-ROOTS, INNER ILLUMINATION & FORAGING FOCUS-
This sacred memory is from the graduation of my first teacher training at Santhi School of Yoga, Kerala back in 2010. The humble and heart filled school is down a back alley in Fort Cochin. Hand painted signposts on riskily wired & bundled electricity pylons that seem like a mirror of my mind guide a young susceptible seeker past the Old Basillica church, its cartoon like icons enshrined in artificial illuminessence like a 24/7 little shopper. I sweat past multitudes of tiny mewing kittens, languid sprawled half haired dogs , toxic smelling gutters of brimming micro life eco-systems that lead to an open doorway of our turquoise shala and a joyful family home. No place on the journey so far had this feeling. I can still smell the camphor that ignited puja fire, flames that seemed to burst alight along with a sense of trepidation- do i really understand what is happening? away from this, what happens next? how do i bare and share this gift ? That radiant ritual light imprinted on my cells. Tender fat grains of keralan rice and sambal stick to fingers now well accustomed to the smudge and scoop of right handed eating. Our circular dinner is accompanied by the longing soulful sound of veena & harmonium with a couple of pooch howls for good measure. Joy, devotion in Sajee’s dear friends the bhakta singers who embraced us with warm community. Guru/guide/teacher- friend I know you in every life as you offer the beginning of me knowing some truth which is pure navigational light. Every morning before the sun, the breath rises, streams and bellows as my eyes take in a single flame. After that everything was golden, and you held up a mirror so I could see the gold. Morning light floods in and we churn peacefully in surya namaskar following the rhythm of your resonant mantra and meaning... complete and held in the cycle of ancient experience.
Bathing in the dum dum mantra of the inner beat and resting in warm red/blue hue skin hidden waterways of the fluid body. Counting the leafy lotus from base to crown. Hamsa- Soham. Spirit revival techniques felt through lineaged years of practice - and natures tonic to stay steady in the city. In the past couple of yearly cycles i’ve felt and heard the dissonance of those of us who live closer than most and on top of one another, fed patterns of sped up satisfaction- living in algorithm. For many individuals we can feel lost in layers that vibrate louder that our own (yes, it’s exciting too, to dive into that flow!) -though as energetically expressive creatures in all this beauty and clamour- how do we attune to and feel our own true resonance? How do we even know it as our own?
Awareness lies at the heart of yoga and yoga techniques. Normally awareness is taken to mean knowledge - to know something is to be aware of it. But in yoga awareness goes far beyond intellect to encompass feeling- feeling what is happening around us and within us. ‘Something’- a stirring , a happening is perceived by the bodily sense organs and senses, felt by the heart and then ‘known’ by the mind. This is because consciousness permeates every aspect of existence. Consciousness is cellular connective tissue, our body pulses with & within it. Our ability to know our own consciousness , to be rooted within it as our foundation state, in each act, moment and expression is our awareness in expansion. To forget it is a contraction. This is a natural rhythmic wave known as spanda, the pulse of creation.
So how do we remember, recognise or reveal our roots?
Breathe. Become aware of yourself being breathed. When lost in the bustle breathe into your body form. When contracted and trapped breathe to broaden your boundaries. Take the instinctual mudra of hand to heartbeat .This simple gesture is one of profound natural connectivity and helps reset focus. The HeartMath Institute recommends Heart -Focused Breathing a wonderful centering technique where you imagine you are breathing directly in and out of the heart while lengthening the inhale and exhale to about 5 or 6 seconds, or a duration that is comfortable and sustainable for afew minutes . Try closing the eyes to initiate a quieter and secluded space to feel. The inner gaze- dristhi- opens us to contemplation, relaxation and spontaneous insight of our own creative unfolding. Remembering doesn’t adequately describe the full immersion of connecting to this streamed source that goes way beyond the borders of mind. Not escapism nor a dream- but conjuring and co-creating a present state and mood memoir that has the potential to spark you up.
“Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perception, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart.”
Doc Childre, HeartMath Institute founder
This bhavana of being spreads its swirling colour tinge throughout, if you let it. Some areas are fully soaked, others may resist taking up the dye. Our elemental body can harden like rock, drink like dry earth or flow attuned to cosmic rhythm. Can you honour the resistance as a tailor made teacher, learning to recognise preconceptions and safety net snares? Each moment is brimming with the possibility to dive into the core of experience. Practice patience, content that you are as you are now are just as you should be, in the creatrix. Now, present in that state - integrate. Dropping the veil of separation- maya- to look around, breathe deep and free in trust (visvasa- translating as to believe, to breathe freely) . Smile inwards and beam outwards at the city/situation and drop into the moment like a bead of water into the centre of a pond. The ripples of your attuned awareness spread with a light touch into the surround infusing it with the essence of your inner nature- shall we call it the look of love? The heart, the seat of the self, known as Hridaya becomes our Adhara - the substratum of our being. This way we start to feel into the united frequency of all things ( or perhaps to start, more things).
“The nature and essence of bhava are pure consciousness. Bhava ushers in prema, or love, just as the rays usher the rising sun, and melts the heart.”
Swami Sivananda, Bhakti Yoga
In generating this fluid foundation of being we create space to recognise each and every moment as one for conscious transformation. Not to simply be aware of our mental and metabolic changes - the subtle shifts to seismic shakes - but to take time to digest them and be nourished by them. The fire of this digestion is called Agni. It digests food, sensory information and experiences as both influence our energetic and physical body profoundly. Agni is revered as divine consciousness on both material and spiritual planes. It enables us to take challenge, hardship and trauma and transfigure it into wisdom, compassion and strength. Agni is the flame of focus that keeps us steady and passionate in sadhana, it is our spark of divinity and intelligence - our desire for fulfilment that can only come from within- the heart fire.
“The hearts mystic force invites us to inhabit our core selves: our truth, our longing and our deepest passions. Even if we have distanced ourselves from its rhythms for a long time, the moment we place our attention there, it will always welcome us back again.”
Shiva Rea- Tending the Heart Fire
Tending the heart fire (Shiva Rea, Sounds True Inc. 2014) is a daily practice and one that is vital questions that so many seek to answer- who am I and what is my purpose ? When we are aware of what kindles the inner flame, once we have foraged and forgiven our way through the armour- then direction becomes clearer and purpose flows more naturally. We are clouded less by distraction and comparison, open to universal synchronicity and perceive signs within the nature of things to help guide our way. Enraptured in the process of living dharma. Living from the heart is a practice shaped by both intuition and discernment- connecting to the souls wisdom over egoic choices requires awareness and a truthful burning desire to inhabit our core selves ( above quotation).
A practice that I love for clearance and clarity from the outer to inner worlds is called Trataka- candle gazing or fire gazing. This is an ancient meditation where you rest your eyes unwaveringly on a flame, hearth or camp fire. Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable, light a candle or gather to the hearth, and allow your gaze to be drawn with minimal blinking to the centre of the fire. Naturally the eyes may water, which helps clear the vision and clean the eyes. As you notice a calm meditative state arise gently close the eyes and envision the flame in your heart- open to every sensation that emerges awakened and warmed into motion by your illummed focus. After some time close your eyes and hold the image of the flame steady in your minds eye, draw that flame in tune with your breath down into the heart and let it radiate there, gently encouraging your awareness to stay present with the inner light. For more information on Trataka see foundation textbook on page 523 in Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha by the Bihar Publications Trust- the first yoga book I ever purchased, now with well thumbed feathered edges, world travelled and stained and still in regular use.
We may have the perception that fire is an all consuming force, yet fire provides both illumination and the potential for regeneration. The energetic resonating glow of agni is called Tejas. Tejas is the light energy that moves through our inner circuitry- manifesting as the flow of vitality, intelligence, a curious thirst for knowledge, imagination and creativity. The eyes that sparkle with intrigue, understanding and insight. Tejas brings consciousness into everyday life. So often our awareness moves very quickly drawn by the senses, stimulated and sped up then stuck in abstract time of ego- emotive memory, followed by pre-emptive mis-conceptions and comparisons. Our actions can then become unconscious reactions as is exampled in the well known snake and rope analogy in sutras 1.8- 1.9 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This contraction of shakti- is perhaps what we would recognise as confusion. A temporary or stagnating disconnect from true awareness in a coup d’etat by the finite brain.
In the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramena Marashi:
“If one inquires as to where in the body the thought ‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one thinks constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be led to that place.”
Other thoughts that rise up attached to this first ‘I’ stem from the minds conditioning, patterns and attachments. Some of this noise is useful and some is distracting! You may notice that the practice of yoga you are more open to self inquiry - svadhyaya. There is a danger, especially in the age of fast fashions to satiate consumptive appetite and… social media , that some self inquiry reinforces ego and a false sense of self through attachment to who we think we should be. How about feeling who we are, right now? From my experience clarity, cohesion and fulfillment are qualities constituting happiness- all of which are born of the heart and the true nature of self. Therefore : one should know oneself with one’s own eye of wisdom while immersed in the joy of nature’s wisdom and full spectrum of earthly sensation. If we can maintain our awareness spaciously in the resonance of the heart, which exists not in isolation but in everything and no-thing, as free form meditation, love blossoms as the new transformational intelligence and guiding light. Everyday miracles.
Tending the Heart Fire by Shiva Rea
Yoga and Kriya by Swami Satyananda Saraswati- Bihar Publications
Who am I - Bhagavan Sri Ramena Marashi
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali- translation of Sri Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Publications