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

To Be (Or Not To Be) Your Destiny

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Often, I feel overwhelmed and confused when making decisions. Being born into a life of opportunity, I want to give back. I feel I need to do so many things in my life! I must be successful in so many roles. I get excited by these ideas, and then so easily lost. I start to distrust my instinct. I see too many directions and don’t know which to choose in the NOW. This may be a quintessential Generation Y, first-world problem.

A (not so) easy solution to this confusion is to focus and ask – who do I want to be?

I want to be honest and relaxed. I want to be a leader – strong and relatable. I want to be an amazing daughter, sister, friend and partner. I want to be a creative producer, worldly contributor and storyteller. I want to teach and learn, and never stop teaching or learning. I want to travel and meet strangers and laugh with all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

Then when I think about where I am, at 25, I realize: I am all/most of these things. I may not be all these things all the time. However, I am one of these things all of the time and all of these things some of the time! So, why don’t I trust myself and my decisions? Why don’t I trust the universe is unfolding as it should? Why don’t I trust me? There is always room to be better, which is what makes life so inviting. But under all my self-doubt and fear, I am the person I want to be… I am becoming my own destiny!

TRUTH OR DARE?! I dare you to ask yourself the truth about who you want to be. See if you can trust yourself to let go and be(come) that person. See if you can love yourself enough to be(come) your dreams. Try to stop looking outside yourself for what you need. Claim yourself, your life, as your destiny! Sometimes it takes two steps back to move one step forward. But the more I trust myself, the more I become myself.

I Decide

To be

My destiny

Click HERE for a kinetic art video that will help you believe the universe is unfolding as it should (courtesy of my magician uncle). ‘Tis a beautiful Dance of Destiny.

 

Love and Trust in the Flow,

xo Lauryn Elan Z

 

Happy Holy Dayze

Gift giving is on everyone’s mind. A corporate driven, consumption-based holiday season is in full swing. But beyond the re-branding of Starbucks holiday cups and the repetitive holiday music flooding malls – what feeds the holiday season? The easy answer for me is that the holidays are fueled by retailers pushing gift ideas and pressuring humans to become consumers.

However, before this post continues in that direction, I want to take a step back and say: Hey! It feels good to give. So think again, what feeds the holiday season? Well, a lot of it really is the joy of making others happy. The pleasure of giving can be more fulfilling than receiving.

We live in a society filled with obsessive compulsive consumption disorder (OCCD – yes, I just made this up). Living in a First World, capitalist society there exists an interesting paradox: the emphasis on being independent and individual through consumption. All year long we are focusing on what we want, who we are and what are our priorities. This leaves our ego fired with Self. We feed our ego with ideas of Self, and we feed our Self with “stuff” (hence OCCD). We are stuffed!! It feels really good to empty.  It feels really good to give.

I recently read an interview with Manju Jois, son of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, Ashatanga Yoga Guru. Manju Jois, coming from India, was noting the large number of yoga teachers in the west. He said, “Everybody wants to be a teacher,” for Manju Jois this is not a good thing. Yet, in another light we can see Westerners are feeling a need to practice yoga to empty and let go. Many practitioners then want to share the teachings in order to feel fulfilled – in order to give the beautiful gift they’ve been given.

Capitalist society trains us to consume; but after being fed so much, we need to offer up our hearts, our coping mechanisms, our breath, our Self.

Often I hear people say the best thing they ever did was have a child or get married. We like to care for others. We take pleasure in watching loved ones enjoy life. We are (mostly) made up of love, and so much of love is generosity of spirit. Holidays are corporate driven – but they are fueled with our love for giving.

This holiday season, I won’t be gifting. I will be re-gifting. Re-packing bags of my kindly used “stuff” and giving it to friends, colleagues and family. This offering of my “stuff” will lighten my Self and seeing others smile will feel really good! Enjoy your holidays, whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it!

Love is bound with Anxiety.
Undone with Generosity!

 

Peace and Seasonal Blessings,

Lauryn Elan Z xox

 

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

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   : )

 

 

 

Who are we?

“Who are we?

We are the lifeforce power of the universe

With manual dexterity and two cognitive minds

And we have the power to choose moment-by-moment

Who and how we want to be in the World

Right here right now

I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere

Where we are – I am – the lifeforce power of the universe

I am the lifeforce power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular genuses that make up my form at one with all that is

Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere

Where I become a single individual, a solid

Separate from the flow, separate from you

… these are the We inside of me, which would you choose? Which do you choose and when?

…the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be.”

 

As much as I struggle to wear many hats, dance a thousand dances and still Be one with the Flow – I am not (especially) mad. I am one woman with two cognitive minds – just as you are.

How to balance and spread peace not irritability? Connect to the right hemisphere of your brain. Your right side is your inner-child, care-free, lalaland-lover. Hear more on the subject from a professional, and check out this powerful Ted Talks – by Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor. She can teach and reach Nirvana : )

OK, I must add…. I practice Oneness, but I never fear to sing for the ten women stirring inside of me. Allowing yourself to share feelings of contradiction (with a journal or a friend) allows you to find a place of lighthearted middle-ground. Your right brain and your left brain may always be conflicting, but it is no reason to tear yourself up. Until we find a place of harmony and peace, please SING ALONG: Ten Women between you and me

Balance and Blessings,

Lauryn Elan Z xox

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

 

Summertime Travels

Now that July has graced us with her Sun, many of us will be booking time off this summer to travel. Here is a poem I wrote while traveling South East Asia. Being a tourist in third world nations really makes me question the objectification of the exotic “Other”. It is not only the foreign landscapes, architecture or consumer goods that make traveling interesting – it is also the foreign faces.

 

THE STRUGGLE TO MEAN(S)

Take a Seat in the Theatre-of-the-Absurd
(10 Cents to Watch the Dance of Cognitive Dissonance)

I sit in a theatre-of-the-absurd
Where role-playing is a way of life
For our money
In cumbersome costume
In a cage
Built themselves
By-hand
Evoking our sympathy
Our money

The Search For Meaning:

Tourists pile off air-conditioned buses
Clutching purses in premature panic

Expectation: find meaning in what they lack:
Authenticity:
An assumption rooted in our ignorance
I sigh

Exotic difference must be easy-to-read: authentic but accessible
“It is a doomed search for meaning” O’Rourke said sadly

I sit in a theatre-of-the-absurd
Where meaning lies in the meaningless

I-not exempt from the tour of cognitive dissonance

My hands write in search of enlightenment
—embedded nails bitten but see no stress—
My hands reach into my pockets
—coins jingle like loose shrapnel—
Hands searching for what they owe…

The Fair Trade Game:

I pay her less than two dollars
Her tired eyes half-satisfied
Her weathered hands take the crumpled bills
My guilty eyes twinkle with satisfaction
My eager hands take the rice-paper painting

This is fair trade

It is an authentic piece of art
Buddha hand-sketched in charcoal
Painted over in Christmas reds and greens
I show the circle of teenagers lazy on the grass
Leaning on backpacks

Cool we laugh

I bought hand-sewn silk pants
For less than the cost of specialty coffee
I wear them real low
So you can see my pelvic bone
So I look effectively sloppy

I walk down the sewage stained streets
With an air of white-authority
I smile at whistles of leather-faced drivers
Of motorbike taxis
I take a photograph of a three-legged dog

To me three is odd

It’s an airless grey day humid and heavy
Like most other days here
The smell of rotting cow-carcass at high noon
And noodle soup made with rainwater
Mingle in the air

The Products Of (In)Difference:

I buy a can of Coca-Cola light
Because they do not call it Diet
I don’t ever buy drinks not bottled or boiled
Always use a straw
I consciously try not to gulp

So I can learn to savour

I pay a street vendor for a slice of pineapple
Hands guide the dull knife
Acidity stings the cracks at the corners of my lips
Juices rumble in the caverns of my belly
I follow the directions my guesthouse gave me

I pay a man sitting on a stool to let me climb a mountain

The mountain has stairs
A spine curling up its massive body
Carved out of the rock
Hands holding chisels
Leave impressions that look like acid rain drops

Children pepper the steps begging me to buy postcards
Miss Madame—buy this—Miss buy this

I squat down and point my camera lens up
To take a picture of trees with trunks so thick leaves so lush
And the children crowd me
Unripe hands reach out free of humiliation
Confused why I won’t pay ten cents for a postcard

With all the money I got
They wonder why I came this far

The Path To Enlightenment:

Do not look directly into their eyes
Do not acknowledge their extended hands
It’s this act of cognitive dissonance
It’s this way we can go home again
And pay for specialty coffee

I am loyal to this act of cognitive dissonance—with no need for justification…

I find pleasure just looking at the sky (see: loyalty to cognitive dissonance)
Here the night sky wears rings of gold
On its seductive black hands
Glowing stars mock the endless dark
Blinking like beautiful eyelashes

I stare content at the sky—
Dogs bark at that sky

Peasants cry to that sky for rain

I photograph them—
Bang! Bang!

I steal their souls
To show my friends

The Agreeable Grin:

Coffee comes half-filled with condensed milk
Pushcarts don’t serve Sweet n’ Low
Before sunrise people sit piled on the sidewalk
I sit with them—knees to my chest
Balmy hands around a glass mug

We sip our coffees—savouring

Men suck tobacco from bamboo water pipes
They cough black smoke through decaying teeth
In circles they sit—laughing—clapping calloused hands
In circles they sit picking dirty toenails
In circles they sit around a single bowl of rice

Sharing it bare-hands make it last all night

I buy a pastry and bite in hungry
It ejaculates sweet green custard too sweet and too green
Washing it down with gulps of sugary-condensed-milk-coffee
I am left with sticky hands gurgling belly top-of-mouth layered in filmy candy
I watch a pair of women beside me lick long fingers with wet tongues

What if one day I could live here
I could make handicrafts—sell them on the street
Marry a fire-thrower
Buy a mansion on the sea for the cost of a Fisher Price jeep
I would want to

In pencil I sketch the wrinkled woman on the cracked plastic stool across from me
I smile she does not smile back
This is one exchange she is not willing to accept
Hands folded in her lap
She knows what I want and will not give me that:

Agreeable grin

The Dance Of Cognitive Dissonance:

The women work too much
Who am I to judge
They barter they cook they sew they nurse they wash
The men work too hard
Who am I to say
They haul wooden barrels and roll wheelbarrows

Across the unpaved land you can see it in their hands

Hands with thinning skin bulge veins so stressed
Hands reaching out crusted with earth but empty
Hands like mine just hackneyed
Except I have pockets full of money and my hands reach into them
Buried in the denim lining my hands embarrassed of their innocence

I sit in a theatre-of-the-absurd
Where meaning is found in the struggle to mean(s)

I slide my coins into the machine
One
By
One
They
Get
Up
And
Dance
Mechanically
Stoic
Faces
Hopping
Hopefully
Marionettes held by strings

I sit in a theatre-of-the absurd
And it makes me want to stand

 

LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!

Thanks for reading.

Lauryn Elan Z xo

This Great Romance

I created this blog in August 2011 – almost a year ago. I haven’t touched it since. Today I read a moving blog post by one of my favorite bloggers Child of the Moon. Her mother died. I was moved by her words. I did not only want to share her words, but want to have my own space in reply to women like her – who are inspiring.

My comment on Child of the Moon’s blog about her mother’s death was the following:

She is gorgeous. So are you. Your words are honest and resonate. The images you share, not just here, but always – show us beauty is an expression of passionate insides – curious minds who try something new – creative and colorful, risky and willing – you, just like the expressive women before you, inspire us all.

I hope in some way I can use this space to evoke emotion, conversation and inspiration.

Here is a poem I wrote:

vigor
she hums
in all my bones
all the muscles in my back
all my tears
every bead
of sweat
of blood
reacts
all my days
the weeks as they string
all my years
every moment
coming-going
appointing
all my joints
sinews tear as they clasp
all my veins
every beat
our love
impacts

without union
i live
but do not breathe
dear Earth
i love you
completely
all my bones
all my tears
all my days
all my joints
dont hold
but grasp
this great romance

I wouldn’t call myself a romantic, but I sure am a dreamer.

Much love and gratitude,

Lauryn Elan Z xo

lauryn israel