Navigating the "Bad Spaces" in life

DUHKHA, a concept in yoga, literally means "bad space." It is the other half to the coin "SUKHA" or sweet space. It seems like life is always one of the other, doesn't it? A sign of progress in your yoga practice is that you shift from habitual, fear based patterns in your consciousness and in your nervous system/body when experiencing DUHKHA and begin seeing suffering as an opportunity for spiritual growth. 

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We all have hungry ghosts clawing at us, guiding us to do things we might regret or influencing our actions before we can really understand their repercussions. You, me, your mother, your brother, we are all a product of our environment and sometimes those places we come from are sweet and at other times they are sour. Culturally we have generated a reluctance to see our own darkness and certain reactions, emotions, mistakes, and imperfections are shamed and labeled as bad. Everyone you interact with usually has an agenda that comes from their own trauma based fear and this can make navigating social groups confusing and difficult. 

Yoga teaches us that while we aren't necessarily entitled to the fruit of our labor, we are entitled to the opportunity to work. The strangest aspect of KARMA is that the fruit doesn't always look like what we want it to and often the work isn't what we expect. If we aren't paying close attention to our lives, to the fluctuations of experiences + consciousness, to how we are habitually reacting when things seem to be going wrong in life, we might actually miss the work that is being asked of us. Be present to your lives my loves. Wake up to what you have right now, what is trying to be resolved within you. Be present to your reluctance or willingness to flow

Myself, I am waking up to layers of bias in myself that I have been committed to remove for a long time and with that, I am waking up to my desire to run from the conflict created by the repercussions of actions that I believe to be in alignment with my highest self. I am waking up with a desire to be graceful, to maintain safe boundaries, to be honest, to maintain my integrity. I am also waking up to a lot of fear based patterns. 

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I have learned through my practice that waking up is a very ordinary experience. We never really get to “evolve” out of suffering. Once we master the perfect headstand or can sit in meditation for over an hour at once without looking at the clock, pain doesn’t magically disappear. We don’t stop making mistakes and angels don’t pop out from behind every cloud to bless us with positive feelings all day. If anything we become more accountable and more responsible for our lives. We embody our highest self on a deeper level and that calls for more experiences that will encourage that growth. 

In the process of waking up to the full spectrum of life, mixed with both sweetness and pain, we also wake up to a still small voice reminding us to not let a bump in the road or a challenging avalanche of experience prevent us from stepping into the roles that have been opening before us. A challenge isn’t a closed door telling you to take a different route, it IS the door into a more evolved, kind, compassionate, and just person.

The signs of a fruitful practice aren’t in how good you look in your yoga pants or how vegan you can be. The true signs of fruit are when you remember to pray for kindness, when you remember that you do not have to react to everything that exposes itself to your senses. There is fruit when you open yourself to a new phase and you shift away from fear as you navigate the rocky or rolling terrain that you have asked to walk over.  

When I see myself retreating from learning the lessons that accompany suffering, I have a sweet, fierce voice in the back of my mind telling me that this can be both my unravelling and my upward spiral. We cannot move upwards without appearing to be moving backwards. This is a marker of a successful practice and a reminder that no matter how painful DUHKHA can be, there is sweetness within. 

Our practice, when diligent and focused, can give us a birds eye view of our life. It can help us shift how we perceive DUHKHA and it creates space to re-pattern our relationship to challenges we may encounter. According to yoga philosophy, fear is always at the root of our suffering (fear of pain, fear of the absence of pleasure, fear of endings, etc) but we learn through the practice that love can get louder.  With every meditation, with every commission of vulnerability, with every willingness to see our pain as an opportunity to get closer to oneness, soon, love will be the loudest. 

A MANTRA PRACTICE TO HELP YOUR HEART FEEL PROTECTED IN TIMES OF “DUHKHA"

If you are in a phase of feeling helpless, lost, oppressed, and like you want to give up on your dreams because of a set back whether huge or minor, call on the the Goddess DURGA. She is a representation of the divine feminine energy that is the great mother, the protector, and a fierce warrior of the heart. She is invincible aspect of shakti, divine feminine energy, and calling her fierceness into your life can support you in making the appropriate choices for how you navigate challenge as well as protecting the sacred whisper of intuition that can be hushed by the challengers, naysayers, manipulators, and the oppressors. She protects the goodness within you and is one of the most widely sought goddesses in India. 

To complete a simple Durga practice, write down on a piece of paper the outcome of working with her energy that you most desire whether spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical and what you need protection from. Put that paper in a safe space where you will most often speak her mantra. Then, sit for a few moments to quiet the mind, heart, and body, and begin to chant or sing her mantra (quietly or out loud) and listen to your body and her wisdom until the energy within you begins to shift. 

By chanting the healing Durga mantras, it is said that all the mental, physical, and economic problems of our life will be eliminated by the Goddess and she will protect us against all types of harm from the waves of suffering of others, as well as the waves of suffering of our biggest enemy, (ourselves) with compassion. 

If you want to dive deep, deep, try committing to this practice for 40 days and see how your life transforms! Chant every day until you trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. For a more traditional practice, chant this mantra 108 times every day.

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THE MANTRA:

OM DUM DURGAYEI NAMAHA

  • OM: Sacred sound invoking all manifest universal energy

  • DUM: The seed sound of protection. This seed sound will invoke Durga as the protectress if fear is an issue and help you feel less afraid.

  • DURGAYEI: Salutations to Durga, the protectress, remover of fear, and bestower of power

  • NAMAHA: I bow to you

A DURGA PRAYER

Divine mother in the form of Durga, the great and fierce protectress, Protect me from the waves of the suffering of others, protect the crystal heart within me that holds the deepest desires of transformation for my soul, protect the path that I am walking. Adorn me with the power of compassion in the face of wrath, adorn me with the power to learn and grow from my suffering, the power to see all suffering as an opportunity to come closer to you.  Namaste. 

REFLECT

  • When you are in a space of DUHKHA what are the common patterns of tension in your body? Where are you storing that tension, in your neck? Jaw? Stomach? Calves?

  • How does your resistance to suffering manifest in your behavior to yourself and others? Do you go for the cupcake or cigarette? Do you indulge and then feel guilty? Do you retreat or do you lash out?

  • How do you respond to challenging situations? Do you see them as a road block to overcome or do you see them as a stopping point? Has this pattern served you?

  • Think of a time where something bad happened but turned out to be a blessing? Can you make a list of 5 of these occurrences?

  • If you are experiencing some phase of DUHKHA in your life now, try to shift your perspective? What is the lesson that if you are to learn, will make you a stronger person?

I Know You Want To Leave, But Please, Stay With Me.

I Know You Want To Leave, But Please, Stay With Me.

I opened to the earth that was alive, sacred because it was made sacred, said let there be land that is waiting for my voice, for my morning footsteps across the lawn, each one a prayer to the grandmother in the east. The trees, soil, and fallen leaves replied

January :: New Moon Blessing

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May your practice dig your wisdom out from the mountains of pain, suffering, struggle, sadness, isolation, and separateness. 

May you know deeply in your body what it means to surrender your attachment, aversion, and trance. May you open yourself to grace in every posture, with every inhale, with every exhale.

As you proceed into the future, please, move and breath slowly. Unravel your thoughts and your patterns. Expose yourself every morning to the softness of your human truth.  

May each and every moment you find yourself in be accompanied by deep surrendering and compassionate presence. 

In the face of any challenge or any joy, may you sweeten your life with the deep honey of your heart. 

Om Shanti.  

The Theme of the Month is REST.

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A few days ago I was contemplating what I wanted to accomplish in 2017, a yearly ritual I partake in as a closing to the year. Looking back at my resolutions and intentions from 2016 I noticed something very strange :: outside of my career & life-experience goals, I was making the same exact personal development goals. It appeared that nothing had changed during the entire year. I was still complaining about the same physical symptoms, the same fears, the same worries, and the same problems. 

I recognized that making these lists of what I “need to do” to be healthy and what I “need to do” to move forward with my personal evolution was clearly not working. I was inside of my head trying to make choices that were not realistic in the present moment. I was habitually creating an impossible ladder to climb every time I set out to create personal change.

As I have been turning this truth over in my head, exploring parts of myself that I've never felt, something about the way I have been approaching change isn't working. I realized it was time to do EVERYTHING differently. Thus, we have our monthly theme and my top new years resolution: REST.

In disbelief that I had made little to no positive change in certain corners of my life despite regularly setting intentions, I had a moment of surrender. I got on my knees and said to spirit :: I am clearly not handling my spiritual evolution well. Send me guidance. 

This soft message that came through my heart and my body in this meditation was that I was missing REST. The sweetness of the moment told me that rather than being goal oriented, narrowly focused, and forceful in my movements, it was time to intentionally RELAX, to GO SLOW, and be more MINDFUL in every moment. That's where the change was going to occur.

As we move through this month, I am not suggesting that we don’t do our practice or that we don’t participate in the change we are trying to create, I am simply suggesting that we do things differently, that on the heels of winter we approach our lives and our goals with softness and awareness cultivating the particular practice of moving so slowly that we are able to witness the habitual patterns we are ready to dissolve and choose an alternative way of moving through life.  

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE REST?

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When we actually slow down in our lives we transition out of our stress response, out of loud mind and high mental chatter (AKA BETA BRAIN) and we drop into the RELAXATION RESPONSE of our body where we experience slower brain waves, a quieter mind, and the intricacies of our inner worlds. To make lasting change, entering this space is a must. Beyond dramatic life events, it is almost impossible to plant new seeds of intention into consciousness if we don't do it in this space. A regular practice of resting the nervous system becomes a lifestyle change of feeling our way through life vs. thinking our way through life.

When we finally allow ourselves to relax, the questions of what should I do to solve this problem get answered by the unraveling of sensations in the body rather than the mind. We are able to hear the messages of the inner organs as they are trying to communicate that we are eating too much processed foods, or that we would be much happier if there was more movement in our day, or that the tightness we feel in our chest is because we are being suffocated by our job or our declining relationship.

If we can cultivate and nurture a practice of slowing down in our every day life, then we also begin to see ourselves more clearly: our habitual patterns, choices, responses, and default modes as they arise rather than addressing them after we have already committed an associated harmful habit. 

EXPLORING REST IN EVERY MOMENT

This month in my asana classes, we are going to slow everything down with our breath and explore how we are moving from pose to pose as a metaphor for the exploration of how we move through our lives from moment to moment. We will break down how we arrive, how we leave, and what we are doing while we are in our postures :: Are we using the proper muscles to hold us up? Are we leaning on compensatory muscles because of an old injury (or wound)? Are we even aware that we are moving from old, poorly informed patters? 

We are going to explore different breath training practices and how the breath alters the brain waves & chatter of the mind and then meditation techniques that encourage us to receive the messages of the body. Finally, we are going to explore how the visual focus we adopt in our yoga practice is connected to how we place weight in the feet and how mindfulness in the feet and the drishti alter each posture. 

Whether you are a teacher or a student, the resources here this month are for you. We will be practicing the same variation of sequences all month to explore these topics with different sub themes. I encourage you to come to class, ask questions, and share your experiences. Remember your revelations will undoubtedly support someone in diving deeper into their inner world. 

Remember: your practice should change you. Every time you arrive to your mat you should leave a new person. 

JOURNAL QUESTIONS

  • Where in your day do you take time to rest?

  • How does your need for rest change throughout the year? 

  • What is your default mode of creating change and setting intentions? Do they seem to stick? How could you do things differently?

  • What is your relationship to the messages from your body? Do you take time and space to listen? When looking for answers or guidance is there a process of looking outside of yourself or within?

Please share some of your responses with us! We'd love to hear some of your mindfulness and resting tips and tricks. Your insights inspire us all.

Aho & Pranam.