Making Peace with the Past by Leyla Tulun

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The 'making peace with the past' theme could not have come at a more perfect, but also more difficult time for me. December 26th of 2015 marked 10 years since my best friend- my dad, had left my life and his physical body. I spent the entire month of December mentally and emotionally preparing myself for this day, somehow thinking that if I thought about it enough I would be able to control how I felt. But what I realized as that day came and passed, was that I have made peace with this past, and that I don't need to control whatever that feels like. On that day, I let myself cry, I let myself feel the rollercoaster of emotions that one does at the loss of a parent, I let myself feel vulnerable, and I also let myself laugh, I let myself smile.  As I stood at the cemetery that day with my mom and my brothers, for the first time, I didn't look down at the grave, but I looked up at the sky. I looked up at the sky because I knew thats where I could find him. This journey for me hasn't been easy, but I can honestly say that yoga has helped me reconcile and accept more of my past than I could ever have dreamed. And of course... the journey continues! Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu!




December Theme: Making Peace with the Past

In recent weeks as I look at the areas in my life that I’m trying to improve, I’ve been tracing back lines to past twists and turns in my journey and holding the energy of “blame” on past events.  If I had only… If they, he, she had only… 

I am wholeheartedly positive that this is a colossal waste of time.  Everyone knows no good can come from blaming the past. It’s what you do with the present that counts. So why has my brain decided to go down that road lately and set up camp like an angry Golem at the side of the river, grumbling about how the Hobbit’s stole his precious? If I know it’s a waste of time, why is my current frustration now focused so hard on the past?

Sometimes the only way around an obstacle is through it.

I can’t change the past, nor should I want to. But I am trying to grow through this fitful night of struggle. I’m pushing at the edges of my cocoon in order to bust out and make major breakthroughs in a particular area that I’ve struggled with for over a decade now.

I’ve come to the present moment in a million ways. My practice has brought me peace and contentedness. But life is a myriad of moments, glowing different colors and qualities. Although every time we practice, we discover divine perfection and reset the dial to our true state of peace, I believe there is also an earthly shadowed strife that mixes into our experience. There is a darkness we all go through to get to the next level.

This is why my mind is dwelling on the past. This is why it is intently studying it. The last barrier in the way of the breakthrough IS the regret itself that I hold, and it IS the wisdom held in that container.

Through the witnessing state of meditation, I can see the characters of that time –myself and others—with complete compassion. I can re-witness their actions as if I were watching a play. We love watching movies and plays with characters that play out the flawed hand they’ve been dealt, both inside themselves and through circumstance. We love the compassion it evokes from our hearts to see them with understanding of all of their imperfections. When we study the play of our own lives, we have the opportunity to extract the nectar of old events to serve the present moment with wisdom, not pain. If we ignore them to simply arrive at peace now we divert the pain, but don’t welcome the opportunity for growth.

So, while putting the past to rest and seeing everything in perfect order is important, we want to make sure we’re not practicing any kind of “spiritual bypass:” skipping over dark or painful or inconvenient material in the psyche and landing in ungrounded sweetness.

When your mind seeks to magnify a particular old event, just as in meditation, it’s futile to resist this thought land you have wandered into. Instead, welcome this course of study. Know that ruminating in regret will not bring you resolve, but forgiving the regret in yourself and others will. And sometimes that forgiveness takes time to sit there and be in the dark ugly feelings of sorrow, as long as you sit there with an unwavering commitment to not strengthen them, but to give them their ultimate peace.

Don’t stop there. Next use those feelings as fuel to fire you up for the present. You’re not dead until you are dead, and people have made great strides and monumental life turn arounds at every stage of the game.

If your mind still hangs heavy on an old regret, whether you blame yourself or someone else, don’t try to erase those feelings. They are trying to teach you something. Know that blame has no merit, but recognition does.

 Recognize yourself as a human who wasn’t born knowing everything, but has the potential to learn everything.

Recognize others as humans who weren’t born knowing what’s exactly right, but are doing the best they can.

Forgive yourself.
Forgive others.

Then, use feelings of old regret for fuel in the present.  If you find your mind dwelling on the past, there is probably the greatest opportunity of your life right around the corner, and your mind is just preparing you to use your past to do it better this time.  -Ella Luckett, Jai Yoga Arts

November Theme : Love!

love_copyAhh love. Why does that word simultaneously conjure up our greatest joy and our greatest pain? Because love is synonymous with attachment.

Love is the most free thing that exists. If we sit right now, and go into deep meditation, we will find a reservoir of love, deeper than the deepest ocean. Sit quietly, try it now….

….

How do you know it is love? You know when there is no fear present.


Love. It is inside us, as the nectar of our soul. Love is the sweetness of divine pleasure. When you tap into it, it overwhelms you with the highest high. Love is always there, everywhere inside and outside you, yet it is an easily draped ghost. So willing to hide in the shadows of our mind….


Sometimes we look right through love’s crystal clear window and mistake a person or passion as love itself.  Though one’s ego holds the willingness to open or close their own curtains, let not a closure feel like a diminishment of your love. A closure only invites another direction. Like a fractal crystal, love must find angles and shapes to be visible. Your love’s landing soil may never look the same as it did yesterday. And tomorrow it will unfold yet again into a character differently divine.


Our greatest mistake is to affix our love onto an ever changing body of a person, or an ever evolving art of passion. Instead we can engage in the translucent conduction of love’s power and move with gratitude around the tragic edges that define where our loves light can shine.


And so we let go and get taken on love’s current.  A powerful river that bounces and weaves around large motionless boulders of heavy, weight and cool reprieve.  True love smooths these obstacles, yet in a thousand years may thankfully never diminish them away. Without them, how would we know the dancing peak of loves collision? The inevitable break, though it may shatter our entire constitution, reveals the momentus power of love’s current.  Would you have love’s river run any other way? Would you ask her to stall her powerful stride? No. In true love’s presence there can live no fear, no resistance.


Sitting now, you’re well stirs and boils. Get out of the way and allow the spill. Let your object be no object and all objects, for they are an every changing landscape. Unbridle your grip on love’s direction, for you cannot control or contain. In this release, the wisdom of love’s force will carry you dancing beyond awareness and roll you onto the beach unrecognizable, smoothed, without scar.  -Ella Luckett, Jai Yoga Arts






October Theme: How to Deal with Anger


unfiltered-anger-webAnger: recognize, reduce, release 

Anger only holds us prisoner in our own bodies. One might say "but anger has a purpose. It lets people know what they did is not ok." No. Communication has it's place, but communication can only be received if it is washed clean of all traces of anger. You do not offer someone berries and expect them to eat the viney thorny stem the berries grew on. Do not hold inside, or deliver any of your anger out into the world. Anger is one strange thing that we experience, and must be witnessed as a foreign object reduced in size and focus and ultimately released. 

In that way, anger is like heat: Tapas. It is meant to purify, burn through us and like a flame, but it should destroy itself at the end of it's process.  Our biggest mistake is when we take the feeling of anger and try to harness it, hold it, fan it's flame, focus on it, and cultivate it's growth. Why do we do that? Fostering the growth of our anger causes pain in ourselves and others, destroys relationships, and makes us miserable. In this way, we practice the opposite to anger: Stirah Sukham Asanam. Our connection to the earth and all it's beings should be steady and joyful. The minute your connection to someone becomes not steady, not joyful, envoke the three steps to free yourself from the terrible grip of anger. Recognize, Reduce and Release. 

When I first opened my business,  suddenly the amount of detailed level interactions with many people went up exponentially.  Sometimes I had to communicate things that felt uncomfortable.  But I was committed that everything about this place be a manifestation of the yogic teachings and principles. There was no point to this place if behind the scenes we were not practicing loving kindness as best we could.
I quickly was given a mantra by my highest source: "Everything  can be shifted into the positive."

All discomforts can be transformed into opportunities, all pain can be dissolved into love, all disappointment can be forgiven with compassion.

We should not feel ashamed of ourselves for experiencing anger. It is a natural occurance. The danger in envoking this practice is that we "shame" ourselves into pushing down feelings and stuffing them deep inside. Instead, as skilled humans we must study ourselves and the spiritual texts that can guide us to our happiest life. This practice is called svadyaya. Observe ourselves, study the root causes of anger and wisdom through the sutras and with teachers. A person who is good at their job is always learning how to do it better. They never stop learning. Nothing is fixed, this is why we must always move with time. 

Anger is not a "serving" emotion. It occurs, but it does not serve. One of our biggest tasks in this human life is to learn how to let anger travel through us like lightning and EXIT out into the earth, not onto each other. Just as our poison, Carbon Dioxide, is a tree's food, understand that the earth itself is an absorbent receiver. It can take our anger and recycle it for good, but we have to let it go for that to happen. 

Physical practices to relieve us of anger involve anything where we are touching the earth. In any moment, if you are overcome by anger, if you can find earth (although this is difficult in the city) simply touch it with your hand. Let the anger flow into this great rich receiver. If we cannot find earth, we can take postures that meet the ground as best we can find it. Prostrations are the best way to do this. A prostration is laying on your belly, or bowing close to the ground. The hands can reach out in front of you in a prayer toward an altar or just toward the diving loving presence in all. Or the hands can come together in Anjali Mudra over the head. The forehead touches the earth. 

When we humble ourselves in a prostration, our ego falls away. The EGO is the stickiest part of ourselves which catches and grips onto anger. Prostrations physically dissolve this grip, and return us to the principle Isvara Pranidad: give up all of our actions to the highest and best, or, if you are okay with these words: surrender to God. 

When you feel anger, practice these three things: recognize, reduce, release.

Recognize your anger. Close your eyes right now, and if you think you are not holding anger, sit and wait. See what comes up that is masked as upset, frustration, or irritation. These are all forms of anger. 

Reduce: This is perhaps the most important step. This step honors that this anger that came up is natural, and we should not be ashamed and try to go right to "eliminate." We are energy beings and an energy is passing through us, the anger is there to awaken us to what our attachements are. It shows us where we are still suffering, and provides us with an opportunity for release.

Release: Abandon the anger. Just leave it right where you found it and don't feel you have to attend to it at all. The anger itself is an unwelcome stranger in your body. Without logic or reasoning, purely abandon anger. This is the best course of action always. But do not believe me. TRY this for the month, and see what transpires in all your relationships.

Then, if there is still communication that needs to happen, you will see it takes a different form. Communication comes out in love and compassion. Your words are supportive and warm, the response is joyful and accepting.  You have kept your steady connection. But if you notice even the most remote crumb of anger in any of your words, you must breathe, back up, and re-set. Our intention for others to feel love and joy, it can and should color every word we speak. 

Love and joy are the only places to speak from, to think from, to act from. Additionally do not mistake "Release" with Keep it inside and STORE IT.  Unexpressed anger that gets stored is even worse than anger expressed. Do not house this dark presence anymore than you would willingly house a virus or cancer. Recognize the delusion of anger and let all of it go before you do anything. Use asana, use pranayama, use meditation as tools. Do whatever you have to do, to recognize it, reduce it, release it. Practice this 3 step process over and over again, and you will find you are not a doormat, you are instead even more powerful then before. 

When we stand in peace, just as the protesters in the civil rights movement did, we are an unstoppable force. Those walking across the bridge in Selma were as powerful as a tsunami wave, armed with barriers against their own anger. One could say that if anyone had a "right" to be angry it was the oppressed and abused people under a legally racist society. But they learned from a great teacher that anger was not their right but their enemy. By actively releasing their own anger, the oppressor slowly lost the fuel for their own anger. Infused with peace and love, and standing up for survival and rise to power, this was truly one of the greatest wars ever won through the practice of peace, and letting go of anger.

-Ella Luckett, Jai Yoga Arts

September Theme: Dissolve


dissolveThere is so much we can do. So many thoughts we can have. We build, manifest, and create our lives. We organize, plan, and try our best at everything from work to relationships. And then there comes a moment, when we cannot do anymore.

The world broke me and broke me open. There came this moment when all of my efforts of control and decisions were worthless. There was nothing I could do, nothing I could plan. No decision I could make. Lying in a clouded haze, disoriented and drained, I gave my life in this moment to only love. All at once, I gave up, gave in, and gave over. In a leap of full faith, I handed over control to that great sound wave that prevails in all of us. The One. The one pulse that moves us all. It is the most sacred holy thing that was once called God, but now has no name. I cannot explain it, but it is all of us. It is everything. Absorbed in love's ever burning purity. There is nothing I can do, but dissolve into you.

Dissolve… Dissolve the anger even as it tries to eat you. Dissolve. Forgive the one’s who will never apologize… Dissolve. In the watery depths of your soul, mix the love and the knives together; moving ocean smooths them into precious metal. .. Dissolve… The light into the sultry darkness of night. Dissolve your windows made of breakable glass, behind which you safely, coldly sit and watch my every move. I am your capture and I am captured with this lens between us… Dissolve…Static time, let me move… Dissolve my words and thoughts. Let sound be only song…This extracting exacting mind is leaving me now… I am imprinted only for a moment in your embrace. This is the only true time. No one owns the lines. The war is over, dissolve.

-Ella Luckett, Jai Yoga Arts

Vinyasa by Danielle Hernandez

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Vinyasa links our breath to movement one doesn't not exist without the other they move side by side, intertwined. As we move with intent our minds start to settle, we tune in to our breath we create our own rhythm, we are present. Each breath peels away our past, thoughts, experiences, and the many roles we have to play to be part of this world. When the layers start to dissolve the light of our true nature starts to shine through.
Using vinyasa, we are granted the acces to our true nature, our soul. We begin to see this light shine on our everyday life decisions, relationships our overall attitude. When we act from this place we don't hold on to our experiences, roles or past. We express ourself freely, and unattached to any expectation. Through vinyasa/yoga we get the opportunity to be, or better yet to practice being a living breathing warrior of light!

August Theme - Vinyasa

Vinyasa
by Ella Luckett

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Last month's theme “Who’se driving this thing?” really got me thinking about our movements through life and the connecting moments from place to place, person to person, role to role. In my life I'm a friend, yoga teacher, daughter, business owner… I'm in Brooklyn, Manhattan, travelling to teach places like Thailand and Costa Rica, trying to create a second home in Colorado.  All at once I'm in the past, present and future, I'm being here now, and laying seeds for being in places far away and in the future, as well as being in relationships with people some of whom I have not yet met, and some of whom don't even yet exist.
The capacity to hold all of this in one little body and mind is the great privilege and the great plight of being human. The only way to find peace and happiness within such complexity is to find the overall connecting, linking mechanisms. Find the vinyasa. Faith, love, breath, awaken to the joy of the process.
Artist Dave Matthews sings: It's the space between, your heart and mine, is the space we'll fill with time."...

Of this great journey, I have some navigating powers, and I have the power to let go and fly. Riding the space between, the momentum of all the moving parts spinning and lifting with trust and without hesitation. Pausing for reflection in the quiet moments fiercely dancing, engaged in the dynamic flow.
Embrace the many different facets of your life as if they were each a pose in a vinyasa class, or a movement in a dance. Rather than being overwhelmed by the seemingly disjointed parts, breathe life into the space between. The linking mechanism, the (insert Shiva definition here),( the fascia) that connects it all into one. Stepping back from the ever working mind is the very definition of mediation, we can finally see our whole life as whole. When we are not driving forcibly into one corner of it or another, the vinyasa of it all, the link that allows us to be at once all parts of ourselves, is our key to freedom. Our ride to the ecstasy of this beautiful, messy, big and tiny life is trusting, flowing, flying in the vinyasa. 


"For the longest time fear was driving my life"

"For the longest time fear was driving my life, primarily fear of the unknown and failure. I worked very hard to line everything up the way I thought it should be in order to live a secure and successful life. As the years went and my financial security grew, my fear didn't subside, instead, I began to fear that I would be stuck in a job and a life that didn't make me happy, that didn't excite me, that made me dread the beginning of the week. I didn't know how to get out of this world that I had created for myself, a world that I thought I truly wanted. As I have progressed in my practice and have begun to become a part of the amazing yoga community, I see that it's not impossible to be excited about what I am doing. That I can both have purpose in my career and live the day to day. I have no doubt that the adventure I am embarking on will have it's ups and downs, but at least I know that I am in the drivers seat and that, come what may, I am giving it my all. I don't fear failure, because even if my plans don't play out as I expect them to, I will meet people and do things that perhaps send me in another direction, one that I never would have thought possible without taking the steps to climb out of my box and try something scary and new. While fear can sometimes be a backseat driver, I finally feel in control, excited, and hopeful for the unknown and I welcome it with open arms." -Nicole H

"Whose Driving this Thing?"

"Whose Driving this Thing?"
-Ella Luckett

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Your on a bus and it's jerky. Speeding up too fast, slamming on the breaks. Your holding on for dear life as you apologize for falling on the person next to you. You can't help but get mad at the driver, the faceless back of a head sitting several yards ahead of you causing tension all over your body. And then you remember to have compassion....  You think, maybe the driver had a hard day, or is behind schedule and doesn't want to get fired. You also remember how lucky you are to be going where ever it is your going. Suddenly your body releases and eases into the turns. Your feet get rooted and the pushes and pulls don't toss you around as much.
Now your driving your own car. It's a long distance to your destination. You start to wish you could stretch your legs, read a book, or take a nap and wake up at your destination. Control is good, but this road is tedious.

Think for a moment of the journey from point a to b as the span of your life, and your body the vehicle.

We have to use the mind like a car engine. It behooves us to look at our surroundings take in the sensory input and make decisions based on what the powerful mind can deduce. Our heart feeds a desire to go somewhere, we have the means to make it happen... or so we think.
But we also have to know the limits of that game. The person in the car still has no control over lights, traffic, accidents and road blocks. It's the person who gets attached to their own control who gets road rage. A self destructive energy that harms no one but the driver. (Well, possibly others if it gets out of control). So like the car driver, enjoy the powerful use of your own will, but know it's limits. Yoga is about practicing the flexibility of switching gears when necessary, to give up your ego and personal desires to the divinity of the universe. A practice we call ishvara pranidad.

So how do you know when to drive hard with your will, or take a breath and evoke trust and release. The answer according to yoga, is svadyaya, the practice of self study. As yogis we are utilizing the tools of monks and sages to contend with a life that's not at all monk like. We are living a life where we still entertain desires and attachment. We can't just completely detach and let go, lest we lose our dreams, goals and passions.

I am a passionate, creative person. Even as a child, my mother describes me as having been"willful."  I couldn't be rushed, I had to do things myself and I always had a vision.  To me, this is the"stuff" of life!  But left unchecked it's also the source of stress and anxiety stemming from over attachment to the results.

This over attachment is what caused the road rage like, self destructive force, to collapse my dance career before it ever began. I didn't have the tools to trust keep flowing, when faced with road blocks. I didn't have the perspective that faith fills in the gaps where the will has no power. I couldn't stand that other people's judgement dictated my destiny. The lack of control destroyed me. I had to leave, I was in so much pain. As the buddah said, the attachment was the source of my suffering.

It wasn't until I find yoga that I learned to ride the bull if my own creative life force. I learned mobility between manifesting passionate intention, and letting go in moments when I had no control. I learned when to push myself forward and when to let the winds of nature fill my sails to move me forward. This playful bounce between tapas (devoted fire) and ishvara pranidad is the key to a fully lived life, following your hearts desire, but not suffering under the weight of its potential attachment.  The only way to know which of these to evoke at any given moment is through the practice of svadyaya, self study.

So keep the fire, but when suffering comes, breath, look inside and ask: are you doing this for yourself? For your ego? Or are you in service to the world? A higher force of nature will either carry you over the wide river, or show you that turning a corner to walk beside it brings you everything you didn't know you desired. 


Embedded within your own will is an atunement with a higher flow. Joining that higher flow brings more riches than your small self could have imagined.


Despite leaving my first dream behind, I never list the intention to have a fulfilling career. An attachment of sorts, but I had to completely let go of what I "thought" that should be. Now I have a career in yoga where I not only get to use my body for self expression, I get too touch people's lives in a powerful way that uses not just my body, but my mind as well.  In this profession I get too constantly learn, I get too use my voice both spoken and written. What seemed like a dead end turned into a better use of my talents than I could have myself imagined.

This decade long lesson is one I try to use now too shorten suffering time. When the passions of the heart reach an impassable block, I'm automatically triggered to breath, let go, and remember joy for what I have. These are the moments the universe has a better idea for me than my own. This is when I remember I'm part of a bigger picture and not the sole driver of this vehicle. 

So whose driving your motion today? Your heart and soul, ego and will, emotions and reactions, or the divine highest spirit itself?  All are licensed drivers but none should have sole control over you.

The ultimate driver is the omnipresent guide you connect with through a meditative practice. The one who switches seamlessly between the forces of the body mind and soul. This all knowing nature banks the curves, taps into the current, and flows with life in all its grand momentum.


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"Teacher training at Jai revolutionized my practice"


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“Teacher training at Jai revolutionized my practice. I have not reached enlightenment, but in ten weeks of Teacher Training ...I was really allowed the space to sit with myself. The philosophical yogic teachings have been ingrained into my being. My practice also transformed... thanks to the focus on proper alignment and flow of energy within the asanas. We were given the tools as both teachers and students...” ~Chelsey K

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