Showing posts with label yoga family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yoga family. Show all posts

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Happiness in the mountains - India part 3

3 hours into the bus ride from pondy, passengers are craning pothole-jolted necks for a glimpse of the holy Arunachala - it is said you can feel this mountain before you see her.

India is a place where towns are famed for, or defined by spiritual leaders; monumental human beings as much as ones made of stone and earth. Thiruvanamali is synonymous with the late Bhagavan Sri ramana mahrishi (1879-1950)see He never aligned to one particular philosophy or label but Advocated a path of jnana and Bhakti (no surya namaskar here); of knowledge and going beyond knowledge, wisdom; the practises of satsanga, meditation and self enquiry.

'Thiru' is also a shiva town. Legend has it that brahma and Vishnu were arguing over who was the more superior deity, so shiva turned himself into an endless column of fire and challenged them to reach its source or beginning. Conceding that shiva was in fact the supreme of the supreme trinity, the other gods bowed and shiva turned fire into stone, creating arunachala, an imposing reminder in matter of the underlying divinity of all creation.

Think of something in India and it appears it seems it appears instantly: a Kung fu master/ karma yogi tour guide (I am so sorry not to have his name having lost the card) runs after us in the vast arunachalaswara temple to offer a speed satsanga, shiva he explains is 'CEO of the universe, all others are the executives'.

Here and in the north of India worship of 'shiva' does not only mean the trident toting destroyer (although he, king of yogis and renunciation is obviously the coolest) rather than another god or goddess but the underlying supreme consciousness, or shivam, which can be both in form and formless. All gods are in effect 
representations of whatever you call 'that'. 

The highlight of a stay in Thiru is giripradakshina, the circumambulation of arunachala, 14km on the outer path, mostly main road passing through a few villages and marked by 8 shivalingams, providing a protective, sacred compass. The way is peppered with temples, shrines, trees flapping with wish bags, hundreds of saffron clad sadhus, playful monkeys and friendly stray dogs.

Tradition was set by Bhagavan who walked in the early morning, slowly and bare foot, so I'm following his lead, starting shoe-less before sunrise and finishing before the midday heat kicks in. The walk celebrates the glory of arunachala, symbol of shiva himself and instills in the devotee a deeper connection with the divine within. To walk with reverence by doing japa or devotional singing keeps this as a moving meditation. In case the mind is wandering to the next chai or idly stop, all along the way loudspeakers loop a slow chant of 'aum namah shivaya'. Like a good yoga practise there is a challenge for the ego, for the body and for the mind.

Compared to the hectic tooting and heat of the outer path, the inner path of arunachala is peace and silence itself. Less to see and more to absorb - as you wander up and up guided by om painted rocks and handy arrows, you can visit the various caves where ramana spent most of his years in thiruvanamali, before the building of the current ashram. Racing against sunset to reach the top (in flip flops, no torch) everything else seems a world away.

It is amazing that a man who spent most of his days in silence is so well known, but when words are less used it seems their energy is stronger. The more time I spent in mauna on this trip the more I notice how words are often used to please others, but actually only appease our own ego, uncomfortable in silence; how saying thank you ten times is about our obsession with being seen to be behaving well and that if you actually smile from the heart and bow with reverence all these word are totally unnecessary.

The middle site, virupaksha cave, shaped like an om, was crafted by Ramana himself; he spent 17 years here mainly in Silence while a throng of devotees trecked for satsanga. The cave is alive with the buzz of the pranava and like much of the ashram property there is no need for technique here, just to sit and wait for peace, wisdom and truth to awaken within.

Everywhere at the ashram the spirit of Sri ramana is very much alive, in the atmosphere of the meditation room where he spent his last days, in devotees flocking to circle his samadhi (shrine), in the Seva of feeding 200 sadhus and local homeless every day. In the background peacocks are shrilling while each morning the young Brahmins lead Vedic chanting and puja. Don't miss the singing of arunachala mantras in the evening by ashramites. There are not really words to describe it here, simple and joyful without any drama, I just feel happy. And that is more than enough. 

Ramana never touted for followers or fame, never creating a lineage. Not once are we even asked to honour the donation system to stay in the beautiful guest house facilities, to use the library (which is a treasure chest of ancient and rare books not to be missed by us yoga geeks), or to eat 3 deliciously simple sattvic meals per day, served on hand stitched leaf plates.  It is as if silence is still the more powerful messenger here, trusting that those who can support the continuation of Sriramanas spirit will, and giving all the freedom to feel and taste for ourselves the essence of the teachings.

So that was Thiru - as is my usual trick we arrived at the end of season, just missing maha shivarathri, falling between the celebrations of full moon, when a million devotees take giripradakshina and the new moon shakti puja. Still, if this is arunachala off peak, I'm sold.

As towns are defined by people, so are our travels through them: eshwan owns the travel company who whisked us from Thiru to bangalore tonight. As the bus was running late he called personally to tell us not to leave the ashram just yet, then he met us at the crossroads and welcomed us to wait in his family home at 3am due to another delay. At the start of each trip this kind of kindness always comes as a surprise and by the end I realise, hey this is the way it should be: to treat all as equal is easy when you believe all are one, to trust before doubting. 

Goa and teaching calls - om namah shivaya.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Pitri Puja at home

A few weeks back my teacher Yogrishi Vishvketu sent a message to his yoga family: opening these emails is a bit like peeking into a treasure chest...and this gem (see below) brought our awareness to the practise of Pitri Puja. I have such strong memories of following this ritual, guided by Vishvaji, on the banks of the Ganga in 2011; so to understand more and practise it here is, of course, a must. 

Ram Dass said: 'think yourself enlightened...then go spend a week with your family!'. With Christmas approaching it is a time when family relationships can become tense, when we can fall into old patterns of behaviour; sibling rivalry or acting out unresolved parent-child issues. Samskaras that come bubbling to the surface. 

Recently I've got my head around the fact that some of my family interactions have been based on guilt, not only the altruistic new me I'd like to present (she is there underneath though, honest!). And that letting go of guilt causes as big a shift as making any dramatic changes to me or them. 

While basking in the light of new-found-through-yoga awareness it can simultaneously feel unbearable to have past 'bad' behaviour spot-lit. Family can be a big old test of our patience and practise but also an example of unconditional love and forgiveness - for  relationships to move forward we need to apply these same principals to ourselves. 

Pitri Puja focuses on the healing of not only immediate family dynamics but ancestory 3 + generations back. While my first experience took on the magic of Rishikesh, this time the special touch was leading my sister and little nieces through the simplified version below. Camped around the kitchen table in candle-light, Katherine in charge of the water offering and little Sarah diligently on the poppy seeds. 

As Vishvaji explains, our ancestors shape not only how we think but the shape and health of our physical body (annamaya kosha). And, just as we have inherited from them, we will pass onto the future generations - another incentive if we ever needed one to engage in healing ourselves on every level. Following a practise we are given is part of the story but it is the ripples that extend out from it that make transformation possible in the day to day. 

Hari OM x

A Message from Yogrishi Vishvketu

Pitri Paksha, the annual time for honouring the ancestors in the Vedic calendar, falls from Sep 19 – Oct 4 in 2013.  I encourage all of you to engage in the simple practice below to help support the healing of your body, mind and spirit! 

What is Pitri Paksha?
In the annual Vedic calendar there is a specific period known as Pitri Paksha for honouring one’s ancestors.  It falls during the lunar month of Bhadrapada (usually falling in September of the western calendar) during the period of the waning moon.  This is a particularly powerful time to work on ancestral healing, but you can also perform this simplified ancestor ritual at any time you feel it necessary. If you wish to observe Pitri Paksha, which falls September 19 – October 4th in 2013, you can make this offering daily to promote deep healing. It will help heal you physically, emotionally, and open all your emotional blockages related to your ancestry.  If you cannot observe the entire period, the final day, which falls on Amavasya (the new moon), is an especially powerful day for this practice.

Why observe Pitri Puja?
We are born into a lineage of ancestors, from whom we receive many gifts, including the building blocks for our physical body, the Annamaya Kosha, and for our mental-emotional body, the Manomaya Kosha.  The ancient Yogrishis observed the way in which our bodies and minds were shaped by our parents and more distant ancestors, and devised rituals to honour that lineage, to give thanks for the gifts we have received, and which also help heal any troubling ancestral karmas we have inherited from that same lineage.  We all know that the family is a space of incredible support, but also, often, of difficulty.  Pitri puja, or rituals to give thanks and draw in healing of the ancestors, support our growth and help us to heal on all levels, from the physical to the bliss body, the Anandamaya body, and bring joy into our lives.

How to Observe Pitri Puja:
Materials:  four small containers, a small spoon, water, black sesame seeds, ghee lamp or candle
The ritual is best done in early morning, ideally when sun is rising, if possible.  Begin by lighting a candle or oil lamp, have a small container of water and some seeds in another container (black sesame seeds are great, but any kind of seeds will be good) Sit facing east, and create the right sankalpa(intention) for ancestral healing, and then name the ancestors that you know from both your mother and father’s side, sending good wishes for them, and repeat the following mantras.  You can choose how many rounds to chant: 9 times, 21 times, 51 or 108 times.  With each mantra, you will make an offering.  At the start of one round, offer a spoon of water when you say “namah.”  For the other mantras, you can offer a pinch of seeds when you say “namah.”  (use the other empty containers).  When you finish chanting, take some time in silent meditation, visualizing good energy going into your ancestral lineage, developing the right, harmonious connection.

Om Param-atmane namah   (Connecting to the Supreme Soul)
Om Matrebhyo namah          (Connecting to your female aspect, and maternal lineage)
Om Pitrebhyo namah            (Connecting to your male aspect, and paternal lineage)
Om Kulebhyo namah            (Connecting to your entire family lineage)
Om Vishvebhyo namah        (Connecting to the whole universe)
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
When you are finished with your practice, release the seeds where they will be eaten by some birds or animals (never into the garbage), and offer the water (carrying the energy of the mantras) into a plant or onto the earth outside to support happy and healthy relations to all your ancestors. You can also do some seva that is possible and available for you as an offering during this time, or make some donations according to your ability to do so.

Ali Piriamvada Gunning - I teach Akhanda and Kundalini Yoga in East London. Me and my narrow boat Bokissa are back in London - 'home' at the filter beds, Clapton.