From the mat
a blog about all things yoga
I sit in the pregnant quiet of the hours just before dawn, knowing the light out there is on the other side, and in here I am the light. No matter how dark it seems inside of me, my light shines eternally.
#FromTheMat #Sadhana #FeelTheRapture #WaheGuru #UnleashYourHealingPower #kippinitreal
Day 31 of Sat Kriya (3 minutes) and Subagh Kriya in my sadhana — oh how I love how I feel when I am finished, but how my mind protests what I feel in my arm and shoulder muscles! I keep hearing myself say, “What’s with all of the shoulder action in this practice? What’s the story?” I get such an attitude about it. I watch myself and laugh a little at the same time that a part of me is furious that I am doing this at all. “Elizabeth, you can stop any time you want. And why are you doing this anyway?” You get the gist of the chatter. Once in the midst of all of these voices, I managed to find a calm center and dropped into a space of just listening. This was the message that came through: “You shoulder the burdens of life, you embrace life, and you bow your head – these muscles better be ready for their appointed tasks.” Boom! I say thank you and Wahe Guru! #KundaliniYoga #SatNam #LivingBeyondChronicPain #WaheGuru #FromTheMat #kippinitreal
It seemed to me that I floated all throughout my sleep last night. I was surprised at how restless I was once my head finally hit the pillow, even after the Bookend Meditation, but there you have it. It was what it was and I found peace even in the restlessness. Finding peace in such a state within myself is indeed progress, especially after so many years of experiencing so much conflict inside – between myself and myself – in my journey into and through chronic pain and the addiction that ensued as I attempted to change and get rid of the pain in any way I could. Facing my experience of pain on its terms and fully accepting that it had taken up residence, well that just seemed unacceptable to me. And quelling the pain with an agent from the external world…well, we all know what happened with that. I did get a glimpse of this when I suffered with migraine headaches for years. One day in year 7 of this particular torment, I hit a bottom of desperation as I lay in a darkened, quiet room nestled in between a cloud of soft supportive pillows. The medications I had been given were clearly not up to the task given them to relieve the pain and pressures I was experiencing. I felt trapped and had nowhere else to turn but inward. I asked the Divine for help and gave myself up to It and what existed in that moment. I reached in a state where I suspended all efforts to change or effect what I was feeling in any way. I said to myself: “Your strategy is clearly not working. What if you took a contrary action?” And in that moment, I turned in to and accepted my experience, not trying to change it in any way. I allowed myself to merely feel it. And what followed was extraordinary and previously unimaginable to me. My migraine dissolved, never to be felt again. I did not realize at that time exactly what had occurred, other than my experience got turned on its head and I was no longer suffering in that way. I did not see at the time that the acceptance of my state was a key and critical piece of my healing journey. I believe now that at that time I was in such a blur from so much medication that I missed the larger lesson. That I even remember it now is a blessing, . But I digress…
I awoke this morning feeling activated like never before. I do not know how to describe how I feel in any other way. It is as if every cell in my body has had a switch that heretofore had laid quietly hidden and got flipped on yesterday. I felt it turn on during the Adi Shakti Mantra yesterday. I felt it emanate throughout myself through the day and evening yesterday. That I awoke with it still buzzing amidst all of my cells was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I must say, when Tommy Rosen presents me with an opportunity, no matter how outlandish it may seem to me at the time, I am coming to realize that he is on to something. I refuse his invitations at my own risk. I hoped that I might discover something new about myself…but this is discovery on a whole other level. I perceive a vibrancy to the world – both in the internal and external – that is reminiscent of, but far beyond my experiences in days of using agents from the external world in search of such happenings, but this….well, here is where a poet should take over. Words fail me completely in finding expression for how I feel.
I walk into this day open to what the 21 stages of meditation, Gurucharan, and the Infinite have to offer me. And I take each one of you into this experience with me. We are, after all, connected. We all breathe from the same Field and we breathe together. Our hearts beat to the same drummer, a power greater than ourselves, and One to which we are all inextricably and forever joined. Sat Nam!
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #LivingBeyondChronicPain #Recovery #FromTheMat #kippinitreal
This phrase kept coming up as this day progressed: “I’m not moving through time; time is moving through me”. As I began each period of meditation today I perceived myself as moving through time. But as I got into the flow in the moment, I noticed a marked shift – and I saw that time was indeed moving through me. Two very different perspectives. And how is that helpful? Well, in the one perspective, I feel like I am the one doing ‘the doing’, the moving…In the second, I get out of the way and let the Doer “do’ it – I am not ‘doing’ anything. I am simply being. It is from this place or state that I feel I have experienced much of these meditations.
And I received a texted query this morning from a fellow meditating friend of mine: “How is life there?” he asked. My answer was simple: “Activated.” I could have added “Ang sung wahe guru (‘every cell in my body is vibrating with that of God’). That is how I walked out of our session yesterday, and I just stayed vibrating in this frequency.
As I laid my head down on my pillow last night, I sensed deeply into my body. I felt my heart beat literally into and within every cell in my body. Wow! For someone who spent most of my life doing whatever I could to jump out of my body, to stuff down, ignore, numb out, or otherwise effect and change what and how I was feeling in the moment, this truly is an extraordinary event. I not only feel comfortable in my own skin, I feel joyful beyond measure to be in my skin.
I woke off and on during the night and could not help but notice the intensity of the life force moving through me and pulsing in every avenue, corner, niche, nook and cranny, every tiny little spot. I got activated all right. We all did. And my fears of fully feeling are but remote echoes that feel now far in my past. That I am here, in this moment, fully feeling and embracing all that it brings with it – well, I have stepped yet again into what Tommy calls “an impossible moment”. And we are all living this impossible moment together – well that takes us right beyond the impossible moment – into the Infinite Itself…
In Day 6 we moved further into the Transcendent Self. This part of the journey through the 21 stages centers around the ability to ‘drop the ego’ and experience our presence as limitless. For me this journey was a point-counterpoint kind of experience. As the meditations moved along, I felt both tethered firmly to the finite, in my body and on earth in this plane of existence, and at the same time, I felt and perceived a state of expansiveness far beyond the confines of my physical body, and radiating right out into the Infinite. It is difficult for me to describe this state as it is essentially experiential. This is where a poet should take over for me in my journaling. Ang sung wahe guru is the best description I know of.
I am at a loss for any more words in this moment. I have readied myself for this last day and the last two stages: sage and infinite pulse. I leave you with an image of the gong we are so blessed to have as a part of some of our meditation periods and this piece from Yogi Bhajan’s writing on Stage 20 – Sage:
“Of the four kinds of beings,
from Brahma to a blade of grass,
only the Sage can renounce aversion and desire.
Rare is he who knows himself
As One with no other – the Lord of the Universe.
He acts as he know and is never afraid.
You are immaculate, touched by nothing.
What is there to renounce?
The mind is complex – let it go.
Know the peace of dissolution…”
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #Recovery #LivingBeyondChronicPain #FromTheMat #kippinitreal
Sat Nam! my friends. Try as he did to ground us at the end of the day yesterday, I do not believe Gurucharan fully succeeded in his effort in this regard. I do not feel like I ever fully landed from the adventure of climbing the mountain he refers to us ascending as we move through these stages of meditation. I felt when we completed our work for the day yesterday that a part of myself had taken off and expanded into the Infinite and I am not convinced this part of me ever quite returned to the ground. We had a full day – again working again as we had in prior days with the Sound Current, conscious and measured breathing, and specific postures. We began with the Laya Yoga Meditation Series, a series of eight different combinations of mantra and postures, with the Laya Yoga form of the Adi Shakti mantra repeated four times for 31 minutes each. The point of this series was to give us “the ability to raise our level of consciousness, the kundalini, through the chakras and consciously connect with the Unseen.” And then we chanted this same mantra holding hands with each other in a group, which provided a whole other level for me of feeling, deeply and in a markedly tangible way, our connection to each other, all within the Field of the Infinite. We had one posture where we had to hold our arms extended straight forward with our hands clasped together, thumbs forming a “v” as a site line. We looked right through this “v” into the horizon and beyond. This was a most challenging meditation.
I truly had an experience of the counterpoint between the finite body and the Infinite as a result of sticking out the 31 minutes of this piece. I saw clearly the negative and positive mind within me and they were locked in a fierce battle with one another, one just as determined as the other to be the victor. My negative mind was saying, “Put your arms down! You really don’t have to do this. Have you completely lost your sense of reason?” And, it went on to even greater heights threatening, “If you don’t put your arms down, they will either explode or just quit for good and fall off altogether!” The positive mind countered with, “You can DO this! Look at how everyone else is holding steady. People have been doing this for thousands of years. You may have even done this before in a past life; this is just one more repetition. And you WILL do this – no matter what!”
And it went on and on, back and forth, like this for a while. I watched this whole thing play out before me. My body was really struggling to keep up. And the struggle alone became an issue. I saw this with such clarity as the negative and positive minds raged in their pitched battle. I saw that this relationship was full of shadow. I made an ‘executive decision’ as the watcher to bring both of these warring parties to the peace table and drop the struggle. I allowed myself to drop my arms for one or two repetitions of the mantra, a blessed rest for a moment, and raised them to begin the holding posture again. And by giving myself permission to be truly human in that moment, not hold myself to a Herculean standard, but to the Elizabeth standard, I found such peace. The war within ceased. I continued breathing, chanting, holding, and dropping now and again, but this time the mind chatter and discord was gone. I had done the best I could and that was reward in and of itself. By the time it was over and I sat quietly, I felt expanded beyond…words. I felt I had experienced the depths of the finite and was blessed with actually getting a real glimpse of at least the very edges of the infinite.
And when we did the group chant and holding posture, I was so grateful that I had found this peace within. We held hands as we chanted the Laya Yoga form of the Adi Shakti mantra once again, now for the fifth time, and held our arms up. I found that place of peace and held myself steady there. The option to drop my arms just was not even in the equation here. I do not believe I would have been able to keep my arms up if I had not had such clarity around and come to resolution with that battle within myself. And I experienced such a deep and palpable way that connection between my self, our group, and the Infinite. I could go on here…but I feel that I am only beginning to touch the surface waters of what these stages have to offer. I am honored and blessed indeed to spend whatever time I have left in this life to plumb their depths. I leave you with a view of my meditation mat for yesterday. Sat Nam!
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #Recovery #LivingBeyondChronicPain #FromTheMat #kippinitreal
“When the rapture of the ninth stage mixes with the polite receptivity of the tenth stage,
it creates the eleventh stage.
You become very humble.
Guru Nanak, the great yogi and saint, embodied and expressed this.
He saw the vastness of the Creator and experienced that delight.
He said he felt as small as an ant.
He was happy to be even the dust under the feet of those who walked to some sacred place to have the chance to repeat the Names of God and be elevated.
Humble, here, means a lack of pretentiousness.
You have innocence from self-acceptance.
You need no distinction other than the reality of you as a creature of the Creator.
Humility is modesty filled with the power of innocence.
Guru Nanak and other saints realized how much is unknown.
How much exists beyond the furthest horizon of the mind’s capacity to imagine.
In humility you can form a relationship to the Unknown.
When that happens, you awaken the ability to teach, heal, and serve humanity relentlessly.
Your mind gains the fearless openness that comes with true humility.”
From “The 21 Stages of Meditation”, page 186.
“You are cooked and basted. Sleep well. We begin fresh in the morning.” These are the words Gurucharan left us with at the end of Day 4. And what a day it was!
Here are some things that came up today. I felt squeezed by the morning’s kriyas…I noticed and felt old pieces of me that no longer serve me shake loose and ripple up and out of me through the chakras and the breath. And I wasn’t the only one that noticed and remarked on this phenomenon. We experienced yet more healing on top of that which we were gifted to the day and night before. This process is one that just keeps on giving. Gurucharan is a firm, but gentle, and imminently approachable guide. I will just add here that he is also a consummate teacher – he has fielded all number of questions, and with each he has given a considered, unrushed, thorough, and inspired answer. I have asked my fair share of questions, and he makes me feel safe and even appreciated as a student. I am grateful for his gracious and generous manner.
I could tell you about many things that I experienced on this day. About a whole new relationship I curried with the breath and with the negative, positive, and neutral mind.
I could detail for you how the bowing meditation series for humility challenged the weakest yet most supportive structural muscles in my body – the low back and my quads – all muscle groups that were affected greatly from my accident as I teenager, ones I have worked for a lifetime to grow and strengthen, and only until recently did this seem the most futile of exercises. And let me not forget the inner I-T bands. I just listed all of the muscles that are my weakest. And where did they get challenged directly? Right smack in the humility stage. Wow! Well if that isn’t a lesson right there, I do not know what is.
I could tell you about the 28 minutes of Breath of Fire we did – and how I was given the opportunity to meeting this challenge and climb this part of the mountain, one breath at a time. I could reveal the specifics of how I felt this activity actually massage my kidneys, spleen, liver, intestines, and lungs – even the heart – and how I developed a whole new relationship with my abdominal muscles ~ fortunately they said YES!
I could reveal to you the insights around my ever renewing and healthier relationship with pain. Practitioners of kundalini yoga will all recognize the challenges set forth in the poses where the arms, shoulders, and neck get the attention. Well, we shoulder the burdens of life, we embrace life, and we bow our head – these muscles better be ready for their appointed tasks.
And I could share with you the incredible experience of the very last meditation we did for the day in stage thirteen – the meditation for Graceful Enlightenment and Strength of Heart. The posture for this meditation was quite a challenge, but the assigned breath was Sitali Praanayam, and done quite slowly, intentionally from inhale through exhale. I could detail how intimate I became all over again with my breath and the fine negotiations my mind threw up to try to meditate and even shut down this routine.
But I will instead share with you the details of what happened ‘off the mat’ later…long after I had left the room, the presence of our teacher and this loving, supportive group of fellow meditating devotees and students.
One of the great attractions the practice of yoga has for me is the possibility of ‘calming the fluctuations’ of my mind. I am visited regularly and seemingly relentlessly by at least two of The Four Aggravations (self- doubt, negative thinking, procrastination, and resentment) between the hours of two and four o’clock pretty much every morning. I awaken with a shock to my system, my adrenals having created a wave of adrenalin and injected it into my system, and then the visitation begins. My acupuncturist tells me this is when the liver detoxifies each 24 hour cycle. Whatever is going on physiologically, I am routinely challenged by this experience. And this morning was certainly no exception. I awoke with a start and felt a great dragon rise up within me – negativity itself pervaded even beyond my physical body into my energetic body. I sensed it keenly. And was awed by it, almost overwhelmed by it. Until I remembered I had a tool – the breath and humility. I had worked so diligently in the safety of the yoga studio with a learned teacher and a supportive class of students. I had gone through all of the meditations for the day. And now I had the opportunity to put this work into actual practice. This is where I feel the value of having such a practice truly lies. Yes, I develop discipline as a result of going to class and doing my practice, but what good will it be for me if I cannot translate it into action in life itself? Well, if ever there was a time when my practice served me, it was in the wee hours of this morning. I put my attention on the breath and just stayed there. Was I ever grateful that I had such a tool, and that my Higher Power had graced me with the presence of mind to use it in this time of need. As I lay breathing consciously, I felt my heart beat become quite pronounced, only in the healthiest of ways, and I sent a blessing of gratitude to my lungs and breath and to my heart for their steadfast service to me these many years and in this moment. And I put my earbuds in to help further calm my nervous system. The words of the mantra that was at the ready when I opened the music on my phone were: “In the light of Your grace I walk on…” and as I heard these words, I felt that great dragon that had risen so greatly overhead bow down and release its hold on me. Sweet mercy and grace indeed.
Yep…cooked and basted all right! And I even feel well browned and crispy this morning as I head into Day 5. Shall we start on the gravy? It arises from the essence of the cooking after all….Sat Nam!
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #Recovery #LivingBeyondChronicPain #FromTheMat #kippinitreal
“Life becomes juicy.
No longer flat, it is three dimensional.
It sparkles with energy.
You sense the beauty and many flavors of life in every situation.
That “Rasa” is healing.
Your one-pointed concentration activates the higher
glands in your brain to release
Those special chemicals are called “Amrit”, the nectar
that supports the feeling and energy of Rasa.
You have no doubt.
You do not suffer from a lack of meaning.
You are clear, certain, involved and awakened.”
~ from “The 21 Stages of Meditation”, page 148
We stepped into the Second Journey – the expressive self – today. In it we experienced stages 8 – 10: rasa, delight, and politeness. We began the day with 37.5 minutes of the Adi Shakti Mantra. I was fascinated with the precision with which we learned this mantra. There is a very specific way to breathe with and through this mantra and the breath makes a marked difference in the experience as we enunciate the sounds of the mantra. If I had already felt maximally activated from the work of the previous three days, when we were finished chanting, I felt a whole set of new switches inside of me emerge magically and flip to the ‘on’ position. After we had sat and absorbed the moment for a bit, I turned to Tommy and asked him, “What just happened?” He looked at me with a spark in his eyes and replied, “Exactly!” We both smiled in silence. I truly believe that we were riding on and in The Sound Current and it immersed itself deep within the core of every cell in our bodies. We became The Sound Current itself; we embodied it; we fully merged with it and became one with it. I cannot overemphasize enough the impact of this experience. It catapulted me into a space full of so much that I was able to draw on or glide on the energy of it all for the rest of the day’s work. I felt expanded in an indescribable way. And we continued with more prana work as the day progressed, of course. Today was filled with healing on so many levels, I am not exactly sure where it all started and stopped, or if has actually stopped at all. These practices reach so deeply into me and seem to tap into places I just was not even aware of before doing this work. I most certainly feel more clarity, centered into the process, and more awakened than ever. I felt that I had been gifted with a great workout of sorts when the day was over. I had become even more intimately connected to my breath. I had further deepened my relationship with the breath. And I thought I already had a keen and profound relationship with my breath. At this juncture, I feel that the breath and I meet each other anew upon each meeting with one another. I never know when the breath I take will be the last one. Each inhale brings in new life, and with each exhale brings a death. The Great Wheel of Life exists in the cycle of the breath. So much is held with this cycle. If I have learned anything in this workshop, and I have learned a number of things, I have discovered that my relationship to my breath is at the very center of my being and I will never tire of all that it has to reveal. On to Day 4 and all that it has to offer. I take my thoughts and love for each of you into the room with me. Sat Nam!
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #FromTheMat #Recovery #LivingBeyondChronicPain #kippinitreal
I feel spent and utterly content after this first day (of seven) diving deeper into meditation in Gurucharan’s workshop “The 21 Stages of Meditation”. We were introduced us to the first three stages of meditation as outlined by Yogi Bhajan and Gurucharan. These are: upset, boredom, and irritation. Gurucharan guided us through meditations to deliberately provoke these responses in us. I must say that, for me, he certainly did not need to design a specific meditation for me to experience these three states within my meditative practice, as these arise just almost on cue each and every time I step into my meditation practice. These are ‘blocks’ as I describe them that my mind/ego presents as arguments to try and stop me from proceeding any further into this process. The trick for me is to remain the watcher of it all and continue with the practice regardless of the comments the mind throws up at me.
Our very first meditation was to chant the Adi Shakti Mantra for 37 minutes (which seemed to pass very rapidly – what felt more like a quick 11 minutes): “Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe (pronounced ‘Wah-hey’) Guru”. It is said that chanting the Adi Shakti Mantra “opens all of the chakras and connects the soul to the Universal Soul, and liberates us from the cycle of karma”. I am not so sure about all of that in the last sentence, as I am not very knowledgeable about these things. However, I certainly felt any and all perceived ‘stuck’ energy in my body clear out and I experienced a rippling flow throughout my entire being. I began chanting, as the doer, wherein I was ‘doing’ the chant. After a few minutes I felt a distinct shift in my energy. I shifted from the ‘doer’ to a state of ‘being’. I began singing the chant; I felt the shift when the chant began to sing me. This shift is such a profound event that I experience when I chant for any prolonged period. I cannot reach for the experience of ‘being’ – I literally ‘become it’ as I somehow drop the state of ‘doing’ and slip into ‘being’. And I go through the same process each time I begin a chanting experience. I believe this is what might be described a getting a glimpse of the Infinite while being in the finite.
I really enjoyed being able to share my meditation practice with a group and felt so blessed and honored to have a teacher, and such a learned one, to guide me through and into a deeper realization and discovery of that being who is “Elizabeth”. I go to sleep tonight, after the eleven minute Meditation for Stress Relief (yes, I will still do this despite all of the work done today), knowing that I put my best effort forward. I did not perform perfectly, and that is fine. I am a perfectly imperfect human being, and I am building an ever greater capacity to accept and embrace all of who I am, warts and all. Ong namo guru dev namo
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #FromTheMat #Recovery #kippinitreal
“We are now ready to realize the presence of the Higher Self within us. The first four stages [upset, boredom, irritation, and frustration] have cleared the way and quelled our inner conflicts. These next three stages – focus, absorption, and experience and crystallize the Self – build our primary contemplative virtues and make way for the crystallized Self.” ~ Gurcharan Singh Khalsa from The 21 Stages of Meditation, – page 102.
Well…if I thought I was fully activated before that was surely a limiting belief I held. We moved through the seventh stage yesterday. At the end of the day, Gurucharan said something about us climbing a mountain and at the end of these seven days, we would be able to view all of it from above and wonder how we ever climbed such a mountain. When I heard him say that, I was immediately cowed and wondered how on earth I would ever make it with the rest of the class. I took a breath and rested in the feeling that arose with that thought. And a beautiful memory percolated to the surface. I remembered that morning ar Kripalu last May in Rolf Gates’ yoga class at the Recovery & Yoga Conference. He said, “The asana is what you are doing in the pose. Yoga is how you are being in the pose.” And I got an opportunity to live those two beautiful sentences that very afternoon. A group of us from the Recovery 2.0 class had gone with Tommy down to the lake…down the side of the mountain that Kripalu is perched on. When we turned to come back up, I suddenly realized that I had a climb of seeming epic proportions ahead of me. I was quite shaken. And I was visited by two of The Four Aggravations: self-doubt and negative thinking. For a moment, I truly felt trapped and defeated. And then I remembered a few key things: 1) ask for help – I immediately shared my reservations with the group; Tommy made it clear that he would not leave me, and with Felicia, Noa, and Kathleen, we all walked up the mountain side together; and 2) I heard Rolf’s voice reminding me, “Yoga is how you are being in the pose.” 3) I asked myself, “How did you get down this mountain side in the first place?” I heard the answer, “One step at a time.” “Then that is how you will get back up it. And you will stay with the breath. You will remain in the One Step at a Time Pose and breathe with and through every single step. And you share the breath with your friends who are sharing this moment with you. You are not alone.” I sent those two Aggravations took a hike right into the lake to cool off. They dissolved right out of me. And I, with friends in tow all walked up that mountain side together, stepping one foot in front of the next, experiencing each step for what it had to offer and with the breath providing the lift to each footstep. And we did it together. We left no one behind. That was not even an option, and each of us knew this.
Here in this workshop I feel that I am being stretched, molded, twisted, squeezed, pushed, and pulled, and firmly guided towards some pinnacle which so far remains elusive to me. That is okay – I do not need to see what this painting will look like before it is finished being painted. I will move forward one brush stroke at a time. One step at a time. One breath at a time. And I will ask for help along the way.
I felt even more previously senescent switches within me turn on within myself yesterday and even into the night. I had a most restful sleep, even though I woke several times. And when I did wake momentarily, I noticed what an interesting contrast I was experiencing in the moment: I was aware of my body and I was also keenly aware of being greatly expanded. I was in my body, but it felt more like my body was in me. The ‘me’ was something so much more than the physical. And even the physical felt expanded with each and every cell vibrantly alive. It is a difficult experience for me to describe in words.
I look forward today, albeit with a shadow of some apprehension. I have done my best to prepare myself to step in to the unknown with the rest of the class and know that we are led by a learned and seasoned teacher. I breathe the prana, one breath at a time, and allow myself to feel this remarkable expansiveness alive within me. Gurucharan has said that he is working a recipe on each of us, stepping intentionally. I allow myself to follow and open myself to experiencing with gratitude the joys and the challenges that present themselves through this process. One breath at a time. And I leave you with a picture of the magnificent sculpture residing in the room where we are meditating. Sat Nam!
#AndNowYoga #Meditation #SatNam #Recovery #LivingBeyondChronicPain #FromTheMat #kippinitreal