The Meaning of Peace
There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest ........... perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize?
The King chose the second picture. Do you know why?
"Because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."
- courtesy of Katherine Rowland
Commentary by Nicole Becker:
Ojas Yoga Center is dedicated as a Place of Peace. Nestled in an unsuspecting place on the second floor of a busy shopping center, our beautiful, clean, quiet and sacred sanctuary awaits all who seek a place to rest into themselves. There is no other studio like it in the east bay... it is an unpretentious temple of calm; an unmarked and no-dogma church of kindness.
The majority of yoga studios are just like the outside world: noisy, busy and superficial. Most yoga classes encourage ego while paying lip service to the soul. Most people care only for a cheap and efficient workout in pursuit of the vanishing goal-post of control over the body.
Ojas Yoga Center is a rare gem and welcome respite for holistic people who value a meticulous container for the inner journey and who crave depth and integrity in all aspects of their lives from their movement practice to their relationships. Our teachers and staff are dedicated to supporting your personal path to deep wellness.
reprinted from http://kubik.org/lighter/peace.htm
guest post by Ojas teacher, James Ryder
This triplet of yoga, writing and meditation, while distinct in ways, I see as three notes perceived by the listening body. It’s the common ground that most concerns me here. Hatha yoga at its core offers the yogin “templates of discernment,” as one teacher I currently study with says so eloquently. In the sweep of practice, we contact recurring opportunities, some conscious, some less so, to choose thoughts and actions that are wholesome for ourselves, and for others. You might suspect that when I say “practice,” I am referring to our daily lives, relationships and the invitations we extend to the world. Ultimately, there is nothing outside of practice. That could well frighten you (it does me) or, even better, it may wake you up.
Meditation begins in developing the capacity to gather the attention and steady it where desired. In 2000, I undertook the hero’s journey of an S.N. Goenka retreat: nine and a half days of silence, no eye contact and long days of sitting, receiving instruction and chanting. This was my introduction to Vipassana, or Insight meditation. It was difficult, and a remarkable threshold, akin to many things I now value. While hatha yoga clears and tempers the body, meditation can cast light on the patterns of thinking. The training is to watch the movements of mind with a kind, caring attention and, ultimately, without identification. Finding a margin between habituated thoughts and reactions, we step closer to the possibility of choice. The training calls for us to stay, even when the territory is difficult.
People write for all sorts of reasons. I intend to publish my first book of poetry a year after I graduate (stay tuned!). Part of what’s remarkable about writing is its versatility. Though your intention may not be to be read by others, writing does not surrender its power of recollection and insight; words are always a palette we can call on to dream. There is a natural synthesis generated among writing and meditation and yoga. In each discipline, we are learning to listen; learning to recognize and discard the non-essential; and perhaps most promising, learning to hear the song of our heart’s desire, possibly for the first time.
James has been teaching at Ojas for 6 years, offering Strong Hatha Yoga on Friday mornings from 9:30-11:00 a.m. preceded at 9:00 a.m. by a 20 minute Silent Meditation (by donation).
James Michael Ryder is a dedicated student and teacher of hatha yoga and insight meditation. These potent technologies restore us to native embodied wisdom and an undefended heart. Yoga provides excellent tools (awareness practices, postures, extended breath, cleansing, energetic bonds, concentration and meditation) to refine attention, body and breath and, ultimately, the qualities of mind. As we grow steady, even faced with difficulties, we can begin to recognize the filters that obscure clear seeing of self and the world around us. This freedom, then, is the essential fruit of yoga practice. Come find out for yourself! www.jamesryderyoga.com
Guest post by Melissa Felsenstein
Many of us have noticed an increased level of ambient stress in our lives whether it be personal or environmental. As the holidays approach this stress is coupled by a busy schedule and family obligations. While we may sleep, we rarely take time to fully rest. Our minds are buzzing with to-do lists and we awake not feeling restored, we wake up feeling tired.
Restorative yoga is the perfect antidote to our frantic pace and busy lifestyle and through quiet, fully supported, long floor poses re-trains the nervous system how to relax again. By its very nature, the restorative yoga practice is the antithesis of the “no-pain-no-gain” mentality. We receive the greatest benefits from our practice not through forcing ourself into a pose, but by releasing and surrendering to it. This mentality helps to cultivate acceptance of your body and its inherent limitations. Further, it strengthens your ability to let go of preconceived notions of your body and how you think it should look or feel, both in and out of a pose.
I personally used restorative yoga to reduce severe anxiety during a hard period of my life when a family member fell mentally ill and as a result my body began to suffer the results of accumulated chronic stress: TMJ, migraines, neck tension, digestive issues, insomnia, etc. Restorative yoga is designed to nurture the parasympathetic or "rest and digest" nervous system though long holds, darkness, quiet music, and a self-connection and became my saving grace as my health depleted. Through restorative yoga and sound therapy, my nervous system rebalanced, the ambient stress was reduced, my health restored, and my ability to self-connect and self-nurture deepened which inspired trust and a new ability to surrender to a situation beyond my control.
Restorative Yoga benefits:
OUR WEEKLY RESTORATIVE CLASSES:
Restorative Yoga & Sound Meditation with Melissa
Wednesdays 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Restorative Yoga for Stress Relief with Nicole Matthiesen
Sundays 7:00-8:15 p.m. (no class on 12/31/2017)
How Ayurveda Changed My Life
by Nicole Becker
25 Years ago I was suffering from chronic sinus infections, chronic digestive problems and systemic candida overgrowth. Western medicine overdosed me on antibiotics and didn't have any answers for me so I started learning everything I could about natural alternatives to heal myself. I dove deep into Western herbology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurveda (traditional Indian Medicine) for solutions. Long story short I was able to heal myself completely from all my ailments, and one of the most powerfully healing practices that I first incorporated into my life and gave me the best results, was a simple morning ritual from Ayurveda: Hot lemon water first thing in the morning.
You may have come across this health tip out there in the interwebs... first thing in the morning, before any other food or drink, squeeze half a lemon into a cup of piping hot water and drink up! This practice is great to stimulate the digestive fire or "agni" which improves digestion and, most importantly... elimination (if you catch my drift).
Many popular health trends out there these days are actually time-tested Ayurvedic secrets. The whole turmeric craze for anti-inflammation? Ayurveda. The whole coconut oil scene? Ayurveda (restrictions apply!).
Ayurveda means "the science of life". It is the companion science of Yoga, and looks at each person as a unique make up of 3 basic doshas (constitutions) that each have their specific tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, proclivities, etc.
You know how your body might run hot - you love to have the windows open at night but your partner runs cold and can never have enough blankets or wants the heater on all night? This boils down to a difference of doshas. The person who runs hot is going to also have different dietary, lifestyle and personality needs/preferences than the colder person.
Understanding Ayurveda, so many things finally make sense about my body, my mind, my tendencies, what I gravitate to in my life, what I avoid. I feel so much more compassionate towards myself and others. I also feel empowered with simple strategies to know how to balance any imbalances as they inevitably arise. It helps me to avoid getting pulled into the trap of the latest health trends and instead know what would be beneficial to my personal constitution.
You can learn the basics of Ayurveda and find immediate empowerment in our upcoming: Ayurveda Basics Workshop with Eugenia Park on Saturday, October 7, 2017 from 2-5 p.m. Sign up by Oct. 1st and receive a $15 early bird discount! ($45 by Oct. 1, $60 thereafter)
A Surprising way to release tension... the way (other) animals do!
by Nicole Becker
Stress, tension, and even trauma are nothing new to living a life in an mortal body. Scientific researchers of all stripes have long been interested in the mechanisms involved in how creatures respond to, process and recover from stressful experiences.
As we all know, even though a particular stressor and/or stressful situation is over, our body can cling to the associated tension and fear, even mild over-alertness, long after the event. Our body tends to remember and store tension and trauma in order to be able to better predict and prevent threats to it's survival.
Animal researchers have observed (and you may have too in your pets) that shortly after experiencing a threatening situation, like being chased by a predator, that the prey animal will shiver/shudder for a few seconds/minutes. You may have experienced this yourself if you've ever been in shock and found yourself shivering even if you weren't cold. What's happening here is a very interesting primal version of "shake it off". The nervous system produces a "tremor" or "shiver" which is a rapid tense/release of large muscle groups. This is not just a symptom of shock, but a way for the body to release the muscle tension that was evoked during the stress and to reset back to neutral.
This natural recovery process from "fight or flight" mode has been harnessed and is being taught all over the world to everyone from survivors of war to everyday folks with normal everyday stresses. TRE: Tension/Trauma Relieving Exercises take you through a simple series of 6 standing poses similar to yoga postures that engage the large leg muscles. Afterwards, you rest on the floor in a comfortable but specific position that evokes this gentle "tremor" or "shiver" response in the legs (and sometimes other parts of the body). The first time I did it I was so surprised by the feeling - which was pleasant - of this sort of involuntary tremble of my limbs. It feels in a way like a percussive massage but it's happening from the inside out. At one point I was laughing because it was such an odd sensation. Resting afterward, I felt a little teary for no apparent reason other than I could feel the sweet catharsis of having moved some unknown tension out of my body and the subsequent lightness and freedom was poignant.
Join our upcoming 4-WEEK TRE Series on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
from January 9-30, 2019 with certified TRE provider, Ashley Brown.
Click here for details
Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word meaning "non violence". This is the same principle of non-violence espoused by great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Ahimsa is the very first principle of Yoga, in a long list of principles called the "Yamas" or ethical considerations that support the full flowering of our human potential. The word himsa means "injustice" or "cruelty". The prefix a- means "without". So the concept of ahimsa is about the absence of cruelty and injustice in thought, word, and deed. But, as TKV Desikachar, son of the great Krishnamacharya points out, in his book, "The Heart of Yoga,"
"Ahimsa is more than just lack of violence. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. We must exercise judgement when thinking about ahimsa. It does not necessarily imply that we should not eat meat or fish or that we should not defend ourselves. It simply means that we must always behave with consideration and attention to others. Ahimsa also means acting in kindness toward ourselves. Should [a] vegetarian find [them self] in a situation where there is only meat to eat, is it better to starve to death than to eat what is there? If we still have something to do in this life, such as family responsibilities, then we should avoid doing anything that may cause us harm or prevent us from carrying out our duties. the answer in this situation is clear - it would show a lack of consideration and arrogance to become stuck on our principles. So ahimsa has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. It could even mean that we must fight if our life is in danger. In every situation we should adopt a considered attitude."
There are many nuances of this topic to consider personally and collectively and on a case by case situational basis. I look to the strategy of Mahatma Gandhi, who's philosophy of satyagraha, "adherence to truth", was studied and adopted by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other pioneers of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.
Gandhi wrote, "Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance”, in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word satyagraha itself or some other equivalent English phrase......I have also called it love-force or soul-force. In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself." (Wikipedia)
I welcome conversations about this topic with you.
The practice of Trataka (TRAH-tuh-kuh), or candle-gazing is often recommended to alleviate eye strain, but here I will share the use of Trataka as an "energy hygiene" technique.
EXTENDED PRACTICE WITH HEART HEALING MANTRA
You may wish to experiment with repeating this mantra several times before your trataka practice. Click here to listen with SoundCloud
Vishoka Va Jyotishmati
(Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1:36)
(Vee-show, Kuh-vah, Joe-teesh, Mah-Tee)
Vishoka – free of suffering;
Jyotish- Inner light;
Mahti- concentration of inner light
Interpretation: By contemplating and expanding our inner light we become free from suffering. May my inner luminosity is glow bright. (This mantra is a heart opener on the inside and the chanting equivalent of doing a large chest opener like a backbend. )
Credit: Thanks to Missy Felsenstein of Inner Sounds Yoga for sharing this powerful mantra with us during the Harvesting Wholeness series!
Mantra (Man= mind, Tra = thread) The word mantra literally means "thread for the mind". Chanting a mantra repeatedly steadies the mind by giving it a single pointed focus. Each yogic mantra holds a special sacred vibration that is medicinal for all layers of your being.
One of the most popular mantras is "Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha" - a chant to Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles. This mantra is often chanted before chanting any others. Ganesha (the elephant headed god), represents the strength within to overcome any obstacle in our path. Although we often perceive obstacles as "bad", we can see how obstacles help us grow and get stronger. Therefore, each obstacle is actually a tool to bring us a certain medicine in our life. The frustration of meeting an obstacle and the determination to overcome it is the exact fuel needed for growth.
The practice of repeating a mantra is called "japa". Traditionally one uses a string of 108 beads called a "mala" to count the reptitions. 108 is a sacred number to yogis and chanting a mantra 108 times is said to bring out the full power of the medicine of the mantra. Chanting not only brings you personal healing but also sends much needed positive vibrations out into the world.
After chanting mantra, sit quietly and receive the silence. You may choose to repeat the mantra silently in your mind or you may find it does it all on it’s own - like getting a song stuck in your head. Practice feeling the energy of the mantra but also the silent space within which your experience is occurring.
The above recording was made at Ojas Yoga Center in November 2016. Listen along or join in! Many blessings to you on your path. We are all together as One.
For eons, humans have marked the longest night of the year, Winter Solstice (Dec. 21 this year) as a sacred turning point. The return of the sunlight, bit by bit, is a promise from Nature that a new growing season will return. Nature uses Fall & Winter - the seasons when nights are longer than days - to compost and fertilize. It literally devours the remains of the previous cycle to generate the next cycle. These darkest days are essential to Nature's fertility and to our own psyche/consciousness. It is in the dark that gestation occurs. It is in the dark that we dream. This is a highly potent time to examine our values and how we intend to act in accordance with them as the light (and our energy) returns. What "You" do you want to grow in the coming year??
In our modern electricity- and convenience-filled world we do not remember how stressful this time of year would have been without them. Fields lie fallow, what we have managed to harvest and store in the cellar is what we must survive on until the next growing season. In ancient myths, this is the time of descent into the underworld - a time of great uncertainty and coming face to face with our very mortality. It is no wonder that huge celebrations and rituals of celebrating light occur all over the world in the darkest months, and especially in relation to the return of the sun (birth of the Son of God...God of Sun...) around the winter solstice.
Historically, the unique lessons of the dark months were literal and involuntary and put us in direct relationship with the essentials of survival. Facing uncertainty or fear with courageous vulnerability, getting resourceful with what we have on hand, submitting the to greater cycles of nature, and knowing the light will come again...all this fosters great humility, trust and resilience. It is in times of scarcity that we realize the simple joys of being alive, and having food, shelter, and good company.
These days, as part of a conscious life striving to be in tune with nature, we must voluntarily connect with these lessons. Our holiday rituals and celebrations are a reminder, and there is more. We must take time to get to nourish our depths, to find the riches in the fertile soil of our being. It takes a whole season to do this, and gets deeper and more nuanced each year of our lives.
If you would like to learn how to experience the Nurturing Source in meditation, I am available for one-on-one sessions.
Pluck the squash warm from the vine,
and celebrate the harvest time.
Do not mourn the fallen fruit,
now on the ground to nourish the root.
We've bloomed and we've bled,
we'll commune with the dead,
curl up in the darkest hours.
Compost your fears
through the end of the year,
and awake with a heart full of flowers.
The true healing power of Yoga can only be found by slowing down, learning to feel, and concentrating our attention inward with love.
Yoga is a complete system of movement, breath & meditation. Each part feeds the other.
We use the breath to move the body, we use the body to invite the breath into all the nooks and crannies to wash and nourish every part of us. To do this fully, we must slow down - take our time and feel. Feel our breath. Feel our body. To truly feel we must be empty of agenda. We must be able to meet our body-mind-heart exactly where it is, and with such kindness and curiosity. This slowing down and feeling is the secret to healing.
When we slow down and feel, we are concentrating. We are consciously choosing to focus our attention inside. This is a very different kind of concentration than writing a report for work or concentrating on driving, which are external uses of concentration. In true Yoga we are invited to slow down, feel and concentrate inward with loving attention.
This practice naturally primes our body-mind-heart for meditation. After we have moved and breathed and turned inward and rested, then we sit quietly. We are ready to relax even further inward into the Source of our Love and receive the gifts of the quiet heart.
In the Quiet Heart is the deepest healing. In the Quiet Heart daily thoughts, judgments and worries do not exist. By resting here in meditation as often and as long as we can, we heal our emotional wounds, our fried nervous systems, and our fatigued minds.
There is a catch phrase in the healing world "feeling is healing". If you want healing and healing connections in your life - notice when you could move more slowly instead of rushing and pushing. Tuning inward is the beginning of all the gifts of Yoga and the connection to true Healing.
Author, Nicole Becker
Yoga Therapist, Retreat Leader, and Heart of Yoga Teacher, Nicole Becker offers yoga and self-care insights and tips.