance your crown chakra for example through prayer, (chakra) meditation or colour and sound therapy. The Tibetan Bowl creates sounds that can help you to achieve a balanced seventh chakra. In terms of nature, viewing mountain tops can be helpful. Supporting yoga poses to balance this chakra are Padmasana (Lotus Pose), Salamba Sirsasana (Supported headstand) and all meditation poses. Since meditation is the yogic practice for this chakra, it clears and quiets the mind and connects you with the higher self. A daily head massage is also a good method towards balance of the crown chakra. In addition, you could focus on your dreams and write down your visions. You could also consume violet foods and drinks, wear violet clothing and use violet oils such as lavender or jasmine essential oils. Foods that can help to open up the seventh chakra are foods that generate space, for example raw green veggie juices. Moderate fasting can also activate the seventh chakra. One of the most important elements of physical, emotional and spiritual health is being inspired by your own life and live in the present moment.

Tibetan Singing bowls

Tibetan singing bowls

Balanced crown chakra

If your crown chakra is balanced, you are released from ego driven desires and you are able to trust in your highest guidance. Your sense of empathy and unity expands and your consciousness raises. You can experience another person, place or object as if you are inside of them or as if you are ‘being’ them. You will have wisdom, trust, selflessness, humanitarianism and the ability to see the bigger picture in a spiritual life. You feel calm, deeply at ease and fully aware with a gentle and compassion nature, free of worry. You show the ultimate goal of every human being: inner peace and satisfaction. You are truly in the present moment, living in the ‘Here and Now’. You reach a state of ‘being’, rather than a state of ‘doing’. There is no longer a sense of division, the macrocosm becomes the microcosm and all is in unity and you are in optimum balance. Compassion is the main sense that develops if you crown chakra opens. This ‘crown compassion’ is more about perception and communication, compared to ‘heart compassion’ which is more about emotions and empathy.

Union or Yoga

If all your energy centers are open and balanced, all selfish desires disappear. You are grounded, grateful, peaceful and visionary. By opening your crown chakra, you have reached the highest state of consciousness. Through firm grounding into the earth (first chakra), opening up your creative energy (second chakra), manifesting your dreams in the world (third chakra), opening your heart (fourth chakra), expressing your true voice (fifth chakra) and connecting with your inner knowing (sixth chakra), you are finally experiencing total unification or yoga by activating the seventh chakra.

Compassionate communication with lightness

Compassionate communication from the heart and with lightness

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Yogi Sleep

Yoga nidra is also known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. It is an ancient practice involving a state of conscious deep sleep. Yoga nidra is rapidly gaining popularity in the West, since it is a very simple practice that is accessible to everyone. It is a deep relaxation technique with a lot of benefits including deep rest, release of tension, better sleep and improved memory. During a yoga nidra practice you are gaining access to the unconscious mind in a conscious way. If you practice meditation, you remain in the waking state of consciousness while gently focusing the mind and allowing thought patterns, emotions and sensations to arise and go on. In yoga nidra, you leave the waking state, go through the dreaming state, and into the deep sleep state, yet remain awake. If you stay in the state between waking and sleeping for a significant period of time, a state similar to that of deep sleep will be induced. The difference is that you are still aware of the external world. Your awareness is active while your body and mind deeply relaxes.    

A yoga nidra class involves a variety of techniques – guided imagery and body scanning among others – to aid relaxation. The savasana is an important pose at the end of the asana practice which takes at least 20 to 45 minutes. This allows enough time for the practitioners to physiologically and psychologically sink into it. Yoga nidra is one of the deepest of all meditations and results in an incredible calmness, quietness and clarity. 

Nowadays most people live in a chronically exhausted, overstimulated world. Therefore, yoga nidra can be very helpful, since it provides you with a full-body relaxation by unwinding the nervous system and a deep meditative state of consciousness. During the visualization stage of yoga nidra the contents of your unconscious mind can arise and be integrated into your conscious experience. Your task is to remain the witness of this experience while viewing the contents of the mind as a movie. This is reasonable easy to do in the deeply relaxed state of yoga nidra. Though, in the every day waking state it is usually hard to remain the witness. We react, interact, express and thereby often give the negative patterns more energy and attention. The continuous practice of yoga nidra will therefore benefit your everyday life by remaining aware of your behavioural and mind patterns. This allows you to live from your true authentic self – openly and freely.     

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Yoga of Awareness

Kundalini yoga is an ancient and unique form of yoga and is also called the yoga of awareness. It is the most spiritual type of yoga I have practised. It is brought to the West in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. The focus is primarily on expansion of self-awareness and realizing your true potential. Kundalini literally means ‘the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved’. This metaphor refers to the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each of us and enables us to become one with the infinite consciousness. In other words, Kundalini is the untapped energy or prana at the base of the spine that can be pulled up through the body and awake each of the seven chakras. When this prana reaches the crown chakra at the top of your head, enlightenment occurs. However, for most of us, this potent energy lies dormant at the base of your spine. Through the practice of Kundalini yoga, you can release this energy by breaking through emotional blocks, energy imbalances and addictive behaviour. For this reason Kundalini yoga can be highly transformative, since it releases held issues whether body or mind.

Each Kundalini class typically includes six major components: mantras, pranayama and/or warm-up, kriya, relaxation, meditation and closing with a song. The class starts with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main part of the class is called a kriya. This is a complete set of exercises including pranayama that focuses on a precise area of the body. The kriyas are precise and bring the body and mind to a state where deep meditation is easily achieved. The goal of a kriya could be clearing the heart chakra or increasing spinal flexibility for example. There are hundreds of kriyas and therefore no class will be the same. The class ends with a meditation and song. Most Kundalini teachers and devotees wear white clothes and wrap their heads with a white turban or other head covering. The white clothing is worn to support both the body’s energetic field or aura and the nervous system functions. The white headband is believed to protect the crown chakra and improve the experience of meditation.

Since the emphasis is on breathing, meditation, mudras (hand gestures) and chanting, a Kundalini class could be intense and odd for newcomers. The breath and movement are often very dynamic and will be unfamiliar to more conventional Hatha yoga practitioners. Though, the use of mantras could support you if you are new to meditation and find silence challenging. Mantra meditation can result in clarity, balance and equanimity. This type of yoga appeals to you if you are up for both mental and physical challenges. I have tried different Kundalini yoga classes and I always love the use of mantras and sounds, because it supports me with the transition from a busy work day to a quiet yoga practice. I am quite used to physical challenges, but Kundalini yoga provides me with a whole new kind of challenge. The combination of specific pranayama techniques and asanas requires me to be focused and attentive. After practising some more physically focused forms of yoga, I felt at ease to spend time and energy to develop myself spiritually as well. My first steps in the world of Kundalini yoga were quite magical experiences; it brought me to stillness and peace, my true self.

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Samadhi

The final limb is samadhi, a spiritual state of consciousness. Samadhi means ‘to bring together, to merge’. It refers to absolute bliss, in which you and the universe are one. In this state your body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet your mind is aware and awake. You have gone beyond time, space and individuality. In this effortless state, you connect with your essential nature. There is only the experience of consciousness, truth and joy. You can compare it with an individual wave settling down and experiencing the unbounded ocean.  

Yoga means union of body, mind and breath. That union alone can bring amazing results. However, there is a higher level of meaning: the union of the thinking mind with the universe or cosmic intelligence. Patanjali defines yoga as ‘the complete settling of the mind’. The results of that, according to the Yoga Sutras, is bliss-consciousness. The bliss of this state eliminates the possibility of any sorrow, great or small. Like no darkness can pierce into the bright light of the sun. You realize that you are a spiritual being having a human experience and not the other way around. In samadhi, you have achieved union and you are in perfect harmony with the ever changing flow of life. You are still acting as an individual who lives it’s life and conducts daily activities. However, you act from the level of your highest self and realize that there is no separation between you and the rest of the universe. According to Patanjali you are always capable of experiencing samadhi, any moment you can become whole and fully present. Required is a willingness to learn and a deep intention to grow as a conscious human being and to live fully in the present moment. It seems like that we need the journey (of yoga) to discover our true being or our true essence. The eight-fold path provide the roadmap for realizing samadhi.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
–T.S. Eliot –

 

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