How to Love

A couple of years ago, I fell in love. Wild, crazy, hairy love, the sort of which has made ages of legend and literature. I had loved before many times. And yet I had never loved quite like this. He was, indeed, another slice of my soul returned to me and it came home with all the fanfare of Rome.

Early on in the relationship, I remember sitting at breakfast with a dear friend. She was having some questions about her own relationship and wanted a sounding board as she sorted through her feelings. I asked her if she loved him, and she affirmed. I asked her if the love felt like mine, cosmic and large and brilliant. She said no. She told me that she loved him, and she enjoyed being with him, and he supported her and made her feel comfortable with herself. But it wasn’t fireworks and rainbows. For her, it was a warm pillow at the end of the day and someone with whom to share a meal, or a story, or a problem.

On that day I told her that she should leave because she deserved the type of love that I knew. The type of love we learned about from legend and literature. It was real and I had felt it. In that space, I knew that that was what love was.

They did not serve crow at that restaurant. But I am enjoying a healthy slice of it today. My legendary love was, in fact, the worst and most awful relationship I have ever been involved in. It was in no way nurturing and caused us both volumes of harm. My friend? She and her man are still marching merrily along, growing together in an environment of mutual respect and admiration.

Recently, I was liberated from a relationship under the phrasing, “I don’t feel the love you deserve. We both know what love can be.” When I hung up the phone, in that soft sadness I pondered those words. It took a while to reconcile it all, and when it settled I came to a simple clarity. That dismissal was a healthy bit of horseshit dished up on a little cracker of denial. The rejection itself was a demonstration of love, reconciled with an unwillingness to act through it.

Love isn’t a ‘be’. Love is a ‘do’. Yes, we feel love. But in the end, truly loving someone is a result of what you do. It is not a comet slashing through the sky, but rather the sun that gets up every day to shine. Even behind the clouds. Even in doubt. There is a reason that love comes coupled with commitment. The act of being committed allows for the ebb and tide of feeling to flow, while maintaining a steady framework of loving action. In this manner, love grows deeper and more true. It strengthens and becomes the chariot that carries the lovers through.

I don’t think that most of us ever consider how we want to love and be loved, or the amount of effort that it takes to sustain that. We want love; we want to feel love. But we never take it further along and qualify the loving behaviours that support that feeling. The first flash of feeling love is strictly chemical, but when that fades it is the action of love that sustains relationship. And if you don’t understand how your partner wishes to have love expressed, then you haven’t really found love. You have found addiction, and good luck with that.

Everybody wants to be loved differently. Some people do want to have grand drama and gesture. Others find that tiresome. Some people want gentle words; others find that uncomfortable. Some people like gifts; others like gestures. The act of loving is the act of learning what your partner needs to understand your love. You cannot rely on the big feeling alone to carry the day. And you cannot trust one day to be like the next. Loving is a constant state of attention, both subtle and gross.

Furthermore, you must understand what it is that you need to feel loved. You must be able to express that clearly, and then you must stand in the position of receiving. How easy to give love; how hard to receive it. Receiving love is indeed a most healing position that asks us to let go of some of our deepest held fears and beliefs. To receive love is to feel what separates us, what has damaged us, and to release it all into acceptance of self within other. If we can’t do that, then no amount of ‘feeling’ is going to create relationship. If we can, then even a lack of ‘feeling’ can lead to a great love.

Loving is so unbelievably basic. I’m astounded with myself that it took so long to figure it out. Yes, it is a feeling. But it isn’t what we have been led to believe. (And if you stop and think about it, all the really great “love stories” are tragedies) Show love every day, big or small and directed towards their style of receiving love. Receive love every day, big or small and in the way you can assimilate it. Stay committed to growing love every day and show the fuck up. Regardless of how you “feel” at the moment.

I’ve let go of the great romances as a model and taken on the sage position of a simple man. “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” And he surely did. Love. Love simply. Love greatly. Love without affirmation. Love without expectation. Love because you must love and your other needs to be loved.

It’s really that easy.

 

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Reclaiming Tantra

Many years ago, when I was doing a lot of Goddess study, I ran an internet search on Adam and Eve. Being a pantheist, I had never actually read the story nor did I own a Bible. Silly me, I thought for sure there might be some intelligent discourse about the ancient origins of the story beyond the average: Eve bad. Adam foolish.

Not only was there no discourse on the myth at all, but the first ten pages of my search turned up nothing but porn. And lingerie. And sex toys. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed. It seems that we have reduced the first Judeo-Christian man and woman to mere representations of sexuality–and not sacred sex at that.

Fast forward to the last few months when I have been researching and studying the Tantric sciences. Of course, not having learned my lesson, I immediately ran an internet search on “tantra”. Not “tantric sex”, but “Tantra”. I was promptly rewarded with a picture of a giant, fully shaved vagina in the process of being pleasured.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no prude. Have at it, ladies and gentlemen. Love it, lick it, pleasure it, do what needs to be done to express that sex vibe. We all have it and we all need to let those flags fly. If we don’t….unpleasant things happen in the energetic bodies and eventually the mind. The human is not designed for celibacy unless they take on serious ascetic practices, so I stand for sex surely.

But here’s where I have a beef. The term “tantra” is not solely relegated to tantric sex. As a matter of fact, most of the “yoga” we are doing as a culture isn’t traditional yoga. It’s a version of tantra. SURPRISE! Yoga is a solitary, ascetic practice, designed for the renunciate. It has the most success when the practitioner is not a part of the world and can focus on diving deep within–without distraction–to find god.

Tantra is the practice of the householder. It is the practice of one involved in dyadic relationships of all kinds. Tantra is finding the groove of the dance of polarities and riding that vibration to bliss. Tantra teaches us how to exist in duality and experience unity through it. Sum total folks, and all the rest of it is variations on a theme.

When you go to the mat and practice your asana, you are learning to experience your spiritual nature. You are exploring a spiritual aspect of self within the context of your material self. You, as a being, exist as both spiritual and material. You are duality in walking expression and the addition of your spiritual practice to your life balances you; It completes you and, in conjunction with your material life, creates a place of unity. The practice of yoga is tightly wound with duality as we are working with the subtle nature of ha and tha, or sun and moon. We deal with left/ right imbalances. We explore body/mind complexes. Yoga is a practice of balancing our dual natures in a constant effort to find source–or singularity. Yoga as we practice it is tantra. And most of us do yoga simply because it feels so damn good.

Tantrics are not ascetics. We are beings of a truly sensual nature (all the senses, thank you). We eat foods we love and take pleasure in them. We drink alcohol and take pleasure in it. We have sexual relationships and take pleasure in them. And we do all of this as an expression of our divine nature. Tantrics seek to strike a divine balance between the spiritual experience and the manifest experience–and anything that creates sensual pleasure has the potential to become a divine exploration. It’s a fine and tricky line. Not all who try it succeed. Not everybody is cut out to walk the left-hand path. But most of the yoga-tantrics I know are doing a pretty damn good job.

The secret to Tantra is the balance. It is understanding the dual nature of things, working with the polarities of life and integrating them into your experience in a healthful way. The tantric’s eye is always on source, and he or she takes every available opportunity to merge duality–through sensual experience of it–into unity. This is where the common usage of “tantra” most often falls into “tantric sex”.

Tantra as practiced sexually is the most obvious merging of polarity/ duality. It is one of the most tangible experiences we ever have of two becoming one. Tantric sex is the act of consciously using this merging of polarity to route divine energy through the shared body. It is not merely a way to have longer, stronger orgasms. It is not simply about the pleasure–although that is the sad direction the practice is heading. Tantra, when applied to the practice of sex, is about recognizing the divine polarity within your partner. They are not merely man or woman. They are tactile representations of god or goddess. The tantric sex practice is about owning the divine polarity, merging the divine polarity and discovering source unity through that experience. It most certainly does yield heightened sexual pleasure. But that really isn’t the whole point. The point is the merging of duality into unity.

Tantra is Tantra. Whether it is experienced in the bedroom, at the table or on the mat, any time we use the senses to bring two into one, we are practicing Tantra. Anytime we consciously explore the relationship we are having with something and use that exploration to find unity with source, we are practicing Tantra. It is a beautiful practice in all of its many faces.

I’d like to reclaim Tantra and put it back into a place where more people are willing to study it. Tantric sex is an amazing practice all on its own, and has a place in this emerging culture, but it cannot be the sole representation of Tantra in our social collective. I’m not alone, I know. Many teachers are trying to pull Tantra out of the bedroom and give it a seat at the table. Which it rightly deserves.

…because there are more of us out there than even we know.

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Make Love

I am slowly coming to believe that we actually make love.

I don’t use that term here as it is commonly known. I’m not at all referring to the sexual act’s gentile moniker. I’m stating that I believe we actually make love. We create it. I do not think that love is something that we seek and find. Nor do I believe that it strikes like lightening. I believe that we, as humans, through our loving actions and attitudes actually manifest love.

And, if my theory is correct, that love that we make goes out into the world and sustains not only our personal existence, but that of everybody we know and do not know. This is because love is an energy and we are energetic beings. We are the batteries and love is the charge….or maybe it is quite the other way around. I’m not sure. But love is what sustains us and we are what creates it.

The energetic need for this type of love is what has so many of us out in the world looking to partner. We are all seeking something that we should actually make at home, from scratch, with ingredients ready to hand. Love is a recipe, nothing more, nothing less. It starts with two people, a cup of trust, a tablespoon of playfulness, a dash of respect, a pinch of vulnerability and an arena where these ingredients can be happily mixed together and baked.

That arena is sex.

Sex is where is all comes together. Sex is where the charge is created; it is the heat that fires up the love and gives it both power and durability. Sex does not have to be tied to romantic love, but it is, unequivocally, tied to the generation of human love. This is why the two are so very often confused.

Sadly, this confusion coupled with millenia of repression has created a real block to the ability of our human sex act to create this powerful, energetic love. We are flailing around like drunken, blind idiots, hurting our partners and ourselves with selfish ignorance. Sex as it is commonly performed has no power and no strength. It is tearing us apart rather than bringing us together.

I can sense that there is something more out there in the world of sex, and I want it. I want it with a deep part of my soul that is just now beginning to shout out for attention. Maybe this is a result of so many years of yoga. Maybe it is a result of the times changing. But I can feel it with every fibre of my being. The time has come for us as a species to stop messing around, stop chasing around, stop screwing around and get aware.

I think we start here, now, by recognizing that we are here to make connections. We are here to make love. Life is about people. And sex is one of the most powerful ways for us to connect with a person. If we do it right, we can get a glimpse into their depths, and in doing so, come to a greater understanding of who we are, where we come from and why we are here. Sex is that powerful. Sex can show you the very heart of nature and creation. And I believe it can fill you up so powerfully that you can walk through all your days with joy.

The very first thing to realize is that sex is an act of creation. It isn’t the end-goal; it is the very beginning. Sex is the vehicle for life. Literally. Human life cannot organically come into this world any other way. This makes the act of sex a god-like event.

Think about that. Every time you have sex, you are opening the door to a creation event. You are participating in the possibility of a soul making the transition to this existence. You and your partner are working in tandem with god (creation, nature, the universe, whatever) to make a person. That’s a serious deal. That’s some seriously powerful energy going on right there. I’m in awe of that thought.

Sex is a function of the divine in action. Amazing.

Now, the fact that you may not be looking to create life doesn’t make the possibility any less potent. The fact that you may actively take steps to prevent that–either through the choice of contraception or the choice of partner gender–doesn’t make the act any less powerful. You have within you the potential to participate in creation. Just because you aren’t actually creating doesn’t make it any less. You have the power of god when you have sex. Why on earth would you want to diminish that, or deny it? Why wouldn’t you reach out for that with both hands and the whole of your heart?

You have the power of god realization–self-realization–in your skin. It is this that makes us separate from the animals. This is what makes our sexual ability and potentiality so shockingly powerful. And this is what we lose when we choose to participate in low grade sex. Simply changing the way we perceive the sexual act can create profound changes in our entire lives. Gone are disappointing mornings, heavy hearts and the sense of being used or using another. Sex as we know it cannot fill the hole of sadness; Rather it only digs a deeper one. Sex as it can be will obliterate that hole forever.

For it will show us, in absolute and certain terms, that we are not alone. We have never been alone. We are love. And we have the power of creation and realization within us. It is that powerful.

But only if we change our sexual minds….not merely our sexual tactics. intention

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Shifting Octave

So, let us all sit back and remember. December. 2012. The end of the world as we know it. Or, if you were more metaphysically inclined, the beginning of the “shift”. It was a time that many heralded as a surge in consciousness and awareness for all of humanity. If the earth didn’t suck in on itself, killing all life as we know it, we were supposed to enter a time of huge transformation. Peace, love and an elevation of human evolution were all supposed to manifest in the world. Snap! Like that.

Fast forward. To now, March 2014. Ummmm…..yeah. I think that deserves a big, fat, what the fuck??

Once again, the woo-woo contingent stirs up the pot. And, once again, the woo-woo contingent doesn’t put any f’n ingredients in the damn thing. This happens all the time, and frankly it makes me nuts. Because there is real validity to the “shift”. There are all kinds of things happening both out there and in here. And had we all had a real conversation about the damn thing instead of just talking around it, we might be further along.

I, myself, am a card-carrying member of the woo-woo contingent. So I do have room to talk. I am also a certified member of the Spock Association, so I’m a big fan of logic and reason, too. So I like to think that I can really talk. Sadly, it took me all this time to figure out what exactly we were all talking about. I had to sort through a lot a babble in the community and a ton of babble in my own head. And then I had to take it to the mat and sit with it.

On one level, “The Shift” as it was called was nothing more than the threshold of the new Age. And the new age is nothing more than a simple astrological shift. This is when the Vernal Equinox passes from the constellation of Pisces into the constellation of Aquarius. Astrologers cannot agree when precisely this is supposed to happen. It could be any time between December 2012 to August 2150. So….yeah, let’s not rush things, folks. Or throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is still a lot of time for the shift to happen. Right?

On an energetic-psychic-psychological level, this transition represents the human species’ transition from the fish to the water-bearer. From Christ to Self. (Note that. Self. As in Supreme Conscious Self not the me-me-me ego self). We are moving from the space of being told about God to being God. And this means that we have to clean up a ton of garbage within ourselves both individually and as a species. At this point, I’m pretty f’n glad we didn’t all just “shift” like the flip of a switch. This is the kind of process that takes time. That level of psycho-spiritual garbage needs to be processed, cleaned and transmuted. It may take us the full 150 years we have left just to clean it up.

The bigger question becomes, what happens then?

No one can answer that–neither the woo-woos or the Spocks. We simply don’t know. I have heard theories that vary as radically from, “we all abandon physical form and live as light beings” to “nothing”. That’s a pretty extreme difference. I, myself, think it lands somewhere in the middle, and we move into an age of more harmonious existence. And here is how I think that might happen:

Accept the premise that we are all, in fact, vibrational beings and that beyond our physical form, we embody an energetic frequency. This frequency has been noted by yogis, sages, magicians and physicists throughout the ages. Within our physical form, we have several energetic nexus that have been called chakras. Commonly, we refer to the eight (and a half) major centers, however there are hundreds of these centers both in the body and beyond the body extending well into our magnetic fields. Think of these centers as a ladder, and we climb said ladder in order to realize God-consciousness. Each center has a physical, mental, sociological, psychological and spiritual manifestation. These are (for lack of a better term) issues that we have to resolve within ourselves in order to become liberated from human suffering.

This is the full sum reason why yoga has been practiced for ages. Period.

The ladder we are working with now looks like this:

(And, yes, this is much simplified)
8. Magnetic field/ Aura–located 6-8 inches over the crown
protection, god connection, personal radiance,
7. Crown–located on the crown of the head
god connection, personal projection
6. Third Eye–located on the center of the brow
seeing and understanding Truth, breaking the illusion of manifest being
5. Communication–located in the throat
aligns personal will to God will, purifies, speaks personal truth
4.5 High Heart–located mid-chest between heart and throat
transmutes personal love to Divine love
4. Heart–located in the center of the chest
center of love and transformation, from me to we, the element Air
3. Solar/ Navel–located on the solar plexus
center of personal ego, will and power, the element Fire
2. Sacral–located near the sacrum-lower abdomen
sexual center, emotional center, the element Water
1. Root–located between pubis and tailbone
grounding center, personal security and stability, the element Earth

So. If the name of the game is to elevate–either as yogis seeking to travel up the chakra ladder towards realization, or as a species shifting up towards a more evolved realization of God Consciousness–then logic dictates that the shift of the age has something to do with rising up. Right? And, if we exist as beings of frequency, wouldn’t logic also dictate that said shift is really just a shift of octave? That somehow, the energetic signatures of our chakra system must also evolve so that we can transform and function as these “new beings”? Furthermore, if the shift is–as the mystics claim–to come to a place of unity with God and one another, then our new root must become the “we” center, or the heart.

Et, voila. The shift on a tangible level. By my calculations, the new ladder will look like this:

1. Heart–the source of our connection to one another and the first step towards understanding our nature as God. This is where we ground.
2. High Heart–the center of Divine sexual union, where the male-female duality unites in bliss
3.Throat–where we express divine will, source of manifestation
4. Brow–where we see the truth of union with all beings and all things
5. Crown–where we are purified and connected to source consciousness
6. Aura–where we radiate this truth to others, shattering the illusion of separateness.

Now we need to move into higher chakra centers not usually studied by the casual student (too bad…) in order to complete the ladder. I don’t have time to get into them here, but the chakra system extends as high as twelve centers that lead us into understandings and assimilation of our past lives, karmic purposes, and the ability to travel beyond time and space. These are advanced-level human practices that yogis throughout the ages have worked and studied. We call them siddhis, and they are a simple birth-right of every living being. They exist for us right now.

But we have to want them. We have to accept them. And we have to abandon many of the lower vibrational frequencies in order to use them. That is rather a lot of work, and I believe it is a process that the human race is beginning to undertake. This doesn’t at all mean that we are going to leave our bodies, or become super-humans in any sort of super-hero kind of way. We will, however, become a very different type of human being. Hopefully, we will do away with the “you’re different than me so I must kill you,” way of thinking. Hopefully, we will really feel on a very visceral level that what you do to another is done to you. Hopefully, we will finally start to work together.

Furthermore, we are going to have to abandon our lower three centers and give them back to Mother Earth. We are going to have to learn how to ground our shit without the use of earth, water or fire. This means that when we are suffering we can no longer turn to food, alcohol or temper. This also means that we will be TOTALLY reliant–in a Superconscious way–on the health of the Earth in a way that we have disconnected from. I’m not suggesting a return to tribalism, but we will have to re-evaluate how and what we eat, how we use our water, and our power (fire). We will have to acknowledge that our Earth is our foundation, and without her spirit, we cannot rise to the heights of ours.

Like I said, this is the time of cleaning and clearing. This transition that so many people have alluded to is beginning to happen. I see it all around. But it is going to take time, and it is going to take real pioneers of spirit. Every single one of you reading this has the potential to effect the revolution/ evolution simply by making one or two committed changes in the way you think, practice and behave. Let your heart be your ground, and bounce every reaction off of it. See then, if your anger, frustration, hated or jealousy really has a place. When you love your mate, love them as if they are Gods and Goddesses themselves–because they are. Then we may see the male-female wound healed for everyone. When you consume, do so with consciousness, asking with every purchase, “How does this affect the Mother?”

And finally: For one minute every day–just one–tell yourself, “Me and God are one.”

Me and God are one. That’s the heart of the shift.

Now go and Make It So.

 

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Reflections of Projection

There came a point recently where I finally stood up and decided not to take anymore. Not a word. Not a breath. Not an instant longer would I deal with what had become a soul crushing marsh of violently warped projection.

 For many months–nigh on a year–I had sat silently and listened to another’s perceptions of me. I heard things that rang so very false, and saw things laid upon me that had nothing to do with who I am. But for a number of reasons, I did not rebel. I rejected, but never rebelled. Little did I realize that even though I knew, on a mental and spiritual level, that those words and projections were not me, way down low, on an emotional-survival level, I accepted the reflections I saw in that warped mirror. They stuck.

Even worse, those sly projections became beliefs. They cast me as either too much or too little. Too this or not enough of that. Dirty, wrong, warped. Suddenly I am questioning everything I know to be true in my heart, trying to find some way to reconcile these two conflicting perceptions. Every moment of self-doubt–doled out from the hands of another– became potholes in my road to self-acceptance.

 You must believe that when I finally put that burden down, and sat in the rutted road with my head between  my knees, that I cried. I cried for it all, the time, the pain, the confusion, the anger the Holy Jesus, WHY??!Why would anybody do this me?

 And then a funny thing happened. I realized that after a while, I wasn’t just crying for me. I was quite clearly weeping for us. For women. For the wound that we carry and have carried for ages. It was very deep, and very heavy. It carried in its depths a howling pain that most of us have shoved so far under water that we almost don’t even remember it is there. It is the monster under the bed. It is the evil in the closet. It is the thing we don’t look at, because, if we did¸ the Amazon within us could no longer be contained. I believe, that if we all really took a moment to feel what it is that is done to us in the form of projection and perception, we would all become a version of Kali-ma. I felt it. And it  took me to my knees. 

I realized at that moment that I had spent so many of my years looking in mirrors. I had used people to reflect back to me who and what I was. And our culture perpetrates this. We are given mirrors all the time–men, too– of who and what we should be. But most of the time, we never stop and look behind the mirror. Who is holding it? Why are they holding it? What is their motivation and how do they benefit from it? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain….

 Never once did we as women stop and think that the fashion industry is run mostly by homosexual men. They put up an ideal of the ‘fashionable woman’–that is shaped like a young man. Of course they would. They are attracted to men. That is the mirror they put up, and we, as healthfully shaped women are suddenly “too fat”. Every day we pick ourselves apart trying to reconcile that reflection with our own truth.

Never once as women did we stop and think that one of Madison Avenue/ Hollywood’s main demographic is teenage boys. What do boys like? Boobs. So they put up an ideal of the ‘sexy woman’–that is disproportionately big breasted. Of course they would. The mirror is then put up, and we, as diversely shaped women are suddenly “too small”. Every day we try and reconcile ourselves with that image–and the previous one as well. Now we are too fat AND too small.

 This happens everywhere. And it has been happening over time. So you don’t only have your current mirrors to deal with, you have the ones left over from your mother’s generation (think Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, the newly empowered woman)–you’re supposed to embody all of that, too. But wait. You still have mirrors left over from your grandmother’s generation (think June Cleaver, Donna Reed, the perfect submissive woman)–you’re supposed to embody that, too. So everywhere you look, you are being blasted with contradictory ideals that are somehow being reconciled into one cultural myth.

Today’s woman is too fat, too small, not dominant enough, not submissive enough….and, hey, why the hell not, let’s go ahead and throw the beauty industry in there as well, now we all smell bad, have bad skin, etc. Just. Fuck.

 It would be great if we could simply take those big mirrors down. And I understand that as a culture, many of us are trying. But that simple action will fail to solve the problem because, as stated earlier, these kinds of subtle projections sink in. They take root on a very subconscious level. So all of these reflections have been absorbed and integrated by everyone around you. Men and women alike. And guess what? When others hold up their mirrors to reflect you, those vibrations are embedded way down low, beneath whatever subconscious junk the individual already owns from dealing with their own reality-reflection. This amazing level of crap is being refracted on angles upon angles until you are standing in a goddamned fun house of mirrors.

 And it ain’t so much fun. That’s for sure.

 Just a few days ago I stopped. I stopped trying to make sense of whatever was coming out of that mirror because I finally realized that it was warped. They all are. Even mine. I understand that I don’t need a reflection to validate my existence, or to cement my understanding of my purpose. I accept now that everybody is living in their own reality tunnel, and they can only see what their reality allows them to see. That doesn’t make my reality any less, any worse, any more or any better. It just is. You are who YOU believe you are. You are who YOU find in meditation. You are unique and precious and you are the conscious light of a living God. So embody that no matter what anybody else tries to tell you or show you. What they experience of you is their responsibility, not yours.

 Please repeat after me: I am the Grace of God. I am the Grace of God. I am the Grace of God.

 Stop looking outside of that for validation. You. Are. Enough.

Period.

 

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The Map is the Terrain

I’m going to be quite frank about my feelings in a way that I haven’t before. I’m also going to go back on some very fundamental beliefs that I held when I was a fresh yoga teacher, just out in the world. I was very vocal back then about what I thought yoga was. And while at that time, and in that place, and within that reality, what I said about yoga was true, in this time, place and reality, it will not stand.

 I used to say that yoga was a physical practice that will enhance your life in every way. I used to say that if you felt better you would be better. I used to say that you could ignore the deeper spiritual practices–and just do the asana–and the benefits of them will come to you anyway.

 I wasn’t wrong–back then. But things are different now. The world is different. And the practice of yoga is different. It has become the worst, most extreme example of what I once believed it was. As 98% of us practice it today, yoga is a farce of what it should be and is now beginning to cause more harm than good.

 That’s hard to hear; I understand. But bear me out.

 At its most fundamental core, yoga is a practice of using the physical to realize the divine. When I say “divine”, I don’t mean some deific out in the ether to whom you pray. I mean the true nature of yourself, that piece of universal (“divine”) spirit that has aspected into the separate being that you are now. That core piece of you–the true you–has immense scope and power. It holds reality in its hand, and can wield that knowledge to advance the knowledge of the whole.

 However, when we came here and took on the burden-blessing of this body, we covered that understanding in layers of maya –illusion–that help us to function in this limited physical scope. We need that illusion to interact with others who have done the same. We need to understand our separateness in order to remain sane in this aspect of physicality. But we also need to understand that we should understand that.

 In other words, we need the veil. But we also need  to know that we wear the veil and in doing so, we experience certain consequences of that garb.

 Enter yoga. In its purest form, it is a practice of using this physical body as a map to reach the true terrain of being, or our divine nature.  This is done through subtle practices that change the energetic signature of the physical body so that it is easier for us to see the veil, wear the veil with awareness and ultimately remove the veil to know ourselves as god.

 So we have this map–the body–and we have the destination–divine nature. And we are using our physical map to try and understand the terrain. The problem is that our map is completely miswired. From a very young age, our parents, our families, and our culture has written the map in a certain way that keeps you locked within the physical circuit so that you will continue to serve the culture. This is not a bad thing for tribal survival. This is a terrible thing for personal evolution.

 Your nervous system, your endocrine system, your energetic systems, your very core has all been programmed from outside of you. Your reactions to life events can all be traced back to the belief systems that were imprinted upon you. You got handed a map and you have been walking that map everyday of your life looking for the destination. Probably without really knowing on a conscious level what it is you were looking for.

 As it stands, that map won’t ever get you there. That map serves your tribe, and if that is what you want, sat nam , wahe guru, go for it. But if you want to get to the destination of divine realization, you are going to have to re-write that map. You have to make the map reflect the terrain so that you can actually get there.

 This, my friends, is yoga.

 Practicing yoga is about refining your systems to support this realization. Your nervous system must be ready to handle this kind of energy. The practice of slow, sustained asana and focused pranayama helps to refine this system. Fast yoga, power yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga (as I am currently seeing them taught) actually warps this process, tuning the nervous system to accept adrenaline-inducing transition as the norm. Couple this with our outside lives which are changing and moving at a brutal pace, and you can see that we are hard-wiring our map to lead us back to cultural programming, not away from it.

 Our map stays the same.

 Your mental systems must be ready to accept the volume of information that will come when you reach realization. Given that your mental state is so deeply linked with your emotional state, and the emotional state is so deeply liked with the hormonal state, the yogi must bring his endocrine system under control. Advanced pranayamas, the practice of mudras and silent meditation are the techniques that must be practiced to tame this beast and put reins on it so that we are not diverted by fleeting, false information. But again, much of the popular yoga being taught (with no pranayama, no mudra, no meditation) actually re-inforces our self-soothing, self-satisfying, emotionally-justified pathways (It feels good, so it must be good…) so that we continue to run around in our own mental-emotional feedback loops.

 Our map stays the same.

 Most importantly, we must clean up our energetic bodies so that they are all functioning optimally. We must be able to move through all of our own energetic circuits with conscious will, choosing which action-reaction will bring us closer to our goal (physical or metaphysical). If we do not do this, if we are not even aware of this, our circuits function on auto-pilot. They live us; we do not live us. The chakras, the 10 bodies of Kundalini, the 5 bodies of Hatha, the Neurogenic circuitry must all be understood and mastered so that we experience freedom from the map we have been given. Most yoga classes don’t bother–how can they? The masses have come to expect a good workout, a little stretch and a little ‘bliss’. Asking someone to sit down, shut up and shovel through their shit using tools that can’t be seen by the physical eye–and goes against the current cultural map–is hard. Many instructors (forgive me) simply aren’t equipped.

 And, therefore, the  map stays the same.

 Maybe most people out there are okay with that. I’m not. The practice of yoga is a practice of mastery in every way shape and form. If you master the map, if you write it as you see it in the terrain of source, you are blown open. You are truly powerful in ways that our common understanding of the word can’t quite express.

 The practice of yoga is the practice of transformation. It is the sorcerer’s stone. It is not easy, cool, or popular. It can’t be learned in 200 hours and it doesn’t belong in a gym. I still encourage people to not only do yoga but to do as much yoga as you can. But now I temper that with a bit more caution.

 Do good yoga. Do spiritually hard yoga. Find a teacher who knows about all of the subtle aspects of the practice and is willing to share them with you. Please, please, please….

 ….change the map.

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Yoga Rebel

Yoga Rebel

 

I’ve decided to become a yoga rebel.

 That’s right, you heard me. A yoga rebel.

 What does that mean, you ask?

 It means that I no longer give a flying fart about what is cool. I’m so sick of yoga cool that I want to just set my hair on fire and go running through all the yoga studios I can find screaming, “Stop, stop, stop!” Please stop turning a practice I spent years championing into a damn circus.

 Sadly (or perhaps wisely) I cannot actually set my hair on fire and expect any sort of positive outcome. Nor can I tell people what they should and shouldn’t do. Yoga has become a freight train of commercialism, and little old me can’t really do much about that. No matter how loud I shout, that train probably isn’t going to stop any time soon. So I can choose to get off.

 And then I can turn guerilla. I think there might be real freedom in that.

 The first thing I am going to do is turn on the air conditioning. Yep. I’m gonna cool that room off. Because its Florida. And it’s hot. And I don’t like being sweaty. I don’t need to walk out of my yoga practice feeling like every single drop of my essence has been left on the floor. That’s what CrossFit is for. So I’m going to set the thermostat at a comfy 77 degrees, because, that’s right, I’m a yoga rebel.

 The second thing I am going to do is buy a pair of really loose fitting, un-labeled, comfortable pants. I’m going to wear them with a tank top that cost me $6 for a pack of 3 and makes me look like I should be shoveling manure on a farm. I’m going to enjoy having the breeze between my thighs while I practice and not constantly worrying about the ‘muffin top’ pinch around my waistband. Then I’m going to take the $70 I saved to the bank and do the yoga rebel happy dance.

 Then I think I might actually spend an hour chanting and doing breathing exercises that make me look ridiculous but actually comprise a HUGE portion of a traditional yoga practice. I may sit on my large-pant be-decked ass the entire time and not do one single asana. Not. One. I will eschew Sun A and scoff in the face of Crow-Chaturanga jumpback. I will just sit because yoga rebels like to live dangerously, you know.

 

And I will never, ever, ever again participate in a class that is a this or that “fusion”. Square dance yoga,  AC/DC yoga, Yoga with any kind of non-yoga lecture, yoga on a rooftop in the middle of a hurricane so we can capture the essence of wind energy….just count me out. I’m going to go do some yoga. The quiet kind. The breathing kind. The mindful kind. The yoga that I knew before somebody turned it into a Hollywood Star. I’m looking for Norma jean, thanks, I don’t recognize this Marilyn person you are showing me.

 I’m a yoga rebel. And my truest act of rebellion is continuing to do yoga as I was taught by tradition. The truest act of yoga rebellion is to do the practice in silence and stillness, to confront the demons within through perseverance and focus, and to not let anybody convince me that I need anything other than that to be a yogi. I am my own guru and I open to my own light.

 I’m full of enough noise, don’t you see? I don’t need the yoga train to add to that. I have enough insecurities and obligations; I don’t need the yoga machine to give me more. I need yoga. That’s all. That’s enough.

 So I’ll be over here. Sitting in silent and perfect rebellion. You’re always welcome to join me.

“Yogis were flexible people on the move, people who could not easily be nailed down and fixated into the commercial circuit. Even if silenced by prohibition, immobilized by property rights and struck down by military power, hatha yoga remained rebellious. Practicing yoga postures was a way to spit in the face of cultural, economic, militant and moral oppression.”

—Birgitte Gorm Hensen

 

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Beauty

Did you know that in Renaissance Europe women of “a certain age” were coveted as mistresses? And that in Ancient India, women past the age of 30 were considered in full bloom?  Or that in Rome (as in most of the historic world) after a certain number of years, wives held as much power (quietly, for sure) as their husbands?

What do all of these women have in common? They are older. Yes, older. Past the prime blush of youth and beauty. But still considered as beautiful, sexy, and erotic as their younger counterparts if not more so. And this was true in the ages long before any sort of plastic surgery existed. In these times a woman was beautiful for being a woman and while, yes, each age had a standard of beauty, it was not simply relegated to age.

Today, young women hold the trump when it comes to conventional beauty. I have beef with that. Everywhere I look, I see women barely old enough to know what life, love and sex are about being held up to me  as an example of how I should look, or worse yet, be. Seriously. Screw that.

I’m older. I have fine lines around my eyes and a little pooch on my belly that will never go away. Never ever, no matter how tight the abs beneath it are. I have dimples on my ass and breasts that won’t point north ever, ever again. But, hot damn, I am gorgeous. And I am gorgeous because I am a woman.

I have borne a child and nursed her to growth. Sayonara, tight belly and breasts. I have laughed until my sides ache and my eyes water, often and with great joy. Adios, wrinkle free face. I have lazed beneath the sun, felt the sand between my toes and the pleasure of a fish on my hook more times than I can count. Hello, chest creases, nice to see you. I’m a woman of a certain age, and I have lived my life and learned how to embrace my soul. I believe in the power of connection. I believe in helping people. I believe in loving until you are so vulnerable that naked is easy. I believe that women have the power to change the world by embracing what it means to be a woman, and abandoning all the external horse shit that is demeaning us slowly.

I don’t think it matters if your eyelashes are long and full if you cannot look someone in the eyes and see who they are. I don’t think it matters if you have wrinkle free skin if you can’t laugh with your whole face, your whole being, and share that infectious joy with others. I surely don’t think it matters if you have tight, perky boobs if you don’t know what they are really there for.

Be a woman. Be strong. Be loving. Be noble. Your function is to grow life and to create an environment in which that life (and the partner connected to it) can flourish. This isn’t an easy task. It is battle at its very finest. It is a task in which beauty has very little function. Flawless skin and a dimple-free butt aren’t going to serve you. Your grace will serve you. Your wisdom will serve you. Your fearlessness will serve you.

I didn’t learn about any of these things until I was way past the flush of youth. I didn’t gain any sort of wisdom until I surrendered my body over to time, and to the process of life. In my youth I worried overmuch about what others thought, what I should or should not be doing, where I wanted to go and what kind of mark I wanted to leave on the world. I did not realize until much later in my life that all of these things were externally focused and did nothing more than spin me around. I was very pretty when I was young. But I didn’t—couldn’t—hold my space as a woman and, consequently, I was ineffective. I didn’t serve. I didn’t even know what that meant. I surely do now.

I wouldn’t trade that younger body for my older wisdom. I won’t chase conventional beauty unless it serves the purpose of grace. I won’t iron out my wrinkles with chemicals; I won’t inflate my floppy boobies with silicone; I won’t wax every single hair off of my body.  And it pisses me off that everywhere I look I am being told that that is what I need to do in order to be beautiful. And, heaven forbid, if I’m not just that right kind of beautiful I have no hope of attracting a man. It pisses me off even more that a generation of men are being told that this is what they should be looking for. This kind of thinking leaves humanity on the surface of everything, and that’s a damn shame.

Beauty is as beauty does. And if we don’t teach that to our children, they will suffer. Beauty is in forging connection, accepting another person for who they are exactly as they are. Beauty is in seeing and believing and trusting and trying. Beauty is not the sole providence of the young. How could it be? They don’t know enough yet for the fullest beauty of experience to radiate.

As women, we need to step back and re-evaluate what we are willing to accept and what we are willing to perpetuate. We need to realize our true role as life givers and life sustainers and recognize that this is what makes us beautiful. Stop, stop, stop believing that you aren’t pretty enough to have the love that you need. And if somebody makes you feel that way, or judges you on what is only skin deep, then they are a moron and not worth your time. Furthermore, if they can’t hang with your depth, or your power, then they don’t have enough of their own and it’s not your problem.

Root in your own grace anyway. Be a woman. Fully and magnificently. The rest will follow if you lead the way.

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Follow Your Heart

So there I am. Thirty minutes into a pleasant Flow class and we are finally settling into a happy pigeon pose, a hip-opening, thigh-lengthening, ujjayi-loving, chest-to-the-sky pigeon pose and I am in bliss. Truly, I think, I could not be more content than I am at this moment.

 Then he does it. He went and did it in that silky smooth yoga instructor voice, enthusiastically preaching, “Now, open your hearts!” With that one phrase, the moment for me is lost and I have a wild flash of hurtling my yoga block at his head. The shadow of shame for that quick, angry judgment haunts me through the rest of my practice.

And there I am again. Thirty minutes into a grueling Power Flow, and I am hot, sweaty, tired and struggling. The man next to me is sweating on my mat and I cannot get my hands to stay in place for my Down Dog. But I am there, I am holding on, I am challenging my threshold and for the moment I love it.

Then she does it. She went and did it in that motivational speaker, high-on-life, happy happy joy sing song. “Now open your hearts! Be open to life!” I remember wishing she would walk my way so that when I flipped my dog I could kick her. Again, that hit of irrational anger ruins the practice for me from that moment on.

Quite obviously there is an issue that needs to be addressed. I wondered for a good long while what it was about my heart center that projected such fierce negativity to this harmless phrase. I meditated on it. I talked with teachers about it. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t me—for a change—it was them. It was the fact that that simple phrase had no depth. It had no meaning. It was a cookie-cutter line from the script of American yogi. And that’s why I was getting so darned mad.

 

If opening the heart was as easy as y’all make it sound–if I could just pop it open like a soda can–wouldn’t it already be that way? Quite obviously it isn’t, and it isn’t all that simple. So how about instead of just telling me to do it, you actually direct me in how? That would be great, thanks.

 

I have such a hard time with the yoga script. I think this is because it alludes. It tells you to do all of these wonderful things without actually telling you how to get it done. Now, if you sit down and study the writings of the masters, you will find actual directions. But most of us who take our teachings from the asana instructors we frequent will only ever get the yoga fat floating on the top of the pot. “Open your heart.” “Honor yourself for showing up to your mat.” And, my personal favourite, the absolute worst American yogi-ism….”follow your bliss.”

 

Gawd. Could we get any more shallow? Can we reduce an honest-to-god, soul-cleaning, ego-rattling practice any further? Why don’t we just make little magic yoga spirit cookies while we are at it? You could market the heck outta those suckers.

 

Look, here’s the deal and here’s my beef. In my opinion, (note that, y’all, please, in my opinion) yoga is a sacred science. It is a lot of work. It asks you to confront your deepest layers of crap and to sort them out so that you can finally see the truth. If you do this–and it’s really, really, really hard work that takes a lot of mental and spiritual discipline–you will begin to understand the interconnected nature of all beings. This process is multi-layered. And it doesn’t start with the heart. It starts with the mind. It starts with the ego, and with understanding the role that your mind and ego play.

 

The heart chakra is a profound center, and it is neither open nor closed. It exists and it can be blocked or unblocked by our energetic experiences. It is the single hardest chakra to open (unless you are a very special individual; hello Matthew, I mean you). You can’t do it in a pigeon pose. It will not be found in a downward facing dog. Opening your heart means to come to a place of unconditional love for all beings, all the time. This is not part of your asana practice. Your asana practice will prepare you to sit quietly so that you can begin to dig for that understanding, but it isn’t the end. It is barely the beginning.

 

The heart center is the center of transformation. It is where you begin to feel how connected you are. It is beautiful and epic and cosmic and powerful and it is the center of bliss. But it is like a wild stallion. It must be managed by the gifts of your disciplined mind. Most of us throughout the course of our entire lives will not be able to understand or experience the power of the heart. We might get flashes, or glimpses of an understanding. We might feel it for a while and then lock it down because it is simply too much to feel in this difficult world. Having an open heart is something you need to be prepared for; it needs a mental discipline.

 

This is why the Yoga Sutras begin with disciplining the mind.

 

The heart is the heart and it will always be the heart no matter how far down the yogic path we travel. It is the seat of our emotion. And our emotions are as wild as the wind. To simply open the heart and to follow it wherever it goes is to guarantee yourself a life of crazy ups and downs. The emotional heart is a not something you want to pursue lightly. It isn’t a line tossed away during a yoga pose.

 

Good lord, if I were to simply follow my heart, I’d be sitting on the front porch of a man that I love, begging to be let in. Again. Even though I thoroughly understand he is a bad, bad idea for me. But the heart wants what the heart wants. It is a creature of love; That is its sacred duty.  I love. And I should love. It’s perfect to love and to share love. But once you reach that point, there is more. Only the disciplined mind can direct the flow of that emotion to a higher understanding, and a higher purpose.

 

Think about it. How many times have you followed your heart blindly and walked into a disaster? Odds are, your mind and your gut knew that it was a bad course. We ought not simply “open the heart” or “follow the heart”; That’s some damn bad advice. We should take our heart into consideration, apply our disciplined mind, and try to evolve.

 

The yoga script is doing a disservice to the profound nature of the heart and its complex relationship to the intuition and the mind. The heart does not exist independently of the system. Period. So, please, think before you speak, yoga teachers! You have been given a profound duty!  Following the heart (or your bliss) might feel good, but that isn’t what yoga is about.

 

It can lead you there. But it doesn’t start there….and that’s all I have to say about that.

 

“The heart is an emotional mind, and emotions are triggered by desires. When we say, “I have to listen to my heart and do whatever the heart says,” we can very easily misguide ourselves because the language of the heart we are listening to is polluted by desires. But if the mind is purified and devotion and dispassion are attained, then the heart tells the truth.

 

The mind doesn’t want any discipline; it always makes excuses to avoid it. So most people say, “I have to listen to my heart,” and they stop their efforts to purify their minds. In this way they trick  themselves and can’t progress in their spiritual life.” –Baba Hari Dass

 

 

 

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Personality of the Pose

Personality of a pose

 

As a student, I relish the time I am given to sit still in a pose and let it settle. I don’t like flying through a thousand vinyasas; I like to move cleanly and deliberately. I like to feel my body breathe into the movement, and then simmer into the pose. This to me is the heart of the opportunity that yoga provides: Silence and stillness and movement and time to listen to what the body is saying.

As a teacher, I love feeling a room full of people finding that. I love to see a group of people holding their pose and discovering all the little things of which they can let go. Mental, emotional, physical, energetic, as a teacher, you can feel all of these tiny adjustments being made. It is beautiful. As is each and every single representation of the exact same pose.

Yoga poses are like snowflakes (for lack of a less corny phrase). A dear friend of mine does what would be considered a horrible Warrior 2. His front shoulder is always up and he shoots his head forward towards it. Another longtime student of mine has a huge sway in her lower back in exactly the same pose. My best girlfriend never, ever, ever manages to get her back knee decently straight. Some teachers would adjust the hell out of these people in an effort to get them into the “proper” Virabhadrasana 2. Most yoga publications would agree.

I’m not that teacher…and here is why. I’ve encouraged that front shoulder down and it simply isn’t going anywhere. I’ve tucked that tailbone under and it blows out the rest of her pose. I’ve tried to straighten that back knee and it just doesn’t fly. So I’m not going to manhandle my way through somebody’s experience just so that they can find the “perfect” pose.

They’re already there.

Upon closer inspection, I have come to realize that these imperfect poses not only honour the bodies they are wearing, they honour the personality of the soul within that body. Head forward, shoulder up pretty much describes how my friend fights his way through life. His warrior pose is showing me how he handles being a warrior—bull headed, slightly defensive. That sway in the lower back shows the grace with which this woman handles her battles. And, now that I think about it, my crooked knee bud never fights head on. She always comes at you from the side. So there you go.

There are many arguments made about the way poses should be done. One comes from the position of anatomy, another from the angle of energy. We do certain poses certain ways so that we don’t get hurt, and so that the flow of energy can be unimpeded. I try to respect that by offering the fundamentals, or the foundations of each pose. But I leave it there and just keep an eye out for glaring injuries waiting to happen. After many years of watching bodies, I have to say that each body moves differently, carries itself in its own way, and expresses itself uniquely. Who am I to say that that raised shoulder isn’t allowing the energy to flow freely? Or that the swayed back isn’t helping the second chakra to open up? And if me letting it be allows them some time to simply be…well…I’m good with that.

Your pose is your pose. And the quest for perfection on your mat is a waste of your time and mental energy. It’s a magic carpet, folks, just taking you out for a ride. So you have the choice. Take the ride? Or be that person struggling with the map?

I say keep it simple. Listen to your own body and be with each pose as it unfolds. Find the foundation and let the rest roll out as it needs to. Just express yourself with your poses and let the breath be your guide.

The rest of it is just ego. Sat nam.

 

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