SOMATHEERAM PERSONALLY…

It is like arriving home once again. This is my 5th trip here. The first 2 were with Shiva Rea and she too still brings her own Retreats to this haven on the Coast of Kerala. It is indeed a magnificent coast. Megan McCarver my dear friend and compatriot in Yoga and I did our own here last year and it was so very much due to the hospitality and graciousness of this Ayurvedic Beach Resort that it was so successful.
Driving in I am reminded strongly that though this is Kerala, which in so many ways is the closest India gets to being Ayurvedic, still has cities and cities in India still are surrounded by waste in open fields with cows and goats grazing through the rubbish, resplendent with shiny plastic bags. As we leave the city limits, the landscape opens up to joyous palm trees and quaint roads with the Kerala shopkeepers all smiling through their day. It is warm but not searing hot as I had expected. A good omen indeed.
At the Gates to Somatheeram and at the Reception Desk I am greeted with genuine warmth and I know I will continue to make  this my first choice for future India Retreats.

Driving in...

Flower arrangements & Evening Sitar Announcement 🙂

It is now my second day here. I am trying to finish all business so I can take a personal retreat over the next few days. My treatments have already started. The food as usual is delicious. Yet to go to the Ocean and feel her waves. With this I bid you all adieu till after…

At the entrance to Pancha Karma area

Ayurvedic Hospital Reception areas..so much more inviting, yes?

The Ayurvedic Pharmacy, actually...!

My Room

The Restaurant

Fishermen boats and ocean, view from the room and restaurant

So then, till later…safe journeys and peace accompany you in your lives… for now, I am hanging out…

Hanging out...even management is laid back! (They get the job done though...)

Hari Om!


LETTERS FROM INDIA: MARCH 2011

In India.
This one will be for the memory books.
It begins with a flight from Dubai to Delhi and the reminder that every Indian has a cell phone. A Sikh gentleman in line to board the plane is on a long distance call to India in Punjabi, natch. A large Gujarati family is on another trying to locate one of their party in the terminal. They send a young bhatija to look for her and end up holding up the plane on the ground 10 minutes. I am on my way home…

Indians rule the airwaves

…Needless to say, the kind Sikh gentleman ends up rather largely taking up the seat next to me….

The new Delhi International Terminal is truly a collection of thoughts, all grand but perhaps not so much in their execution as it looks very much like too many personal comments, each needing to mark its owners footstep in the cement…I think in the old days we called it a “hodgepodge”

After a day or two of being with family, I take an early morning car ride to Rishikesh. This ride is nothing like either of the last two times I had done this pilgrimage but that is in and of itself a whole other story.

I am here for the International Yoga Festival being held at Parmath Niketan. After greeting old friends at Parmath I take Shiva Rea’s class. It is surreal to meet her here as I am at the Festival accompanying my friend Mini, purely on a lark. I later take Marla Apt’s signature Iyengar session and it is good to see her too.

Mini, Shiva and me on the Ganga

Marla adjusting Mini

A Panel on Women's Health: amazing yoginis, amazing participating audience

Over the next few days, and of course this is all over the Shivratri celebration, I get to talk once again to the Ganga. The conversation with this Goddess is now turning into a very intimate experience and it reminds me that if we pay attention everything in our lives reveals its purpose…even if it is years later. I am reminded that perhaps I am able to have this intimate tete a tete because I grew up watching my grandfather talk every Sunday night to God. First he would sing his heart out and then he would have the most passionate conversation with God and to me this was the most real part of him. Now, ever since she took me deep into her depths the last time I was here, ever since the Ganga filled my lungs with her sweet water and showed me a glimpse of her fierce Majesty, ever since the most intimate experience I have ever had, yes where the lines between sensuality and death disappeared into her mystery, I have been left yearning. Now I gaze at her in awe and fear. I am not ready for the second dip yet. I tell her so and she is back being a Holy River meandering through the mountains, valleys and sacred settlements.

The Ganga passing through

Here I sat to talk to Her

Shiva Shambho Mahadeva Shambho

After Rishikesh it continues as a personal sojourn to find roots and re-examine them in silence so as not to alter their value. This can be quite challenging as some of these roots require abandoning my Yogic/Ayurvedic life style. Again I am confronted with the sheer Intelligence of this Being called Nature/Ma/Universe/Shakti as she has been quietly preparing me over the last few months for yet another journey into my own psyche. I would like to say I trust you Ma, but I am afraid it will only open up another opportunity for you to teach me yet another lesson. And this trust, this perceived betrayal, this magnitude of Grace reveals past wounds that now seem trivial.
So, I teach a class in Delhi for Mini’s Yoga Studio and set up the groundwork for the next India Retreat to include a local contingency. Meanwhile I rest in the samskaras of family and watching the World Cup Cricket Events.
Soon, I head for Kerala and the next part of my own personal Retreat, now that I have my OCI card….yes, I am officially an Overseas Citizen of India!

At my Aunt's house watching the Cricket World Cup

TV Mania

The Grand Hyatt in Delhi

Layers of restaurants

Sharing tiny space on the streets of Mumbai

India's Honda Jazz: same as my new Honda Fit?!

Being in Mumbai, which to me will always remain Bombay, is again very much a personal yatra. This time I am with my maternal family. The old compound that housed the joint family I grew up in is now 3 separate properties, one a rubble waiting to transform into a 15 story apartment building. You cannot stop change. The separation from my present lifestyle is even more magnified here as I regress into the patterns inherent in childhood relationships, sometimes it seems completely untouched by the passage of time.

Evening bhajan (kirtan) in the makeshift mandir (temple)

An altar

Like my mother did, I love this painting

Family Dinner

Now, off to Somatheeram! Here is where we did the last India Retreat. Next one is now planned for Oct 2011…please stay tuned and do join us if you can!

Namaste`
Mumbai March 13, 2011

SVATANTRA: ALCHEMY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Please see end of article for workshop locations, details…

In the eight limbs of raja yoga, the panchva (fifth) anga is pratyahara. Literally translated as “withdrawal of the senses”, we are left with an image that is limited in its meaning.

In fact, it is better to classify it as “double-pointed” vision. We need our senses directed outwards to negotiate our pathway through the myriad experiences they bring us. Pratyahara would then be about simultaneously looking inwards to integrate those experiences!

Pratyahara: Inner perception...

What we find within is the world of perception. Perceptions are driven by energetic forces so deeply buried within our psyche, that they manifest first as emotional responses, then mental activity and finally physical reactions.

By bringing our attention to these perceptive states, we give ourselves an opportunity to research our own nature and trace it backwards through the various layers that we are, to a place where we come face to face with the Truth of us: this is Svatantra!

This journey began for me personally some years ago when I fell critically ill. Therefore, my journey began at the physical level. Ayurveda seemed the most appropriate tool at that time.

Since Ayurveda sees us as dosha, dhatu, mala and agni, that is what I worked with: settling the winds, fires and waters of my physical being. This included building bodily tissues, firing up my digestion and intellect and paying proper respect to releasing toxins.

Reading the rhythms of the pulse

In time, I was able to deepen my self-study through the yogic vision of my anatomy- that of the chitta. It is very powerful to see ourselves as Mind and to pay heed to the various undercurrents that run through it!

Patanjali quantifies them as five vrttis: correct perception, incorrect perception, imagined perceptions, perceptions in our sleep state and perceptions that filter our memory banks. Not having the wisdom to “get it” right away, I found my work in the second chapter,  sadhana pada.

sadhana...

Working with the eight limbs began to take me into heightened states of awareness but I also found that my life was still swaying precariously in tides.

And my physical being, the mirror that reflects what is truly happening underneath, was sending loud signals that there was still much work to be done.

I found the seeds of osteoarthritis, vata dushti in the blood and emotional clingings that could only be super-refined samskaras!

Continuing my practices in Ayurveda and Yoga as the stable ground upon which to build, I began to explore the meaning of Tantra.

What I found were many conflicting views on what it actually is and each person defining it seemed to speak with perfect authority!

What we do know is that tantrics are responsible for recognizing the chakra system as well as the 72,000 nadis we are said to be composed of.

contemplating the nadis...

So I knew that they were working at deeper energetic states and therefore the practice of pancha makara (a tantric practice) could be useful on my own journey.

To assimilate it with my now inbuilt models of yama and niyama, I preferred the virya pathway- that of seeing the value of the outer as well as the inner practices.

Next I began to seek the correlations between all these systems and found even more amazing Truths about our selves in the Upanishads.

swadhyaya leads to ishwarpranidhana...

Known as the Vedanta, they should not be thought of as “the ending of the Vedas” but as the unlocking of their coded secrets of who and what we are! Finding the pancha maya (later called koshas by Shankara, the 10th century bhakta and mystic) was another amazing revelation!

Everything seemed to be coming together to form a perfect mystic puzzle.

Yet, something was missing. I knew all the answers were contained in these wisdom writings but I did not have the key yet.

At this time, I entered a tenuous relationship that churned all my emotional undercurrents and regurgitated them to the surface of my consciousness.

When she left what I had become: a frightened child;  she had handed me yet another key. It was a book.

What had been missing was in this book: something similar in substance to the Upanishads themselves.

When the Vedas were no longer comprehensible, the new breed of seers: rishis, captured their essence in the Upanishads.

Now, another new breed of rising seers were exploring the Alchemy of our Consciousness and the language it was being revealed in is the one we all speak!

The language of our urbanized and conflicted world.

meeting the urban world head on...

The missing link, for me, was the correlation between the vedic shariras and the Four Bodies we are: Vibrational, Emotional (where the urgent work is), Mental and Physical and I had found it.

One other, last key-link was still not connected: the concept of the ego did not match the Ahamkara of the ancient traditions.

But in the end, with subtle clues from this very book, from gleanings in Eckhart Tolle’s “New Earth” and finally a virtual explosion of in-sight at a lecture by my guru, that connection too was made! As much of an obstacle as it can become, when it re-cognizes buddhi, it is re-balanced into serving our well-Being instead of being our un-Doing...Ahamkara become the I-former not the I-doer…

meeting the collective ahamkara...

I am awed, overjoyed, humbled and nervous about this Universal Rise in Consciousness that is being expressed by so many of the Mayan elders, shamanic leaders, writers such as Jack Kornfield, Eckhart Tolle, Michael Brown; speakers like Marianne Williamson and Reverend Beckwith, alchemists like Dr. Svoboda and gurus like Dr. Vasant Lad. And there are more, growing in number everyday!

preparing for yantra & yagnya at Ayurvedic Institute

Through them, light is also being shone on the commonality of all Spiritual Disciplines, not just Vedic. I humbly seek to add my own voice…humbly yes, but also fully alive to the Truths that I have found in my own personal journeys and the way they have shaped it into accelerated mode.

There is beauty now in all my feelings…as one of these amazing new breed of seers has put it: instead of trying to feel better,  I am starting to get better at feeling!

It is now my fervent belief that a new Buddha is arising, but to meet our own lightning speed connected world, it is not a He or a She but a Collective Consciousness Buddha: a joyous, innocent, creative Buddha: Svantantraye Buddham is the Being I see it as…may we all be a part of it!

At Sarnath...where the Buddha gave his first sermon

Starting on Sunday Feb 21, I will offer workshops on how this new paradigm correlates to the great Vedic Sciences. At them, together, we will practice these Truths experientially, ending often in a powerful Yantra/Mantra Meditation!

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Sri Vidya Yantra Yagnya...

Below are the Fliers for the workshop as they happen: In the Light!

Sva: of the Self/Tantra: expansion & liberation.

Sunday February 21st: Dancing Shiva Yoga & Ayurveda
7466 Beverly Bl, Los Angeles (323) 934-8332: 2-5PM $30 by Feb 14/$35 after…


Sunday March 21st: Private Home in San Diego County: By invitation: Please contact Jutta Hecht at: juttamariah@gmail.com/ 760.580.2524:
SOLD OUT…WAITING LIST OPEN…

May 1: Svatantra: Alchemy Of Consciousness: Yoga Works, Costa Mesa

Stay tuned for more in May, including Salt Lake City & Thousand Oaks!