Tending the Fire

There is much talk of fire in most Yoga texts and teachings. Fire is one of the 5 elements, the others being Air, Water, Earth and Ether/Space. Fire is felt to transform matter from one state to another. Its sinuous flames remind us nearly of liquid, so despite its “hot” quality, it is also intimately associated with Water, Water being its equal and opposite.
The path of yoga is one of transformation. We learn new ways to move, think, breathe and be still, and thus we transform ourselves from one type of person into another. We are still ourselves, but we have changed, shed a skin or grown a new one. Thus, stoking the fire of transformation is of utmost importance.
In hatha yoga, we do this mainly through postures associated with the abdominal region. We also practise breathing techniques that emphasize the inhale and breath retention with lungs full. Other lineages may follow other methods, and these are all legitimate. You are always in control of your yoga practice, and are free to choose the branch of yoga that most satisfies your heart and soul.
This winter, I have learned to tend the hearth. I have never before lived in a house with a working fireplace, let alone relied upon it as my main heat source! But, I am open to change. I had call to be the sole firelighter for a period of nearly two weeks. I struggled mightily at first, sitting near it, blowing desperately on rapidly dwindling sticks and leaves and bits of paper. Once, I managed a roaring inferno on the first go, but most nights heard me cursing the whole rustic life and yearning to go back to the city and central heating.
But I persisted.
I discovered that the paper I use on my massage couch serves perfectly as a recycled firelighter. Light, and slightly oil-streaked, it takes immediately and burns hot. I learnt the value of the small bits of kindling that my partner lovingly chops, and how to tell if wood if green or dry. I am now a one-match woman. I can set and light a fire in about ten minutes, and tend it carefully for hours. I watch it and poke it and generally feel it to be a living presence in my home.
I think that our inner Fire is the same. It needs the right material to start it up, and the right material and rhythm to keep it burning brightly. We need to pay attention to it, feeding it more when it needs it, and leaving it to rest when it doesn´t. Cared for properly, our inner Fire helps us efficiently transform our food into healthy tissue and keeps us energetic and motivated.
Weak Fire leaves us sluggish, uninspired and waterlogged. We feel like we are walking in soaked through clothing. A Fire burning too brightly manifests in a flushed face, quick temper and impatience. Remember, a person may have imbalance of one Element in the physical body, while having a completely different Elemental layout in the realm of the Mind.
So, tend your Fire, dear souls.

Fresh from the garden – the yoga of food.

My partner coaxes wonderful vegetables from the clay-ey mediterranean soil.  I have just spent the morning making green juice (using Triestino radicchio now, so a little less bitter), then a curly kale stir fry (with home grown chilli pepper, onion and market-bought ginger and garlic) and finally a lovely creamy pumpkin and ginger soup (the pumpkin is also from the garden, harvested in September).  I had bought both my juicer (GreenTech Gold) and my blender (Blendtec) about three years ago, when I tried a high-raw diet for about a year.  I managed to make good use of the blender, but the juicer rather stalled as I didn’t have access to good quality greens.  I did juice wheatgrass for a while, but summer came and the flies filled my planting trays and, you know, rather put me off.
So….now I have the best to both worlds.  High quality equipment and plentiful fresh veg.  The yoga of produce plus kit.  (for those who don’t know, yoga means “to yoke” or “to unite”)  What more could one ask for?  Of course, the niyamas of Astanga Yoga talk about sauca , cleanliness and this food definitely promotes a clean, healthy body.  The yamas talk about ahimsa, or non-violence.  The vegetarian diet is part of this.
Yoga gives me the awareness to feel my body, its balances and imbalances.  This contact, consciousness, inspires me to invest in and care deeply about my health.  I encourage you to do the same.  Make it a priority.  AUM.

The Human Revolution

The question has been there forever.  What can I do to make the world a better place?  The answer is simple:  Human Revolution.
I first heard this term used as the title of a book by Daisaku Ikeda of the Soka Gokkai International.  This international Buddhist organization, with origins in Japan, use rapid mantra chant as their main tool of transformation. I joined the SGI in London and chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with intent for about a year and a half.  But, like everything organizational, I grew disillusioned with the, erm, organization, and took my search upon new roads.  Coming full circle twelve years later, I uplift myself with Sanskrit mantra, carrying on the transformation.
Like most of us, my teenage mind was inquiring and doubtful of the status quo.  I took to protesting, letter writing, boycotting, even some direct action-lite.  But, again, I grew disillusioned with the way that individual good intentions seemed to get lost when the masses convened.  Really, peaceful anarchist punks who seem to always been raising their fists?  No, thanks.
So, the question has been there for a long time.  But the answer took its time to coalesce.  Nowadays, I meditate upon the fact that only by beginning with ourselves can we change the world around us. Also, we need to be humble enough to recognize that we can’t change the whole world.  Too many youthful flowers turn into mid-20’s rot when, disillusioned, we give up entirely and sit upon our sofas, waiting for the end.
I think that what we need to learn is patience and humility.  Oh yes, and we have to have faith.  I have seen through personal experience that we really can begin to take change out of the personal realm and into the world when we integrate ourselves so completely as to become completely sincere and transparent.  It’s hard- I’m not patting my back here.  But I do know that what I transmit in my yoga classes, and in my life (I hope) is a sincere belief in the finer qualities of the human being.  When we begin to manifest our True Nature, our Purusha, we grow calm, compassionate and loving.  With those qualities, we share smiles when there are only frowns.  We hug warmly when there might otherwise be only a perfunctory “dos besos” (two kisses).  And, most importantly, we begin to share our selves, our wealth, open our homes to and generally offer and be prepared for true deep connection with others.  This is the Human Revolution:  we care for and prepare ourselves to be sane, reasonable, non-judging, generous and accepting.  With these qualities, we touch lives.  At no point are we on any pedestals, nor do we offer ourselves congratulations.  We just find the inner joy, radiate it.  That is the reward.
I really don’t know much.  But this I know:  The real revolution begins within.

Kings and Queens

Here in Spain we are taking a day off to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem.  Bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense, they came the rejoice in the birth of the baby Jesus.  Whatever your take on modern-day Christianity, Jesus did some pretty cool stuff in his time.  My friend Joel Gazdar, of the Wild Food Café in London posted this on FB a few days ago:

Christmas: Celebrating an unmarried teenage mom giving birth in a stable, to a baby who grew up to be a prominent activist for peace, playfulness, laughter, love, liberation, appreciation and beyond-capitalist values; who preferred the company of honest prostitutes to that of the religious and political elite; who partook in joy-filled, ecstatic, radical direct action in transcending the banking system, and was publicly executed as an enemy of state. My prayer today is in: Celebrating that this wisdom within guide all who call themselves Christians, or any other illusory label or limitation in this world.

This day of the Three Kings, I urge you to honour and venerate the king – or queen – you carry within. We are all born noble and beautiful. Throughout our lives, we carry the light of illumination within our spiritual heart – Hridaya. We can dull our light with ego and illusion, but it never stops burning, with hope and persistence, as long as our heart beats and out lungs draw air.
Yoga is a practice that allows us to believe in, then perceive, and then polish our inner light. When I began practicing yoga, I had no idea that inside myself I carried such beauty. In fact, I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself at all. I judged myself so harshly – the inner and outer me – that I wept often, crying out in pain and frustration at the brutal futility of life. Or, seeming brutal futility. Because that light was glowing within me even if I could not see it. It manifested in many ways, but I had been trained to see these manifestations of loving compassion as something negative. I judged myself as weak, emotional, tearful…unrealistic.
But from the darkest night, the sweetest dawn. From the thickest mud blooms the rose-hued lotus. That gnawing resentment of the state of the world hammered at me, pushed me forward, forced me to find solutions. Our suffering is our friend. As Patanjali says in YS II.23 “svasvamisktyoh svarupopalabdhihetuh samyoga”, which is translated by TKV Desikachar as “however powerful or disturbing something may appear to be, it is our reaction to it that determines its effects…”  This means that every time we suffer, it is really an opportunity to practice distinguishing between the observer (our inner light, our purusha) and the observed (the changing material world, the prakriti).  Because I suffered, I found yoga.
Yoga has helped me see my inner light, to polish it, and to keep it as a sacred part of myself.  Of course I am still dogged by my ego, my stupidity.  But I don’t suffer as much because I know and believe that the inner light shines bright and constant within me, and that I, and everyone, every single person, is blessed with this light.  This is your inner King, your inner Queen.  Honour and love him or her.  Celebrate his or her arrival.  Accept the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Rejoice and be happy.  Share you happiness with someone else and soon we will all be free.  AUM.

Eres divino!

Una parte fundamental de la filósofia del yoga que yo conozco es la existencia de Isvara, ó sea, La Conciencia Universal Pura.  Cuando limpiamos la mente, limpiamos el  aparato con lo que nuestra conciencia personal pura, purusha, percibe el mundo .  Central a nuestra teoría es la idea que cada ser humano lleva dentro de si una chispa de la Conciencia Universal Pura. Por lo cual, cada persona es divino.
No lo olvidaís!  Sois divinos!