The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Heart Of The Matter

It's no secret that yoga has a way of uncorking emotional bottles deep within us, unleashing its contents onto the mat. One minute we're arching gracefully into Cobra and the next minute, we're dissolving into tears. One minute we're firmly rooting our feet in Warrior I and the next, we feel strength surging through us. Or we're balancing with delicate lightness in Headstand and suddenly, we experience a moment of clarity. The explaination is simple - each pose corresponds to a certain chakra and as we glide into that pose, the energy in the respective chakra is gently stirred. Depending on the depth of our practice or the state of our emotions, we feel either the direct or subtle power of the chakra's attributes.

I've witnessed these emotional waves in the ashram and even in my own class, but I've never experienced it firsthand. Until I stepped into my first vinyasa class. Or rather, after I stepped out of it. I've been for two classes since and both times, it has wreaked havoc with my Anahata (heart) chakra.

Driving home after class, I suddenly felt tears spring to my eyes. Taken aback, I frowned and swiped at my eyes. Almost immediately, fresh tears pooled hotly in them again. By the time I pulled up at the next set of traffic lights, they were overflowing uncontrollably. This emotional tsunami followed me all the way into my apartment and even into the shower, where I stood bent over double, sobs racking my entire body. My mind raced, scrabbling for a logical explanation to this madness. Whole minutes passed before I realised that I was ramming my clenched fists over my heart. My mind stopped dead in its tracks and slowly turned its attention to the emotional hub of my being. And that's when I saw and felt the contents of that now opened bottle. Then I did something odd. I told my heart it had my full permission to spill itself out. My mind respectfully stepped back and silently watched as the tears came harder and more furiously. After a while, the tears subsided and a wonderful calm settled over me. It was as though my heart had undergone a much needed spring cleaning.

When I told The Healer and The Seer this, they both smiled and said it was a healing process. Neither seemed surprised. I did the right thing by quieting my mind and allowing my heart to take centrestage, they said. The Healer, who attended the class with me, also reminded me of the numerous heart opening poses we had done. What a wonderful way of experiencing the power of yoga, she beamed.

I agreed wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vinyasa Virgin No More!

I had a near death experience last night.

I joined my first vinyasa class.

Deciding not to reveal my teacher status, I unrolled my mat in the front of the class, between a man who looked like he spent half his life doing chaturangas and a girlfriend whose body had undergone a dramatic change since she began dabbling in Ashtanga. Annie, the teacher, whose sweet face disguised her warrior spirit, settled down on a block and led us into the first round of kapalabhati.

The first set of chaturangas were a piece of cake. The second was still doable. By the third, my jaw was firmly set and it was all I could do to not disintergrate into a trembling puddle during the fifth set. Mercifully, it ended there and my burning biceps gratefully passed the torch over to my thighs. The warrior sequence was like a shot of brandy on a bitterly cold night. Annie glided through all my favourite asanas, throwing in a few unexpected twists (literally and figuratively) into the sequence.

Then she introduced the final sequence and my jaw slammed onto the floor. Gracefully elevating herself into kakasana, she effortlessly slipped into the variations without missing a beat in her instructions and breathing. Balancing one knee on one arm with the other leg stretched up behind her, she smiled and told us to have no fear. After three attempts, my weary arms refused to coorperate and so I sat back and stared at my neighbour's feet high up in the air.

Was it difficult? Yes.
Are my muscles weeping in agony today? Yes.
Did I enjoy the class. Yes
Am I returning. YES.

Being in Annie's class reminded me what it feels like to be a new student again. To struggle with the unfamiliar, to swallow my ego, to accept my body's limitations and to allow my thoughts to pass without judgement. Her class gave me the opportunity to practice what I preach to my own students. Most of all, it helped my body feel alive again. Alive with emotion and physical euphoria.

And if my abs look anything like Annie's in the next six months, all those chaturangas would be more than worth it!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Moving On

One of Domestic Goddess' favourite lines is, 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.'

Last night, I was finally ready and my teacher appeared in the form of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love - a book I picked up on an impulse. This is the excerpt that dislodged that stubborn stone in me. And this is for all of you silent readers who still carry a memory in a secret pocket of your heart.

"I think the reason it's so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate."

"He probably was. Your problem is that you don't understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows your everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you can't let this one go. David's purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of that marriage you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. That was his job and he did great, but now it's over. Problem is, you can't accept that this relationship had a short shelf life. You're like a dog at the dump, baby - you're just lickin' at an empty tin can trying to get more nutrition out of it. And if you're not careful, that can's gonna' get stuck to your snout forever ad make your life miserable. So drop it."

"But I love him"

"So love him."

"But I miss him."

"So miss him. Send him some love and light everytime you think about him, and then drop it. You're just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you'll be really alone. But here's what you've got to understand. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you're using right now to obsess about this guy, you'll have a vacuum there, an open spot - a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with that doorway? It will rush in - God will rush in - and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go."

"But I wish me and David could..."

"See now that's your problem. You're wishin' too much, baby. You gotta' stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta' be."