Leaving the battle behind

A written experience with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 3.24

“Focusing with perfect discipline on friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity, one is imbued with their energies.” – Sutra 3.24

There is nothing quite as powerful as the focused will. Concentration on characteristics one hopes to see in one’s Self (or doesn’t hope to see) can indeed bring these characteristics into being. If we are able to focus with steady flow on beautiful qualities such as friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity we can feel the space between what is – and what is focused on – fade. That is, the deeper and more disciplined our practice of focusing becomes, the closer we come to embodying our focus.

One can see this in the practice of setting intentions. Mentally we plant a seed; physically we embody the intention. We are what we invest our energies in. The mind has the potential to manifest nearly anything, and the body and the mind are one in nature (individualized only superficially). What the mind manifests the body expresses.

It is also important to note the use of friendliness in most translations of this sutra. When we approach ourselves (or our goals) in a softer, friendlier manner we are more likely to attain our goals. Harsh approaches make for harsh responses.

Sutra 3.24 uses the word Samyana to describe a deep focus that combines the skills of concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) where we become one with the object of focus (Samadhi). In other words, Samyana is holding the mind on a particular object with an unbroken flow where the object loses all forms and true meaning remains.

If a yogi harnesses the power of Samyana, it opens up the possibility of merging with objects and/or characteristics of focus. That is, “When a [wo]man can direct his mind to any particular object and fix it there, and then keep it there for a long time, separating the object from the internal part, this is Samyama…The form of the thing has vanished, and only its meaning remains in the mind” (Vivekananda).

In my experience, when you open your heart, focus your mind and commit, the universe responds. Thought waves and energy patterns create habits, which build your character. The obstacles to reaching a higher state/divine self are often nothing but our own impatience, disbelief, insecurity and fear. With Samyana on friendliness, we can relieve the struggle. We can approach our higher nature with a flower not a thorn.

The practice of yoga is a mirror in which we see ourselves each day on the mat (and hopefully, eventually, off the mat). We offer ourselves a space to connect with feeling. “Through Samyana the mind simply manifests what is latent inside of it” (Bryant).  We can harness the power of Samyana – focused meditation, deep connection, Oneness – and use this as a way to manifest our True Nature.

Many translations of sutra 3.24 choose to highlight not the qualities of friendliness, compassion etc… but use an object – an elephant – as the point of focus to merge with. In this case the sutra is saying: if one focuses on the energies/strengths of an elephant one can embody the strength of an elephant. This is especially interesting when considering what the elephant symbolizes in traditional mythologies. The elephant was the ride of choice for royalty and for battle. The elephant is a brave, strong, but nimble character. Elephants are said to be able to crush pounds with their trunks but also delicately pick a flower. Elephants are massive animals, but they carry themselves with the grace of ballerinas – their anatomy is so that they walk on their tip toes! Plus, we cannot forget about the elephant deity Ganesh: the remover of obstacles. So what does this all mean? We can use the character of an elephant, like other characteristics of higher Self to focus on (until form dissolves) to close the distance between ourselves and our True nature.

This inspired me to write a poem:

 

Leaving the battle behind

The sun dim lit

Their foot set pace

Six tusks strong

With the weight of grace

Tip toe pounds of Grey

Mountains profound

Frame the Way

Yoked to attention

Intuition and stride

Each step

Sacred

A moment in time

Shiva and Shakti dance

As Indra sways

On the back of an Elephant

In the clouds

On The Way

A wink from The Universe

Paints all Elephants White

From ashes Of Ancestors

And the blessing Of Insight

 

Happy Journeys,

xo Lauryn Elan Z

Collective Independence

“Independent Togetherness” is a saying my friends and I use to describe our relationships at music festivals. We must be self-sufficient: know what we need to survive the harsh conditions (heat, dehydration, mass crowding, intoxication etc…). That way we can contribute to our community: reach out to neighbors (offer duct tape or a drink) and help everyone sway along with the good vibes.

It is easier to be successful in the collective when we take care of ourselves individually. That way we are fit to help everyone enjoy the journey. It is Our Journey independently, together.

Activities that may seem indulgent or selfish indeed produce happier, more productive members of society. Things like yoga practice nourish our inner self to help us contribute better in the environment off the mat. It can take just one happy human to stop a chain of aggravated ones. Like Pay It Forward: one good deed by one person can lead to a chain of good deeds.

Airline stewards instruct passengers: “secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.” How valuable it is to take care of yourself before you can help others. Once you can breathe you can do anything! (Or at least try).

Selfishness has gotten a bad rap. It can be seen as free-market-competitive-capitalist-jerk-business. People such as Ayn Rand who created the Objectivism movement may bring up many negative connotations. However, the idea that moral purpose is to pursue rational self-interest – that is: personal happiness – is not so flawed! DISCLAIMER: I do not believe in laissez-faire capitalism. Yet, I do believe an individual must live out their personal vision until it is complete in the form of physical contribution (sculpture, poem, song, movement). Then others are welcome to react with their own forms of free expression.

In my last post I spoke about leaving a legacy – what better way to fill your aims than to create.

“It is only in his work that an artist can find reality and satisfaction, for the actual world is less intense than the world of his invention and consequently his life, without recourse to violent disorder, does not seem very substantial. The right condition for his is that in which his work is not only convenient but unavoidable.
Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive—that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, Loss, Loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.”  –Tennessee Williams

Find what makes you feel good and share it with the world. Nourish yourself and glow with energy, oh bliss! Make yourself useful with true loving-purpose, drive and generosity of spirit – anything is possible.

 

To reach a serious aim
Without a serious face
Is a serious goal!

How many good Humans
Will (for) it (to) take
to breathe free and safe

Come You:
Blooming! Womyn!
Wear your toes on your teeth

*growling*

Live as nutrients in our soil,
Offer all your cells, your fate

What to feed a tree that stops giving?
Who to punish now Earth starts quaking?
Honey, let’s get a tan and start baking!

Hell no.

Fill your pain with creating.

 

Love, Desire and The Way,

Lauryn Elan Z

U-Guru

This week has been really HEAVY (especially since I didn’t work Monday) – a lot has happened in four days. Both in work and play I feel ready to turn to the next page. When feeling “stuck” I itch to travel. Though, I just did a three week American road trip and flew to Montreal last weekend for Osheaga music festival, already I am checking out flight deals to Miami!

Waiting in court this morning (yes, I pleaded guilty on a traffic offence and they dropped my charges by more than half!), I found myself using another form of escapism – I was reading romantic poetry. Like any curious homosapien, I look to words of those who inspire me for refuge – Rumi, Hafiz, Shiva Rea, Kerouac, Ram Das, and My Mom (of course, I could go on). One thing all these brilliant leaders keep reflecting back at me is to stop looking outside myself for answers.

Rumi says, “O pure people who wander the world, amazed at the idols you see, what are you searching for out there, if you look within, you yourself are it”. 

This makes someone as self-indulgent as myself grin with pride. But also makes me think…
-a human being can pick up only 1 billionth of all there is to percept in a space at one time
-we are therefore, in a way, choosing what we perceive
-we are recycling our perceptions of “what is” by constantly projecting inner feelings outward  
-we suffer because feeling/awareness itself is based in cravings (food, lovers, money), things we identify as leading to “happiness” or “satisfaction”
-you don’t need to read Descartes to know your perceptions can deceive you
-feeling and perceptions lay inside of us, but they trigger us to react and create our external reality

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s truly physical. But, when you feel suffering inside of you and you look outside of yourself for answers, you are playing into the notion that you are incomplete. The fixation we have with “outside things” is an epidemic in our society. When we let outside things trigger our inner self we suffer – and vice versa. Yet “suffering” is only a feeling, or a spirit, which is passing through the vessel of our Self.

One word: TRUST.
Trust that you are your best teacher. You know yourself better than anyone else. If only we looked inside ourselves as much as we fixated on other people or things – we would feel much more whole and complete.
YOU ARE YOUR GURU.
And as always, here is a poem from Me-Guru-to-U-Guru:

As breath pours
Nectar of Life
Down the spine
Awaken vertebrae
Touch is Kind
Children born
With loving eyes
Pulse is Truth
We are all Divine
As Divine a flea
As Divine my Guru-
OM-
That, which, is She
That, which, I am
That!

Namaste,

Lauryn Elan Z xox

lauryn in apartment

 

Going through a transition?

“I am just going through a transition.”

Do you notice yourself using this phrase?  Do you notice others using this phrase in conversation?

“I am just going through a transition” is a modern excuse for not feeling present/ knowing exactly what one wants. The thing is, you are and will always be going through a transition. The only constant in the world is change.

I recently had the opportunity to study Tantric philosophy and meditation with Christopher Tompkins. Tompkins discussed many heavy philosophical ideas. What hit me most was not his enlightening discussions on spirituality, materialism or ancient India, but his simple notes on modern-day dilemmas. For example: more people die on Monday morning of heart attacks than any other time – and this statistic is drastic across nations. What does this mean? That many people rather physically collapse than face another work week? The stress we induce on ourselves breaks us not just mentally or emotionally, but physically.

The routine of a society with capitalist values and structure leads us to think we must continue on a cycle of stress and consumption (work.earn.buy.work). Life is made up of cycles. Some cycles are natural (seasons, plant growth, moons etc..), while others are constructed by societies. When we stray from our natural cycles—that is our natural rhythm—our whole Self is compromised. We are constantly struggling to keep up with ourselves, our society and our peers. We don’t feel present, because these forced routines detach us from our bodies. Our society emphasizes the importance of brain intelligence, but what about heart intelligence? As soon as the rhythm of my heart gets ahead or behind the rhythm of my mind – I lose ground. Even worse, what if you don’t even sense the rhythm of your heart, your breath or your pulse? This is physical detachment. The detachment of ourselves from ourselves leads to confusion of purpose and lack of presence.

So, when will this transition end so you can finally land on your feet again? Never.  But there are coping mechanisms. Meditation, pranayama (breath) and yoga are practices I identify with. Scan your body and note – but do not judge all the feelings – let go/breathe into points of stress. When you are sitting in traffic and make your automatic right turn at the gas station on your drive to work, take a deep breath, follow your breath around that turn. Feel the tires roll over the Earth (magical right!? ; )). At your desk note your posture, release your jaw, keep your heart open (physically and metaphorically!). I know these practices may seem silly and small – but overtime they become your habits and your habits become your character! I don’t know about you, but every Sunday night before a work week I can feel my nervous system kick in and if I don’t tap into my breath and ground myself physically, I will react, physically.

This is more than just flakey yogi chatter – this is physics! Breathe and Savour. Hey, you know what else helps me center myself? POETRY…

This means the world to me!

The vibrations we release
The world comes to be
The vibrations we receive
It’s physics, its physical

Your bass notes
Your voice notes
The vibrations you put out
Your symphony
It is conducted

– c o n d u c t i n g –

 You
        The Conductor
It is physics 

Off the high hat – Ghana’s highlife
Off the highway – he holds a sign
It says “smile”
I change my face around
It’s physical 

We get in fistfights
It bleeds
Give into motion
Sweat beads

The vibrations you receive
The life you’ll live
Its physics
Get physical

: )

Peace and Love in the Flow,

Lauryn Elan Z  xo

Meditating in Massachusetts

Since my last post – on summer travels – I’ve been on a little journey myself. I drove with my younger brother to go see a Phish  concert in Saratoga Springs (a stunning outdoor concert venue in upstate New York). From there I took off to Kripalu – a meditation sanctuary in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Its been totally relaxing and the food is incredible! Here are some pictures… and of course, a playful poem for yogis and beings alike.

berkshires

the view from Kirpalu

self-trust

Amen.

 

shiva and lauryn

My teacher Shiva Rea on the left and me.

food

Quinoa crust veggie pizza and seaweed fry

lauryn on water

5am meditation

Looking forward is easier upside-down
Gravity proves myself extraordinary
As I see the things – I see – and differently
Full-leaved branches hold weight of aged brown trunks
The world’s frown is smiling
Ceilings’ exclusive to my toes
Power flows: inside-n-up
Blood pumps stronger than regular
Against the odds, I work, together
My feet fly!
My mind stays grounded.
The Earth balances on my head
Offering new perspective

Love and Krishna!

Lauryn Elan Z xo

lez