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

The fear of being ordinary.

Have you ever felt a fear of being ordinary?

What does it mean to be extraordinary? To leave a legacy? To be to prettiest, smartest or richest person in the room? Does this narcissism make us better people, or like Mena Suvari in American Beauty, does it make us more pathetic?

We all have a fear of death without legacy. This fear is lessened when we have children, mature and grow our roots. However, long before families, grocery bills and routines, the fear of being ordinary thrives in the heart of anyone old enough to have braces.

I just got my first full-time 1-year contract at the Discovery Channel. This is a huge deal for me: a really cool gig, with great people and I learn new things everyday! But for the first time in my freelancing career my contract spans beyond “months” into the “year” measurement – gulp. How will I sustain my serendipitous travels and poetic lifestyle? How can I work for a huge corporation and still pride myself on bohemia (the fantasy in my head)?

The fear of being ordinary is tied to our internal storytelling tendencies (the fantasy in my head). We are constantly telling stories of who we should be, the life we should lead, the grand parties, travels, friends or fluffy pets with stupid pet accessories (not cool!). Always looking to fulfill these grand roles of living “happily ever after” or “to the max” or “with no regrets” may sound like awesome fairytale endings, but can be so contrived.

What role should you play?
Ram Das said: Be a soul, not a role.

In Sanskrit the terms chitta (mind-field/psyche) and vritti (waves) are used to describe the fluctuations of our mind. These thought patterns divide perceived subject from perceived objects – they create our ego, and fragment us into stories. We place ourselves in/around stories by judging where we (subject) stand among outside objects – are we losing, are we winning, are we too late? This self-judgment is called vikalpa. The Sanskrit term vikalpa can help explain the unenlightened mind: the struggle of self (ego/story) and reality (or perceived reality) leads to attachment of desires that mess up True perspective. That is, THINGS AS THEY ARE (simply as they are = nothing really, just things made of stuff given meanings projected by us).

I could go on about things made of stuff given meanings projected by us… but I won’t.

This year I will give myself time to take time. I will awake myself from romantic tales of myself. I will practice living in the moment, seeing things as they are (as they are, nothing really). I will embrace my passion, but not get lost in my ego and tales of my growth or self-worth. I will let my mind wave and fluctuate without judgment! I will tell stories for entertainment, but laugh with reality.

Sunday is the start of the Jewish New Year. So, how appropriate for me to accept my
1-year of stable work (both professionally and personally acceptance takes practice). So here I drink in a breath to 1-year of finding magnificent in the mundane. 1-year without running away to chase a good story (unless the job calls for it).

A great yoga teacher of mine sent me an email this week. It was signed, “there is no finish line. Enjoy the journey.”

Bless You all as Summer Turns to Fall. Dance with the science of contraction and expansion. That universal dance will always be extraordinary!

 

Love in the Flow,

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