Where in the World is VBY?

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The world is collapsing/Around our ears/I turned up the radio/But I can't hear it

~REM, Radio Song

What do we do when the world seems to be falling apart?  We feel overwhelmed, helpless, despairing, angry. Where do we turn when faced with injustice?  What can we do to make a difference? Sometimes talking about Yoga seems frivolous in a world where so many are suffering.  Sometimes exploring spiritual teachings seems egregious when the reality of our world is so harsh.  Self-exploration sometimes seems selfish and indulgent, but when done with integrity, it could be the first, and most essential, step on the path of showing up for the suffering of the entire planet. At Vira Bhava Yoga, we have a commitment to not turn away.  We effort to stay aware of the atrocities of our current era, and to show up in the world in our wholeness. This wholeness includes our brokenness, our blind spots, our wounds, and our willingness to learn, to listen, to understand. Where in the world is Vira Bhava Yoga?  I hope you will find us everywhere, in every situation, refusing to deny what is real and true for everyone, and refusing to hate and divide. We aim to practice our YOGA in every situation, even amidst discomfort, conflict and shame.

Our Civil Disobedience is to refuse to Hate. Can we be strong enough to hold all the injustice and know it’s wrong while simultaneously being empathetic and compassionate to those who are the source of wrongdoing?  Can we accept that many who stand in power right now are also little boys and girls who are wounded and afraid? Everybody is wounded, even the most balanced and together of us has pain, fear, and shame. We cannot heal on demand. Healing requires understanding. We cannot be shamed into our growth.  We cannot damn our pain and expect to transcend it. Healing takes place when we apply compassion to the places that we would rather not see. When we listen when we would rather turn and run.  We all have a basic need to be heard and understood, and when our needs aren’t met, we create strategies to deal with our pain. The strategies we learn are often modeled in our environment by the ones we trust the most.  Unfortunately, the trusted ones are also wounded, afraid, and ashamed. And the cycle continues, on and on.

What if we stopped making enemies?  Really. What if we refused to hate someone else’s expression of pain and entrapment? We don’t have to like it, and we most definitely don’t have to agree with it, but what if we REFUSED to hate the person.  This is how transformation occurs.  As long as our pain and fear are satiated by others’ feelings of pain and fear, we are polarized. This polarization is the opposite of YOGA.  How can we hear each other rather than shout at each other?  When we begin to understand that everyone is trapped, we establish common ground to stand on that can lead to understanding.

We are in a hole of our own creation.  A hole of dichotomization, dehumanization, right and wrong, good and bad.  We no longer care how we got here, we no longer see how we are digging. We are climbing all over each other trying to escape from this hole of hatred and fear, and all we are doing is making it bigger. The hole is just getting bigger and bigger and the attempt to get out of the hole is getting nastier and nastier. And the truth is simple, yet very hard to hear, the hole that we are trying so desperately to climb out of is inside of ourselves. We cannot climb out. To escape, we can only turn around and crawl in.  If we focus all of our energy outside of ourselves, we turn away from the source of the separation. We cannot avoid this hole by changing the world.  We can only find common ground by changing ourselves. This is where the work must begin.  On the inside. This is where we must turn if we wish to survive.

Can we bring our YOGA to the fight?  Can we understand that we are essentially united? The right and the wrong, the fear and the trust, the suffering and the freedom. If we are practicing YOGA, truly, we must connect to the source of our pain and disillusionment in order to understand it rather than disconnect and demand it disappear. Can we remember our essential humanness, can we be compassionate, even when our behaviors and actions make it seemingly impossible? Can we untether ourselves from the anchor of HATE and allow ourselves to shatter? This is the essence of spiritual practice.

Can we allow ourselves to release the security of the dichotomy?  Can we choose to be adrift in the unknown and TRUST that the path that we are on is one of transformation and a shifting paradigm?  Can we be open to riding the current, and trusting that we can swim indefinitely, no matter how far away we get from the familiarity and security of the shore. The shore is an illusion, and our gripping to it, our desperate clinging onto the faith that everything is going to be ok, is part of the problem.

Let’s let go of having faith. Faith is what we are told to have against our better judgement. Faith is the attachment to outcome, the grip of expectation. I played with faith for years, and it made me more afraid.  Faith made me cling desperately to the outcome for proof of its existence. Then, through the quintessential rock bottom path, I learned how to TRUST, and I’ve never had to have faith again. Faith is something that keeps us in this cycle of looking to something outside of ourselves to come save us and keeps us bound into the cycle of unworthiness and insecurity. Faith is believing, and trust is knowing.  And there is a huge gap between the two. Trust says, ‘I don’t need to be safe, this is where I am, this is the decision I made, and this is the result of my decision.” Trust says, “I know it’s going to be okay because I am strong enough to follow this path I have created.” Trust allows us a sovereignty and strength that can only come from inside. Trust is understanding what’s real and engaging with it.  Trust denies nothing. Faith has put others in power. Faith has burdened us with the hope that everything will get better and incapacitated us to make actual changes for ourselves.

Faith is credulous and trust is decisive. We must decide how we will show up.  We must decide what it will take for us to sustain. We must find the truth that is sourced from within, that cannot be influenced by outside opinion, and then lean into it when we hear the opinions of others. When we trust our own truth, when we trust our right to be in the world, regardless of the evidence that we are shown, or the challenges we face, we are no longer a victim to our lives, our circumstances, our misunderstanding. This is YOGA.  This is how VBY is showing up in the world. This is the foundation that will liberate us from hate and bridge the gap between the spectrum of differences. This is what will suture the wounds of our pain and separation.

If you’ve made it this far, then you must prepare for what’s next. The state of the world is YOUR practice.  The way things are is YOUR story. TRUST that you are essential, even if imperfect, and that your contribution to the world is important, necessary.  Faith is the most powerful tool of the patriarchy, and if you choose to trust instead, then you will experience the power of your own liberation.

Be cautious of your judgments.  Let them be an indicator of things we have yet to learn.  Don’t condemn yourself or others for their feelings.  FEEL the FEELINGS, and recognize them as your own compass, then trust yourself to right your course. REFUSE to oppress, and if you are shown the error of your ways, give thanks rather than feel shame.  Give thanks that you can learn more, do better, trust yourself. The strongest people fighting oppression know who they are. Because they know who they are, they can know who you are too. They can hear the stories of others, they can listen. When we can all know who we are, and trust in ourselves, we can celebrate our differences together. Knowing ourselves allows us the power to make radical choices, to be humble, to learn from our mistakes, and make changes.

So where is Vira Bhava Yoga in the world?  I trust that we are in the moments of compassion beyond hate, in the moments of vehement disagreement where we choose to be still and listen. The essence of a warrior, the courage and integrity of Vira Bhava will never be easy, it will be a life altering path that requires resilience, forgiveness, and compassion. Though the movement may be small right now, I hope that we will see Vira Bhava Yogis everywhere in the months and years to come.  REFUSING to hate and doing the never-ending work of growth and evolution for themselves and for humanity. Click here to find out if Vira Bhava Yoga is in your area!

Asana Is An Invitation To Arrive

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There is nothing comfortable about life. Pain and suffering follow us around wherever we go. Even when we get everything we want, there is somehow an underlying hunger for something more, something easier or better. This is the nature of desire, and it keeps us just uncomfortable enough to continue moving forward.

The desire to grow, discover, travel, and transform - this is what fuels our life. This is what allows us to connect with each other and to expand beyond our own limitations. But when we are constantly in pursuit, climbing, searching, and longing to be or do something different, then we are depriving ourselves of our true nature.

When we live on-the-go all day, every day, we are essentially sending signals to the brain and body that we are unsatisfied, which only creates more tension and turbulence. Despite growing rates of hypertension, stress-related disease, and mental illness, this is not the truth of human existence. It is only a distraction from the undisturbed nature that resides within.

The physical postures in Yoga are called Asanas. They are an opportunity and active invitation to arrive within our true, pure nature.

Asana is a Sanskrit word that is often translated as “comfortable seat.” But remember - there is nothing really comfortable about life, and nothing particularly comfortable about sitting. A more truthful and comprehensive translation of Asana is “a physical seat that cultivates steadiness and ease.”

When we practice Asana, we put our bodies into physical positions that build friction. The goal is to bring our awareness to the parts of our experience that are uncomfortable - be it feelings of lack, overwhelm, or indifference. In this practice, we become more familiar with our own causes of resistance and actions that bring relief. But ultimately, none of this can happen if we are not willing to show up and to be present with whatever arises.

In every single Yoga class that I teach, I begin by asking my students to arrive. To arrive in the space, in their body, and in their seat. This might sound like a simple request, but arriving is perhaps the most elusive and fleeting sensation.

Can you recall the last time you arrived home after traveling? Do you remember that feeling of a long exhale, the feeling of spaciousness and satisfaction in your body and mind? How long did you let that feeling last - before you began unpacking your bags, cleaning the kitchen, checking email, and preparing for the next day of work or school? Many of us are so well versed in the habits of busy-ness and productivity that when we do experience the feeling of arrival, its only momentary.

But when we fully, wholeheartedly arrive, we take one step closer towards becoming more of who we want to be.

Arriving is an act of acceptance. When we allow ourselves to exist exactly where we are - when we show up and stay present - we accept authority over our own experience. And when we claim ownership of our own lives, we are no longer ruled by avoidance, denial, and attachment. Instead, we have the power to slow down each moment, to soak up the sweetness of this life, and to burn away the impurities that mask our true nature.

Asana keeps me real. It keeps me grounded. Practicing Asana invites me to see my desires more clearly, understand my own motivations, and embrace the current path that I am on. And somehow, learning how to arrive is the only way I know how to keep moving forward.

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To learn more about Maria click here to check out her website! 

You Are Your Dharma

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Who am I?  Why am I here?  What’s the point?  The three timeless questions that Yoga seeks to answer.  When you understand the concept of Dharma, these answers no longer seem elusive or etheric, but are concrete and quite simple. The concept of Dharma teaches that alignment with universal principles in a way that is unique to the individual’s expression is essential to harmony.  Though the term is often translated as “rule, law, or requirement,” it is actually much more diverse and expansive than this. The root of the word Dharma is “dhr” which means “to hold, maintain, or keep.” The idea is that it is our individual Dharma (known as Sva Dharma) that allows us to maintain our relationship with Universal Principles, (known as Sanatana Dharma). The more we are aware of our individual relationship with universal principles, the more we are motivated to maintain or keep this relationship fruitful.

In yoga, we often refer to Dharma as Purpose, but that is a bit of an oversimplification of the idea. Imagine a blueprint for a home.  The entire house is sketched out as measurements, scale, design and function; that is the Universal Dharma. Now, overlay onto that the unique and beautiful expressions of each room, and that’s individual Dharma. Each room within the house is essential and foundational to the home as a whole, and the expression of each room with all its textiles, furniture, unique color schemes, fabrics, and even little quirks, that’s how you express your Dharma. Each individual has a unique contribution to make to the universal whole, and according to Dharma, our unique contribution is essential to the form, function, and beauty of the whole, no room could ever be non essential in the house of Dharma.

So,  who are you? You are an essential individual part of the whole.  Why are you here? To express your individual nature and fulfill your purpose as the room of you in the universal house. What’s the point? YOU ARE.  Your dharma is not your profession, your family, your success or failure, though all of these things are the ways through which your dharma is expressed in the world.  You are YOU, and though many of us try very hard to deny the truth of who we are, we can never escape the burning whisper of truth murmuring deep inside us. The lila or divine play of the universe is the ease or effort with which we align with our Dharma.  The Bhagavad Gita teaches that it’s better to do your own dharma poorly than it is to do another’s perfectly.  The effort of aligning with our dharma comes from the denial of our own truth. We may be a master pretender, but as long as we deny that rumbling truth inside, life will never provide us with the freedom that we seek.

The teaching of Dharma is simple.  You do you. Seek to live as yourself as fully and completely as possible.  In your marriage, in your profession, in your friendships, in your successes, and in your failures, honor the unique ways that your truth resonates in it all.  In doing so, you will find greater ease in honoring the truth of others, and this my friends, is the perfect recipe for harmony in our communities, corporations, and even governments.  Because, you see, we need all of the rooms, all of the varied and unique expressions, aesthetics, and even the messes. The whole isn’t whole if anything is excluded. YOU are crucial, indispensable, and beautiful. You are necessary.  So what is YOUR dharma? Only you can know the secret whispers of your deepest yearnings.  Only you can know the contributions you make, the actions you take to support the whole, to maintain the relationship with that which is bigger than you.  No one can tell you what your dharma is, though they may try. YOU are the only one who can know that truth. If you are seeking to know yourself more sincerely and do you more than the time is NOW. Vira Bhava Yoga Teacher Trainings offer the time, community, and support for you to value yourself, to dive deeply into your curiosities, and to  to further your embodiment and cultivate a discerning ear join us for a 200, 300, or 500 hour training in a town near you.