Karma

 

“The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.” ~ Hafiz

Sri Yogi Hari handing out fresh coconut

Karma ~ In Hinduism and Buddhism: the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.

 

Karma yoga ~ In Hinduism: the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection.

 

We often talk about karma with a half-hearted sense of understanding, using it silently, on a wish of revenge for an unsuspecting enemy. Or perhaps, as a way to find within ourselves, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of achievement that we are good or saintly. That we did good, therefore we will receive good in return.

 

There is nothing wrong with doing good in the world. Ever. I would far rather someone did something good for the greater universe so they would feel better within themselves, than if they didn’t do anything at all.

 

However, how many times can you honestly say you gave selflessly, without expectation and demand?

 

The karma yogi makes all actions an offering to a higher being, the higher intellect, with no thought of personal gain. Through serving others one is selflessly serving the universe, selflessly serving the divine.

 

The path of Karma Yoga means just this and follows the cosmic laws of cause and effect *. The Rishis, Hindu saints or seers, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishi) conducted thorough investigations into the nature of reality and universe and discovered three laws:

 

  • There is no effect without a cause
  • The effect is the cause in a different form, like steam is another form of water
  • If you remove the cause from the effect, nothing remains

 

The Bhagavad Gita (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita ) itself gives summary of the karma yoga process. The Gita (the most famous episode from the Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata) refers to a time when Sri Krishna, friend and charioteer to Prince Arjuna, teaches the nature of sacrifice, the nature of action, the means to liberation and the relationship of human beings to the universe.

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Mother Theresa and Mahatma Ghandi are both examples of karma yogi practitioners. Giving selflessly, of time, material wealth and personal service, so that others may benefit from their generosity and humanity. Sacrificing for others, and for the greater universe as a whole.

 

My own personal karma yoga has taken form under the guise of this very blog. It is certainly nothing like the humanitarian work of those I’ve just mentioned, but it is within my means and is a free resource available to anyone with internet connection. My hope is that it can and will be used for reference and guidance by others in times of need.

 

Blogs are started by people all over the world for many different reasons. I do not wish to be famous or make a ridiculous amount of money (although any abundance of material wealth the universe decides to gift me is always welcome on my yogi’s wage), I am not a showman or circus performer and despite my love of debate and philosophical discussion, I don’t write this just to have my voice heard.

 

(Although I will add as a side note here; I blame my rising sun, Leo, and my Chinese sign of the Monkey, for any fool hardy, extroverted attempts at showmanship that you may have witnessed in the past, or which may appear in future writings…)

 

Here’s where I get all yogi-cliché’ and tell you something you have probably heard many times before from others, but it is one of the most truthful things to have ever fallen out of my mouth and into the form we know commonly, as words , words which hold deep meaning.

 

Yoga saved my life.

 

I have been practicing for the better part of 15 or so years, however, it wasn’t until my marriage broke, and I flew the country coop to flip my life upside down, inside out and around a many number of times, that my mental state really started to crack.

 

When I left, I was strong. So strong. I maintained this strength, despite feeling otherwise, for quite some time.

 

That’s what is expected when you’re the one who ends something that looks, by all appearances to be the pinnacle of happiness. You made the call, so you bear the brunt of the decision. Let’s not even go into why the decision was made, it’s completely irrelevant to the story. However, you should know, that the man in question is one of the most loving, beautiful, and generous persons I have ever had in my life, and I am so grateful for our time together.

 

And so, here I was. Still strong. Still, by all appearances, smiling widely and loving life, exploring, seeking, experiencing. Without giving you my whole life spiel (or at least the last 8 years, which would still fill an entire book with room for a sequel – did anyone say Eat, Pray, Love?!), everything that had happened, which I clearly hadn’t addressed emotionally, encouraged my yoga practice to deepen. A lot.

 

I remember when I first went THERE. Yogi’s – You know it, that  d e e p  place you’ve been avoiding, pushing to the side, completely ignoring. Holy crap, I burst into loud, sobbing tears in the middle of Savasana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavasana) during a packed class in Central London.

 

It was humiliating, but I couldn’t stop. I was finally acknowledging my worth and my existence, I had actually started to forgive myself. I was experiencing self-compassion. That is the power of yoga.

 

Flashback a year earlier, I had completely broken. I honestly, wanted to die. I had to talk myself out of some pretty hairy thoughts, and that was damn hard. I was experiencing self-hatred. That is the power of ego.

 

Yes, I’m fully aware of the irony here. Writing a post about selflessness and admitting that I have experienced absolute selfishness is hard. But, it is the truth. And anyone who has been through, or even still going through, depression and thoughts of suicide will know fully well how difficult a task it is to claw your way back out of that dark hole.

 

I was lucky. The mental warrior within knew it could handle what was to come, the mental warrior within wanted me to love myself, to love others. To show true compassion and courage, not with ego, but with love, with life.

 

The emotional release you get from your physical practice is powerful. It is most definitely  work, and still in progress, but slowly, you start to peel away the layers, until all that is left, is you. Stark, naked, bare and fully exposed, just as you are. No mask, no cloak, no ego. Your essence, your soul, complete love.

 

And wow, the level of love and compassion I have for myself and others now is so empowering and beautiful, all I want to do is share it. And the best thing is, it’s growing every single day. Some days are still harder than others, but it lessens as time moves on, and you learn to accept who you are completely.

 

The reason I am so submerged through yoga, with yoga; in fact, the whole reason I feel so compelled to write about yoga, teach yoga and still practice yoga, is because of my experience/s, I really believe it is the way towards universal harmony and acceptance, and I want others to feel what I feel now.

 

To smile widely and really mean it, to break through the mental barriers that have held us captive for far too long, united through yoga, through life, through living, and connected through love.

 

This is my Karma Yoga. This is why I write livelovegiveyoga.com.

 

I earn money through teaching, yes, I still have to live in this world, pay rent and bills like everyone else. But through my blog, through the love of yoga, it is without expectation and with absolute gratitude to this universe, for receiving the gift of knowing yoga, and being blessed with the ability to share it with others.

 

Even if it only reaches just one person, that will be enough.

 

It doesn’t have to be big. Some days, the joy I get from cleaning the house surprises me. I go about my work, singing and whistling away to the universe like we’re sharing something special, something unique. Even better when I’m in the garden, chattering away to the tiny insects and plants like they were my brothers and sisters. And, in many ways, they are.

 

Your karma yoga is not restricted to human beings, everything is considered one with this universe, extend your love in whatever way you know how. Through plants, the environment, animals, or humans. Ironically, Karma doesn’t judge!

 

 

We are all connected, remember this and your actions will become more mindful, less selfish, and gifted by love.

 

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Om Shanti, Annie

 

*Reference: http://www.yogihari.com/yoga-teacher-training-course-200-hours/ my teacher, my guru, for the resource on the cosmic laws of Karma and the Rishis

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Attachment

“Sometimes we find that we like our thoughts so much that we don’t want to let them go.” ~ Pema Chodron

 

We have often heard, that to love something, we must set it free. Supporting the philosophical view that attachment is the root cause of disappointment, sadness, anger, and illusion, among many other things.

 

I have been a long time practitioner in the art of detachment, known otherwise as the art of withdrawing desire from lesser things. Those other things are referring to the material cravings and objects which keep us rooted firmly into this earth, much like the trees in our own backyards.

 

Most of my classes start with the simple request for students to hang their baggage up outside the room, leaving that which no longer serves them in order to be fully present in their yoga. Often it’s a temporary ‘hold’ during the allocated hour, or so, of an asana practice before picking up those same, heavy bags and plodding off, out into the material world again.

 

Hey, I’m not judging. I said I practice the art of detachment, I never said I’ve mastered it! And just when I think I’ve made progress, the universe never fails to drop me a reminder that I still have a long way to go yet.

 

This time around, it’s come in the form of a person, and straight off the back of a truthful, heartfelt post about what it’s really like to be 35, female, single, childless and yet, still happy (go back a couple of posts, you can’t miss it!).

 

I finally swallowed my fear and opened up, speaking freely about the fact that you can live a happy life, making your own rules (while living a life according to positive ethical and moral standards), and it doesn’t have to revolve around another person, a love, a child, a house, a settlement, your career, etc.

 

I stand by my post. I don’t believe I said anything ‘wrong’, hurtful or judgemental about the way others live. I respect other people’s choices to live their lives in whichever way they choose and I still love my life, I know I always will.

 

However, ironically, only days later, someone stepped into my life who inadvertently distracted me, and who I immediately wanted to do absolutely anything and everything for.

 

Note to Universe: Very funny.

 

The art of detachment. Does this apply to people?

 

I can understand not having to need someone, because we should be able to stand strong on our own two feet, fight the good fight with light, love and compassion. We’ll never really know when the person we’ve relied so heavily on over the years might disappear, perhaps through death or some other means.

 

And then what? What will you do? Break down? Panic? Completely fall apart…

 

I have learnt this lesson already. Through my ups and downs in relationships and of course, also through the loss of loved ones. But, what if knowing what you know about attachment, you still choose to want someone in your life?

 

Is this still attachment?

 

I would say you’re treading the line and it’s going to hurt like hell when that line breaks and the attachment is severed, because burning is still desire. Wanting is still desire. Desire is still material attachment.

 

Revisiting the earlier theory however, detachment is the art of withdrawing desire from lesser things.

 

Does L O V E supersede this?

 

Surely, it has to. It’s L O V E.

 

Why else would we have such a beautiful thing available to us, if it weren’t there for us to enjoy, embrace and share? It reminds me of the quote:

 

“It is better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all”

 

For only a true believer of love knows this feeling, and even after the many heart breaks and pain we may suffer during our lifetime, I would rather experience love then give it all up to have never known how it felt. To have never experienced that time with that person. To have never smiled T H A T smile.

 

You know the smile I’m talking about, even the memory of it wants to make you dance and sing!

 

After much to and fro on the hot topic of my happy, single, childless life followed by the arrival of an individual I’m enjoying sharing my time with, here we find the even more ironic and cruel twist of fate I was discussing earlier, the imminent departure of the person that fills our heart with such joy.

 

The short lived affair, too short to make any requests to stay and too sweet and endearing to not shed a tear. Maybe a few. Ok, there have been many already.

 

Remove me from my country, take away my house, my car (to be fair, I own none of these things), all of my belongings and money… strip me bare for all the world to see. I don’t care about any of that. I arrived in this world without it, I’ll be leaving this world without it. But L O V E…

 

Writing this immediately after hearing the news was important for me. Thinking instantly about how upset I feel and how it all could have been avoided if I’d only maintained distance and removed all ‘crazy’ ideas of what love, might be, could be… would I be practicing the art of detachment?

 

I conclude no. Because while it has rocked me emotionally and upset me deeply, I would be a robot if I could not at least feel L O V E. And as I mentioned earlier, love truly does conquer all, is it not our very purpose in life to L O V E?

 

And I am no robot, I am a human be-ing, I choose to be here, present, in this moment, flesh and bone and all the rest that comes with a biological body. And in this be-ing resides a beautiful soul, a soul who’s purpose is to love, whose purpose is to give and whose purpose is to live this life, through loss and hardship, the joy and laughter, pains and tears, I am still here and I still love.

 

Yes, these are only my words, musings from a place deep within shared with the many friends, family and strangers who choose to glance upon this post.

 

Writing an article, especially on a topic that is so personal may appear foolish, but if it reminds only one person of the power within to love and appreciate another unconditionally and with full acceptance, then my simple words have meaning. They speak truth and they come from a place deep within, filled to the brim with L O V E.

 

I will miss you.

 

Om Shanti,

Annie x

 

P.S. Perhaps the title for this post should have been ‘Love’ but with all due respect, I’m not sure I could ever do the meaning behind it any justice through my words alone.

Yoga

“I am neither male nor female, nor am I sexless. I am the Peaceful One, whose form is self-effulgent, powerful radiance.” ― Guru Nanak

The ultimate goal of the practice of yoga is moksha; liberation; realisation; enlightenment. There are many words to define that which we are yet to experience in this lifetime.

But what does it mean to ‘practice’ yoga?

Does it mean to stretch or exercise? Or is it simply a persona we adopt, as a ‘yogi’ or ‘yogini’, hugging trees, talking to flowers and chanting Aum; glowing peacefully, not an ounce of anger, judgement or frustration within?

Do we wear loose, natural fibres, floating and prancing about in our latest ‘express yourself’ yogi-dance-laughter workshop, drinking herbal teas and eating only plant based diets? Or do we opt for the active, tight fitting spandex leggings often seen on the lean but muscular catalogue models of Lululemon, barely breaking a sweat after an intense, hour long power yoga session before hitting the local juice bar for a smoothie packed full of protein and a catch up with old friends?

I am all of the above, and neither all at once. And apologies for categorising my many yogi friends on these personas alone, for I am merely trying to make a point, and no, not the kind of point that involves my finger!

For the record, I own and practice on my lululemon mat and clothing, I teach at a very cool and trendy studio, I revel in and embrace my looser clothing, practising my asanas with more freedom and dance when at home to music, and quite often you will even find a flower or two, in my hair. I am a vegetarian and I love smoothies. I love even more, a good old catch up with my closest girlfriends.

I am the yogini personified.

But what would you expect from a Taurean girl? We have expensive taste, are creatures of comfort, we are ruled by the element of Mother earth and I love nothing more then feeling the soil beneath my bare feet (read my last post regarding connecting to nature)!

However, without getting too caught up in myself, lets move forth to the real topic at hand.

The topic of yoga, which, when practiced lovingly, with devotion and discipline, ultimately results in removing our identification with the material world, transcending to a higher state of bliss and releasing any attachment to the aforementioned, ego personification.

Clearly, I still have a way to go!

There are 8 paths, commonly referred to as limbs, in yoga which serve as a guideline for living a meaningful and more purposeful life.

The first 5 limbs involve and engage the body to the material world. They work by way of a filter, and reduce the things that inhabit our spiritual progress. The last 3 limbs are involved in the expansion of the mind and cultivating awareness.

When we apply all 8 limbs of yoga to our ‘life practice’ we thereby involve the entire body and mind.

Without giving a full lecture on the subject (impossible in a single blog post!), the 8 limbs of yoga are:

1) Yama ~ Your ethical standards and sense of integrity
2) Niyama ~ Your self discipline and spiritual observances
3) Asana ~ The practice of the postures of yoga, cultivating a healthy body
4) Pranayama ~ Control of the breath, Prana meaning life force, energy
5) Pratyahara ~ Withdrawal of the senses & sensory objects
6) Dharana ~ Concentration, focusing our attention on 1 single point for an extended length of time
7) Dhyana ~ Moving beyond concentration into the natural state of meditation

And lastly…

8) Samadhi ~ Bliss absolute! Enlightenement!

So, you see my dear readers, yoga is not something we can wear and it’s certainly not something we can brand, label or even own.

Yoga is a state of being. Something we ‘practice’, in the physical action of asanas, or perhaps the more mindful practice of ahimsa or satya (non-violence or truthfulness). The 8 limbs encourage the yogi to involve all aspects of the mind and body so that nothing is left unattended.

I was recently challenged as to my position in teaching the practice of the yoga asanas to others. It was believed that through teaching something which gives me joy, I am romanticizing the practice, the philosophy; and withdrawing myself from the very thing that I wish to attain.

This has not sat well with me and I have given a great deal of thought to the notion that I am merely ‘marketing’ the idea of yoga to the western world, losing all that is true and real about the actual practice of yoga.

At this stage in my spiritual consciousness, I have come to the conclusion that the path of yoga simply cannot be owned, branded or marketed.

The path of yoga simply is, and you will find your way there one way or another. The route you take may differ by comparison to others, but the end result is always the same.

So however you intend to get there, I encourage you to use the 8 limbs above as a guideline, as a tool, as a practice…. because, isn’t that all we are doing anyway? Practicing life?

And I will continue to teach and learn, much as I have throughout my entire life until proven otherwise, through the practice of yoga.

Om Shanti,
Annie

live.love.give.yoga

Balance

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.” ― Alan W. Watts

It has been an entire month since my last post, I apologise, things have been busy.

My life has moved, literally, from one end of the world to another, from one time zone to another and also, from one industry to another.

I had planned on churning out another post during all the commotion. However, it occurred to me just how many ‘to do’ boxes I already had to tick and how, as humans, we have this tendency to exploit the precious time we have, exhausting us, mentally and physically.

So I decided to wait.

Wait until I had the time, energy and attention to find my focus, and write what came to my heart. Something which might actually hold meaning. Something which comes from a place of love and tenderness.

Finding your peace and feeling centred, in this fast, hectic and chaotic world with which we live is a major survival tool and a must have for everyone.

Never has this resonated more with me then during my most recent bout of change. It would be easy to feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed. And once upon a time, I most definitely would have.

I can honestly say, things went as smoothly and comfortably as I could have wished, and yes, I am in love with my decisions and am still feeling at home and at peace, even though everything has been turned upside down and inside out.

Have you ever had that overwhelming sensation that things are getting ahead of you? That all of this wild and chaotic energy of change has swept you off your feet, removing you from the very ground you once stood, so steady and secure?

Need to check back in to reality? To feel grounded and in control?

I, like many others, still struggle to find the time to devote to my own practice.

However, I do understand it’s importance and relevance. The practice of yoga is something we do to bring the body to good health by removing physical distractions, so that when we do sit for meditation, we have only our mind to attend to.

Thankfully, it really is simple enough to give yourself a healthy dose of peace and calm just by being aware and connecting with your natural surroundings.

Give yourself time.

Time to be still. Time to catch up with yourself. It is so undeniably important for your mental and physical health. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, to sit down, be aware, focus on your breath, close your eyes.

Maybe, 10 minutes will become 15, 15 might become 30 and so forth. Maybe not. Either way, start somewhere. No excuses, this is your life, your livelihood, your peace and only you can manage your internal functions. Your in charge, so take the bull by the horns and regain control.

Sit in nature. Find the natural earth energy by removing your shoes, planting those soles directly on the earth below, and feeling the dirt and grass beneath your feet. Get comfortable and just breathe.

Be still. Be present. Be in that moment.

Connecting with nature and tuning in to the earth’s vibrational energy is, by far, the most efficient and effective way to feel grounded.

Mother earth has this ability to soothe us when times are crazy, hence the term ‘Mother’, for she is nurturing, she is real, and she is tender. Her earth energy is healing, forgiving and loving. Tap into her and you will tap back into yourself.

When you’re flying high up amongst the clouds, with one wild idea after another, unable to stay long enough to see any of them through, who do you think catches you when that energy dissipates and the momentum can no longer carry you? At some stage, we all need to land, plant our feet, get connected, and feel grounded.

How on earth (no pun intended!) are we to grow and connect without a strong foundation, without planting a few roots to keep us grounded during those stressful events that will inevitably occur at many stages during our busy lives?

And if you think it’s selfish to take the time for yourself, put yourself in your mates shoes.

When energy is so tangible and easily transferred, imagine how your chaotic, busy and stressful energy is affecting those around you. Your partner, your child, the grumpy cashier packing your groceries or the feisty barista brewing your umpteenth coffee hit of the day (and yes, I am guilty!).

And we wonder why, when we’re stressed and overwhelmed, does everything else seem to have an energy you can cut with a knife?

Be aware of your effect on others, your presence and of your energy. At the end of the day, we are all united and bonded as one. Whether you choose to believe this or not, you can’t possibly deny the effect one person’s energy has on another, be it good or bad, gentle or pushy, hard or soft.

Try it. Smile at a stranger, see what happens. (be wise, choose your stranger appropriately!)

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Om Shanti, Annie