Nowhere in the world can be found a means of purification that is equal to knowledge. One who is perfected in yoga will, in time, discover that knowledge within oneself and will soon reach supreme peace. Bills translation of 4.35-39
I have just spent the loveliest Easter weekend surrounded by beautiful like minded yogis and yoginis studying an ancient yoga text The Bhagavad Gita. To be honest I actually half expected the weekend be quite tedious and dare I say a little boring! Eleven years ago, I was supposed to have read The Gita during one of my yoga teacher training modules, but in reality I just flicked backwards and forwards through it and read what I deemed was necessary to write an essay on it at the time. I had no inclination whatsoever to delve deeper, in all honesty I was probably not as spiritually evolved as I am today, and therefore, I really did not fully comprehend the philosophy and teachings. Anyway, I have felt a little guilty ever since, so, I thought that I should try again and take this rare opportunity to attend this Bhagavad Gita study weekend, as the training (hosted by a friend, Clare Murphy at her Yoga Studio in Chippenham) was with a well known scholar of the International Yoga Community – Bill Mahony. Bill is the author of several books on the religions of India; he has a deep understanding of yogic life, and is grounded in over four decades of his own spiritual practice.
Bill has the exceptional ability to keep it real, so that these teachings are much more deeply accessible and relevant to our modern 21st century lives. He is able to convey his teachings with such humility, warmth, kindness, love and openness, encouraging gentle discussion and freely accepting different view points within the group. Consequently, over the course of the weekend, I actually surpassed myself and left Chippenham on the Sunday evening on a real high, not only feeling proud of myself for staying present and interested but because I felt I had re connected to a deeply conscious place within myself, (a state of deep inner awareness). I also felt overwhelmingly re inspired to listen and observe my own truth, and lastly I had been warmly reminded that, the reason we practice yoga is to ignite and intensify feelings of love. In other words, the more conscious we become in this exquisite world we live in, the more we will feel divine love towards ourselves and all sentient beings there is noting else but divine love, it is all around us and within us.
Consciousness is Love and Love is Consciousness
The Bhagavad Gita has been described as the most important and influential of all Hindu scriptures, it encompasses everything relating to Human Beings and life on Mother Earth. I personally dont see it as a religious work; I see it as unravelling the complexity of this world that we live in, through consciously learning to use our feeling minds more than our thinking minds. The Gita is the perfect self-help book because it is not too complicated and can be seen as a source of profound wisdom, offering a path to steadiness of mind. Without going in to detail of the, 18 chapters, 700 verses, characters and narrative dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita (or you will be reading this for a week), this is the summary of my understanding re the underlying messages that can be taken from the script and practiced in real every day life. .
The Bhagavad Gita gives us an interpretation of three paths to follow in order to live in harmony with ourselves and others in this world.. Theses three paths are the philosophy of Action, Knowledge and Devotion. Although each path is different, the destination is fundamentally the same. One path is not higher than the other. All three must be harmoniously blended within our lives in order to find freedom from the conditioned mindset, true happiness within, fulfillment and to live an integrated and balanced life.
- Karma Yoga The Yoga of Selfless Action Karma Yoga is essentially Acting, or Doing ones duties in life as per his/her dharma, or duty, without concern of results. It is our nature to be active, we cannot live in this world without performing actions, but can we choose to act in a way that is selfless without personal reward or gain? Can we detach ourselves from the fruits of our actions, let go of ego and just freely give of ourselves to others? This can be difficult as most of us are attached to the fruits of our actions, however through mindfulness practices, we can learn to choose how to behave and act in any given situation of our lives. Over time, transformation happens in little shifts, so that we are able to confront difficult parts of ourselves and release addictive patterns and discontinue toxic behavioural cycles.
- Bhakti Yoga The Yoga of Love and Devotion Bhakti Yoga is regarded as the most direct method to merge in supreme consciousness. Again through awareness practices we start to feel acceptance and more importantly intense love, first towards ourselves and then it begins to radiate out in to the world. When we are able to feel love deeply, we are able to freely offer it to others, not just our partners, family and friends but everyone that we come in to contact with may be touched by that love. It is essential to feel love/consciousness so that we can recognise that there is a special divine presence within ourselves and within all beings.
- Jhana Yoga The Yoga of Knowledge Jnana Yoga is the process of converting intellectual knowledge into practical wisdom in order to live in this world without conflict. To gain knowledge we can study texts, books and ourselves. To have knowledge of oneself and to understand oneself is to observe and listen to a deep inner knowing (intuition/instinct). Meditation leading to self-enquiry gives us knowledge. To know the self is to be at peace, it is supreme consciousness.
A central teaching from the weekend with Bill was to be Your Truest Authentic Self; In other words to live your life from your own truth, instinct, and personal core values, it means to be honest with yourself and others. When thought, feeling, speech and action– are out out of alignment, we become blocked. This means that we cant be truly at peace or happy if we are lying to ourselves or not being truthful with others. Don’t try and be what others want you to be, don’t be defined by your job, status or possessions, don’t try and be someone that you are not just to please or impress, don’t try to conform if it doesn’t sit well within you, this is the Ego. You are not living authentically when you feel anxious, confused or depressed, so celebrate your own uniqueness. Sometimes (especially through mindfulness practices), connecting to your truth can have a knack of tapping you on the shoulder and it won’t go away until you have addressed your demons. Therefore disharmony and problems that we suppress or do not confront, can mean that we are not living from a place of truth and authenticity with ourselves. If however, we can look at the difficult parts of ourselves, this can become an act of great courage, because dealing with problems and un-cluttering our mind is actually extremely healing. Living your truth means living by your intuition. When we can follow the road of our intuition, it will lead to contentment because we are listening to our own needs, desires and source of happiness within. Our authentic self exists in silence. In order to reveal that self, we need to find stillness and silence for a dedicated period of time each day.
One of the greatest gifts you can give out to the world is your truth, so be real and allow everyone else to experience whatever they experience in encountering your realness.
Ultimately through practicing yoga on our mat and in our lives we can live in a state of Equanimity. This is a state of psychological stability. With equanimity there is freedom of fear, clinging, negative emotions, ego and attachments. It is by embracing our full range of emotion from sorrow to joy that we finally come to rest in equanimity thus seeing ourselves with new eyes. When we can become the observer, and develop a compassionate heart, then, we can rest in equanimity. Every time we release something, every time we make space in our hearts for love to enter… the whole universe sighs with relief. We are all connected. We are all one, we can let go, be light and be love.
Yoga is Equanimity and Equanimity is Yoga
I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Bill for guiding us all on a beautiful spiritual journey last weekend and offer thanks also to Claire for her contribution of beautifully sequenced Asana Practices, cleverly weaved and entwined with Bhagavad Gita teachings.
By the end of the training I felt that there was the most amazing feeling of love, smiles and lightness in the room.
One who, is abiding in unity, offers love to me as the One who dwells in all beings, in whatever way that one lives ones life, that one dwells in me – Bills translation 6.31
Love and Light