be free, be happy, be peaceful

May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You are not how you look, or what you think how you look, and definitely not how other people perceive or see and think how you look...

Just watched a "touching" video about how women see themselves vs how other people see them (the physical appearance, or how they think what they look like, or how they feel about themselves).

Our egoistic thinking and feeling mind identifies with our physical body as "I" or "who I am". The egoistic mind attached to the physical appearance, conditions and abilities to determine the sense of self-esteem, or self-confidence, or self-worth.

"I see myself so ugly, and I feel bad. But other people see me so beautifully, and I feel much better. I'm actually better or worth more than what I think I deserve. As this is what other people think of me. What I think about myself is incorrect, and what others think of me is what I really am."

I guess this is the message that the advertisement tries to inform us. It is a good message though for people who are suffer from low self-esteem.

But it doesn't help people to be free from being conditioned by "self-esteem" or "self-worth" that comes from a self-image which relates to the egoism.

What if other people see us worst than how we see ourselves? (Just like in another video of the men's version of this advertisement)

x x x x x x x x x x

Yoga and Buddhism practice are here for us to learn how to be free from being conditioned by "self-esteem" or "self-worth" which is a side product coming from the egoism.

"You are not how you look. You are not what you think how you look or who you are. You are not how other people see and think how you look or who you are. You are not this physical body. You are not how you feel. You are not this thinking and feelings. You are not this mind. The body and mind is not "who I am". There is no "I"."

This is the basic teaching and practice of yoga. This physical body and its appearance, its conditions and abilities, as well as the egoistic mind which perceives all the names and forms through the senses, who sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, feels, thinks, acts and reacts, has likes and dislikes, along with certain personalities, behaviors and characteristics, are not "who I am". They are not "I". I am not the body nor the mind.

When we attached to the body and mind, and the qualities of names and forms, we identify ourselves with a self-image that is very much based on :-

- The physical appearance, conditions and abilities of what we can do and cannot do. We perceive and create a self-image for ourselves through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. There is an exception if any of the senses is not functioning, like those who are blind from birth, they do not perceive sights, but they might have a self-image for themselves through perception from the other senses.

- How we feel and think about ourselves, that is influenced by the egoism, pride, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, self-criticism, believes, religion teachings, relationships, friendships, our family and educational background (how we were brought up and what we were told how we should think and behave), social network and cultural background (sense of belonging in certain group, culture or society), what we do in life, what we do for living, living standards, possessions, material belongings, enjoyments, likes and dislikes, ambitions, desires, achievements, expectations, judgments and etc.

x x x x x x x x x

The self-image is the reflection of the ego about our feelings, emotions, thinking, believes, characteristics and personalities in that present moment beside the qualities of the physical body.

Our self-image is also influenced by how other people perceive and judge about us through what they see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think about us, based on our physical appearance, clothings and accessories, hair styles and grooming, facial features, body shapes, body language, facial expression, personal hygiene and tidiness, body smells, skin texture and complexion, thinking, ideas, believes, behaviors, emotions, speech, actions and reactions, things that they had heard about us from somewhere, their memories about us in the past, as well as physical contact and personal interactions with us in the present moment. But all these perceptions and judgments from other people are not necessarily the truth either...

Perceptions from our own mind or from other people's mind that are based on past memories and what the mind believes what things are, it is not necessarily the truth of things. When our mind is negative, then everything that we perceive will be contaminated by this negativity in the mind. When our mind is positive, then everything that we perceive will be contaminated by this positivity in the mind as well. But that is not what things really are. They are neither negative nor positive. They are just what they are. It is just the mind being positive or negative.

Some people who have not seen us for a long time, might still keep a strong image of us (either positive, negative, or mixture of positive and negative image, and whether they liked us or not in the past, whether they'll like us or not in the present moment) based on the memories from the last time they saw us many years ago, and judge us for who we are, which is not the truth of how we look, or how we feel, or how we behave in the present moment now. And most of the time, memories are distorted images. It was not the truth of things.

This self-image comes from our own perception, or come from how other people perceive us, is impermanent. It is constantly changing. Our feelings and thinking change. Our physical appearance, conditions and abilities change. Our likes and dislikes, personalities, believes or behaviors change. Everything about us (who we think we are - the mind and the body) change. If our being is determined by all these impermanent qualities, then "I" will be in a state of restlessness and dissatisfaction all the time.

Sometimes the mind doesn't want to see things as they are, but projects an imaginary image of what it prefers to be. This is what the teachings of yoga said, "The mind only sees and hears what it wants to see or hear..."

No one can argue with one another about each individual mind perceptions about the qualities of names and forms. As each may perceives distinctively or differently from one another on every names and forms that we come in contact with. That's why judgment of good and bad, positive and negative, happiness or suffering are different in each individual about what things are. All these judgments about good or bad, positive or negative, happiness or suffering, are not the truth of what things really are, but it is coming from our own mind perceptions based on what our mind thinks and believes what things are.

What we see as beautiful might be something ugly for other people, and vice versa.

The video of this advertisement helps people to realize that the reality of our physical appearance or image, is not really what we think how we look, as what we see ourselves is very much influenced by how we feel about ourselves, which is true. But we are still relying on a self-image that based on how we think and feel about ourselves, and how other people think and feel about us, to identify that self-image as "I". This reliance on a self-image with certain qualities of names and forms to identify as who we are, which is the opposite of the teachings of yoga.

"Who we really are, is attributeless, nameless and formless."

x x x x x x x x x

There is nothing wrong to feel better and happier about ourselves, whether it is coming from our own mind perception or from other people's mind perception, and to feel that we actually "worth" more than what we think we deserve. But this only strengthens and empowers the egoism and the attachment towards the physical appearance, the qualities of names and forms, and how other people judge us, to determined the sense of self-worth, self-esteem or self-confidence of the ego. This is completely going to the opposite direction of the path of yoga and Buddhism towards selflessness, attributeless-ness, namelessness and formlessness.

What happen to our ego, when other people see us worst than how we see ourselves, if we are being determined by all these perceptions of names and forms, and judgments coming from our own mind or other people's mind?

We don't need to feel or think that we "worth" a million to feel good about ourselves. We don't need to feel good either. We are peaceful and confident as we are, not how the mind feels and thinks.

Yoga and Buddhism practice is about letting go of this identification with the physical body and the egoistic thinking mind, as "who I am".

There is no doubts that our confidence, thinking and feelings are influencing our self-image from the appearance, and vice versa. When our mind feels really bad or really great, it does reflect on our appearance. The self-image that we see ourselves or give to ourselves, are most likely not the same as how other people perceive us. And if we are affected by how other people perceive us differently, our believe and self-confidence about ourselves that built on a self-image will shatter easily.

Sometimes we didn't dressed up "nicely", without any make up or accessories, our physical body is not in a great form, but we will see ourselves looking good as we feel great, confident and happy. And mostly, it is because we like and love ourselves as we are. Vice versa, even though we dressed up "nicely", put on some beautiful make up and accessories, our physical body is in a great form, but we don't see ourselves looking good, as we feel down, lack of confidence and unhappy. And mostly, it is because we don't like and don't love ourselves as we are.

If we have true confidence (it comes from knowing the Truth), that is unconditioned and unlimited by the qualities of names and forms, then it doesn't matter what is the conditions, abilities and appearance of this physical body, what the mind thinks or feels about ourselves, it will not influence nor determine us as who we are. Even though sometimes our mind feels sad or down due to certain reasons, but it won't deter nor change who we really are.

When we know how to let go of the identification with the body and mind, then it doesn't matter how we see ourselves or how other people perceive us, we are who we are, undetermined nor conditioned by the outlook or appearance, whether it is perceived through our own eyes, or through other people's eyes.

Om shanti.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The lineage of yoga is being contaminated or manipulated by some impure beings?

Out of love and protection towards the lineage of yoga and meditation, some good beings are being angry and worried about the lineage of yoga might be destroyed, or contaminated, or manipulated by some people in the world who are involving in practicing and teaching yoga and meditation without correct understanding or pure intention.

It is normal and nothing wrong to be worried and upset about this. Anyone also will feel sad when seeing something "good" is being contaminated or destroyed.

The point is, we don't have to be angry or worried about whether the lineage of yoga will be destroyed, or contaminated, or manipulated by some impure beings, as there is no one, or nothing can destroy, contaminate or manipulate the essence of the teachings of yoga or the lineage of yoga. When we think like that (even though it is out of our love towards the lineage of yoga), it shows that we don't really have faith in Dharma/Dhamma, or in God, or in the universal consciousness, or in the Self... As all these names and terms are not separated nor different from each other.

The true Self is identical with the universal consciousness. And the true Self will not and cannot be contaminated, nor affected, nor destroyed, nor hurt, nor wounded by anyone, or anything, or qualities, or elements... This teaching is indicated in the Bhagavad Gita.

Ashochyaan anvaschochastwam prajnaavaadaamshcha bhaashase;
Gataasoon agataasoomshcha naanushochanti panditah.
(commentary by Swami Sivananda - Thou hast grieved for those that should not be grieved for, yet thou speakest words of wisdom. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the death.)

Acchedyo'yam addaahyo'yam akledyo'shoshya eva cha;
Nityah sarvagatah sthaanur achalo'yam sanaatanah.
(commentary by Swami Sivananda - This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted or dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, ancient and immovable.)

When we say Dharma/Dhamma is not affected, nor contaminated, nor hurt by anything or anyone, but it's existence with name and form (the appearance and qualities) in this world is still conditioned by impermanence. It can be destroyed, be contaminated, be manipulated. But the essence or the true nature of Dharma/Dhamma, or the Truth, cannot be destroyed, nor contaminated, nor manipulated. We need to be able to accept the qualities of names and forms (the appearance of Dharma/Dhamma in the world) is subject to changes and impermanence.

Buddha had mentioned about everything that is existing with certain qualities of names and forms, is impermanent, even Dhamma also will be disappearing from the world, but the essence of Dhamma or the Truth can never be contaminated, nor manipulated, nor destructed by anyone or anything...

So what if the authentic lineage of yoga is gradually disappearing from the world? There must be a cause for that to happen, and the truth about everything is, all the names and forms are subject to impermanence.

If everyone is free from ignorance, if everyone is wise and compassionate, if everyone is pure and enlightened, then there is no need of this practice or that practice, including yoga, meditation, Buddhism or any other forms of practice...

It is because people are not free and are not pure, that's why everyone should take up some forms of practice that can help them to be free, to be pure, to be wise, to be compassionate...

Yoga, meditation, Buddhism and other types of practice, are not specially prescribed for the wise, compassionate, peaceful and selfless beings, as all these beings are already free. They don't need yoga, meditation, Buddhism or any other forms of practice to help them to be free, as they are free...

And so, it is not abnormal, nor strange, nor bad, when we see so many people are practicing and teaching yoga in the world now without "correct understanding" or "pure intentions", as these beings are the one who needed yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any other forms of practice mostly and urgently, to attain correct understanding and be puried through all these practice.

Out of compassion, anyone are welcome to practice yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any other forms of practice, as that is what all these practices are here for...

And thus, why be angry and upset towards all these "impure happenings" that are going on in the world of yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any other forms of practice?

If the door of yoga and meditation is only accepting and be opened to those who are pure and wise, so that the lineage of yoga is not being contaminated nor manipulated by all these beings that are not free yet, who are not enlightened yet, then there are only few people in the world are qualified to practice yoga and meditation...

Indeed, we should try our best to protect Dharma/Dhamma as much as we can, as long as we can, so that more beings (who are not free, who need Dharma/Dhamma) will be benefited from the lineage of yoga to be free. But out of compassion, we need to allow and accept all these impure beings into the world of yoga and let them mess around a bit, allow everyone to take their own time to purify, to transform, and be wise and pure. Just like bringing up children. We have to accept them as they are, allow them to make mistakes and learn to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, allow them to learn and transform in their own ways and pace, allow them to be who they are, and love them as they are.

We don't have to be worried and angry about all these things that are going on in the world of yoga and meditation that seem to be "corrupted", or "not so pure", or "not so authentic", if we truly love yoga, love God, love Dharma/Dhamma, love our Self and love all beings.

I don't even identify myself as pure being, that's why I am still performing my practice regularly as much as I can...

Who am I to judge or criticize other beings for being not pure?

It is okay if in the beginning there are many people who are not pure, who try to do yoga, but are not doing the yoga practice the right way, nor with correct understanding, nor with pure intentions. Everyone starts with being impure and ignorant, and then transformation happens as we practice and when the time is right.

In the beginning when I first started teaching yoga (exercise) class in the dance studio, I had no idea what yoga is or is not. I had no intention to be a yoga teacher to teach yoga classes. I didn't like yoga asana exercises, as I thought they were boring and too slow for me. I didn't even think that I will be giving yoga classes and share yoga with so many people in the present now. My main motivation to teach yoga (exercise) classes beside my full time job as aerobics instructor in the past, was to earn a living to support myself, my parents and to help out my poor family.

The income that came from teaching yoga classes before I went to India, allowed me to be able to pay for my course fees, flight ticket and other expenses, as well as some monthly financial support for my parents when I was not around.

You may read the more detailed story about what brought me to India and how I managed to have the money to go to India to learn yoga, from this link

As I went deeper into the practice while at the same time giving yoga classes, I allowed myself to transform from within, and I owed this to the opportunity given to me by the universe. The universe was and still is so kind to me. It accepted me when I was ignorant, and be compassionate towards me and my family for my family's poor living condition, and gave me the opportunity to teach "yoga classes" to improve my earning to support myself and my family, but most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to learn about yoga, and to practice yoga, and to transform myself into a more peaceful being. And I serve the universe by sharing these learning and transformation with other beings, where the universe bring us to meet each other.

Protect and preserve the Dharma/Dhamma in us by destroying the ego, impurities and ignorance in us. Trust and have faith in the universal consciousness, allow the universal consciousness to take care of everything else. We are underestimating the power of the universal consciousness (the power of nature) if we think Dharma/Dhamma is going to be contaminated or manipulated by some impure beings. As even if that is happening, there is something for everyone to learn from. A fake guru, or an impure yogi, or a bad yoga teacher can teach us a lot about many things that we need to learn.

Om shanti.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Yogi? Guru? Yoga schools? Ashrams?

A (real) yogi is not determined by all the qualities of names and forms, nor to be judged by their actions and speech, personality or behavior, physical conditions or appearances, attires or accessories, actions or inactions...

If anyone try to look out for a yogi, or try to identify a yogi, and start looking at all these qualities of names and forms to judge and determine whether this or that being is a yogi or not, or is a "good" yogi or not, then we will never find it...

The real search is to find the "yogi" in ourselves... It is not looking out to see who is yogi and who is not... It is finding or realizing the highest teacher in us, and it's not looking for teachers from the outside to set as an example, or to give us a lift, or to motivate us, or to push us to realize what we are here for.

That is what yoga practice is about. It is for us to realize the attributeless Self unconditioned by the qualities of names and forms, in us, beyond our egoistic thinking mind, conditioned and limited physical body, impermanent physical conditions and abilities, appearances, features, shapes, colours, language, personality, characteristic, actions and inactions, short lived or long lived, solitude or amongst the world, real or unreal, as all are here to serve the universe...

Real yoga practice is not necessarily to be found and learned from some other people (so called yoga teachers, or Gurus, or yogis), or from yoga schools, or from Ashrams. As the entire (pure) teachings of yoga is already within us, as our true nature is identical with the universal consciousness... This is the fundamental essential teachings of yoga. Our higher pure Self will guide the impure lower self when the time is right. And when the lower self become pure (the ego is eliminated) and it becomes one with the higher Self, there is no more separation or duality. There is no pure or impure self, higher or lower self, inferiority or superiority, good or evil, wise or ignorant, compassionate or selfish...

All our experiences through this body and mind, whatever we feel, see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think are our Gurus. When we experience suffering and painful sorrow, that is where the teachings and practice is. We don't need to ask somebody else to inflict pain or suffering on us for us to learn about something or to realize about the Truth. Our own egoistic mind itself is the cause of all sorts of pain and suffering.

It is not about looking out at other beings, trying to find out, or judge, or determine each and everyone as good beings or bad beings, as saintly beings or evil beings, as selfish beings or selfless beings, as enlightened beings or ignorant beings, as compassionate beings or uncompassionate beings, as yogi or not yogi, as pure yogi or impure yogi, as Guru or not Guru, as real Guru or fake Guru, as yoga teacher or not yoga teacher, as good yoga teacher or bad yoga teacher, and so on...

Look within. That is the only real and pure yogi, Guru, yoga teacher, yoga teachings, yoga practice that we can rely on...

Take care of our own mind, our own actions and speech, why bother or be disturbed by other people's mind, their actions and their speech?

Om shanti.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My life stories - Part 10

My life Stories - Part 10
Stories from my past memories - childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams came true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now...

We had been travelling a lot being away from Langkawi last year. Wherever we went, we enjoyed our stay and travelling in these different places with different cultures, scenery and climates. We are also very happy to be back in Langkawi not travelling in some other places. Living in Langkawi isn't any much different from being in a beautiful holiday destination. Many people from around the world come here for holidays. Throughout our travelling during our stay with our family and friends, and staying in many different tourists guest houses, I continued my daily yoga asana practice wherever we went, in additional of the yoga practice within the mind every moment which is unseen from the appearance.

Yoga asana practice coordinates with the breath which requires certain amount of self-discipline, faith, concentration, awareness, acceptance, adjustment, determination, forbearance and perseverance, isn't all of yoga. It's one of the many sides of the yoga practice which can help us to influence the state of the mind, to purify the mind, to bring the mind into the present, to channel our energy into performing spiritual practice to realize unconditional love and peace, to develop divine elements or qualities to counter evil or negative tendencies, to develop non-attachment and non-identification with the body and mind, to let go of the ego, cravings and aversions, and eventually be free form all sorts of suffering that derived from ignorance and egoism.

Yoga asana practice being practiced with the correct attitude and understanding helps us to realize and accept the truth of impermanence in everything, for us to be able to let go of attachment towards the qualities of name and form, and thus be unaffected, or undisturbed, or undetermined by the impermanent qualities of name and form that the mind perceives through the senses. It also helps to maintain a better condition of physical and mental health for us to make good use of this body and mind, or this life existence, to help ourselves to have peace and to serve other beings.

At home in Langkawi, whether we are running yoga retreats, or not, I maintain my daily yoga asana practice even if it's only for one hour in the evening after sending our retreat guests back to the guest house. When we are running yoga retreats, I will get up around 6.00 am, and will be continued busy until after 9.00 pm, or sometimes after 10.30 pm if we bring our guests to the town for dinner and to explore the local night market. When there is a short break in between yoga classes, I'll still be busy with preparing the dinner.

I enjoy very much being busy with running the yoga retreats, teaching yoga classes, doing the maintenance works like cleaning and tidying our yoga studio and our home, where our retreats' guests have their meals with us, being the driver sending our our guests between our yoga studio and the guest house, shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables and what we need for the retreats, and cooking for our guests.

When there are no yoga retreats, I also enjoy having more free time for ourselves (my husband and I) spending time together going to the beach, or to the waterfalls and to do the things that we aren't able to do when we are running the retreats. Usually I practice my daily asana routine for about two hours when we are not running retreats, as well as writing some blog posts inspired by my daily personal yoga practice and from giving yoga classes.

Rarely, some days I will take rest from asana practice. I don't feel bad or uncomfortable when I don't perform asana practice for a day or a few days, as that is the resting moments which my body requires for that time being, to be away from too many physical activities. It doesn't matter if there's no suitable time or space for me to practice yoga asana, the yoga practice within will never stop.

During our travelling in India for more than one an a half months, I had encountered quite serious discomforts on my left knee coming from old injuries resulted from my previously more than twenty years of high impact fitness workouts and competitive physical trainings for competitions. I couldn't walk properly. It woke me up during my sleep for many nights. But still, it didn't stop me from doing my daily yoga asana practice. I still continued with my yoga asana practice with some modifications to allow my knee to heal itself with some exercises that help to strengthen and maintain the mobility of the muscular tendons that support the knees. In the present, after almost four months having discomforts on my left knee, it's back to its normal condition (discomforts free).

These are the videos of my daily yoga asana practice in India while having the knee discomforts. It wasn't much different from my usual asana practice, but I performed the exercises with some adjustments to accommodate the discomforts in my left knee :

Basically, I live a very simple lifestyle. Besides the daily life routines, I spend most of the time doing yoga, purifying the thoughts, speech and actions, observing the mind and watching the ego, developing and strengthening the inner strength and inner flexibility, letting go of selfish desires, cravings and aversions, and any impurities or impure thoughts that arise in the mind; running yoga retreats, giving yoga classes and sharing yoga through the blogs. I spend some of the time on doing house works, washing and cleaning which I enjoy very much. I never feel there's any separation from yoga whether I am doing some yoga practice in particular name and form, or not.

It doesn't matter my body is at rest or in action, being with some other people or being with myself, I don't feel separation from yoga. Whatever I do or don't do, all are not separated from yoga practice. Buddhism practice, Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga are all in actions and inactions. It's all about eliminating the selfish egoism, to remove ignorance, to be free. All these are the yoga and meditation practice in life every moment.

I spend lots of time being with myself (whether surrounded by people and happenings, or being alone), especially when there are no retreats. I don't feel myself being isolated from anything or anyone, even when I am alone by myself. I don't feel that I need to be in certain place, or be with certain people, or to do certain things, to feel good, happy, meaningful, love and peace. Wherever I am or I am not, whatever I am doing or I am not doing, I am at ease. Usually I stay out of unnecessary 'troubles' when I can see them coming. If I can't avoid them, I accept them as they are.

I try to stay away from social gossips and vain talks as much as possible.

I don't need to go to Ashrams or silent retreats to cut off from social life activities for me to observe silence, seclusion, self-contemplation, self-discipline, or to practice yoga and meditation, although occasionally I will spend some time in the Ashrams and silent retreat centres. But there's no difference for me in my own practice, whether I am inside or outside of the Ashrams and retreat centres. As the mind is being in the present follows wherever the body goes.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x 

Before we moved to this house where we are living now, I didn't cook at all. My husband did all the cooking for the meals of our yoga retreats. I had started preparing food and cooking for our yoga retreats only about a few months ago. This was possible after we had rented this house with bigger kitchen and dining hall, and we only use the wooden house as yoga studio for the retreats classes and activities. It's also conveniently located very close by to our yoga studio.

I enjoy very much preparing and cooking the food for our yoga retreat guests. I had no idea how to cook or what to cook, but I was determined to try to learn to cook from watching you tube videos and getting recipes from the Internet. My husband was my food taster. It didn't matter to me in the beginning the food tasted not so good. I kept trying to experiment cooking. Until my husband thought it was good enough, I started preparing and cooking the dishes for our yoga retreats.

Because I love eating Malaysian food, Chinese food and Thai food, I have been trying to cook a few dishes like Chinese style stir-fried different types of vegetables, vegetarian Thai green curry, vegetarian Nyonya sambal with Tempe, Achar - vegetables pickles, boiled or mashed potato, vegetable soups, pan fried or grilled mushrooms. Basically I didn't have precise measurement for the ingredients that I use. That's why they tasted slightly different every time when I cooked. My husband will prepare the Chickpeas curry, Turmeric tofu with ginger and lemon grass, vegetarian lasagna with Tempe, hummus, tahini, condiment dressings for salads, home made bread and a few other vegetable dishes which I haven't know how to cook yet. He is a very good cook.

I am contented, grateful and appreciate the present living condition which is very conducive and convenient for me to practice yoga and what we are doing in the present moment, as well as what and where the universe is leading us, or going to lead us.

Om shanti.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yoga practice is not separated from yoga philosophy or everyday life...

Without yoga philosophy or yoga teachings and without life, there is no yoga practice... It is a contradiction when we say that we want to practice yoga but we do not want to practice the yoga philosophy or the teachings, or we can only practice yoga in yoga classes and retreats, but we cannot practice yoga in everyday life. As when we really practice yoga, we are actually practicing the yoga philosophy or the teachings practically in everyday life, as yoga practice is not just about doing some physical yoga exercises in yoga classes or retreats...

Even though some people practice yoga asana poses regularly by attending yoga classes for many years, and we can perform many of the complicated asana poses that require certain degrees of physical strength and flexibility, and our physical fitness level is at the peak level, it still doesn't guarantee us peace, compassion and wisdom. We still can be not free from impurities, ignorance, anger, hatred, jealousy, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, fear, worry, cravings, aversions, unhappiness, and doubts...

We (out of ignorance) might even think and believe that "To share or teach yoga, yoga teachers need to be qualified or certified by some recognized yoga affiliations. And as yoga teachers, they should be able to do all the yoga asana poses and know all their names in Sanskrit by hard, and they should be able to touch their head with their feet from behind..."

We judge and categorize a yoga teacher, yoga practitioner and the yoga practice (beginner, intermediate or advance level) based on the fitness level of physical strength and flexibility to perform the asana poses, or based on how many hours of yoga courses we had attended in the past...

Some people said that they only want to practice "yoga" but they don't agree with or cannot accept the yoga philosophy or teachings... What they actually mean is that they only want to do the yoga asana exercises as it makes them feel good, fit, strong and flexible, but they do not want to know anything about letting go of the ego, letting go of pride and arrogance, letting go of selfish desires and attachments, letting go of cravings and aversions, letting go of judgment and expectation, letting go of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, fear and worry, and etc...

They are not interested at all to practice non-attachment, or to know about the mind, or to realize unconditional peace, selflessness or compassion. They say it is impossible to practice all these "philosophy" or teachings of yoga in their everyday life, living and working in the big city of the competitive modern world. They think these yoga philosophy or teachings can only be practiced in peaceful quiet environment where there is no external distraction, or disturbance, or tension, or stressful elements... There is nothing wrong with this type of thinking, as just by doing the physical exercise is already a very good pastime activity to improve our physical and mental health and fitness...

The main obstacle that contributes to this type of understanding is our own egoistic mind being not knowing or being unaware of the ignorance in the mind, due to ignorance (absence of wisdom)... Just like the eyes can only see what is in front of it, but it couldn't see itself. It can perceive objects, names and forms in front of it, but it couldn't perceive itself... It needs a mirror (reflection) to see itself. And this mirror, is awareness from the higher mind, to be aware of the ignorance in us, to be aware that there are impurities in our mind that hinder us from seeing the truth of things as it is, to be aware that it is our own mind being responsible for the happiness and unhappiness in us...

The one who thinks and believes that "It is not possible to practice yoga in everyday modern competitive hectic lifestyle and stressful working environment" or "Yoga can only be practiced in a yoga and meditation retreat centre with peaceful quiet environment away from all sorts of distractions, disturbance, tension and stressful elements", is our egoistic mind.

We (our mind) think and believe that there is an "I". We (the egoistic mind) think and believe that this body and this mind, and all its modifications (sensations, feelings, emotions, thinking, believes, personalities, characteristics, actions and reactions, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, wants and don't wants, self-image, self-worth, self-esteem, and etc) belongs to "I", and they are who "I" am.

It's because of this wrong identification or incorrect understanding, we (the egoistic mind) have selfish intentions (good or bad intention) to motivate us to perform actions, we have selfish desires and attachments. From these selfish intentions, desires and attachments, we have expectations. We expect to receive the fruit of our actions the way that we like it to be (craving for something that we like and agree with), and expect not to receive the fruit of our actions the way that we don't like it to be (aversion towards something that we don't like and disagree with)...

From expectations, we have cravings and aversions. From cravings and aversions, we have fear, restlessness, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, disappointment, frustration, irritation, pride, arrogance, self-protection (something like "I'll kill you first before you kill me"). And all these impurities strengthen the ignorance... And ignorance strengthens the egoism... And egoism strengthens all the selfish intentions, desires and attachments, and thus strengthens expectation, cravings and aversions, and thus strengthens fear and all the other impurities, and so on...

When we say we cannot let go of the ego, it is actually our egoistic mind being reluctant to let go of its selfish desires and attachments. We do not want to let go of this "I", who we think what we are...

We do not want, or we have fear of letting go of the self-image that we have been building up for this "I" with such and such qualities that we would like us to be... We identify ourselves as "somebody" with all these qualities that we possess (qualities that we like and agree with) and don't possess (qualities that we don't like and disagree with).

We want to protect this self-image to the extend that we will say and do things that will hurt ourselves and other beings. We do not want this self-image to be damaged or stained by any external elements, such like judgments come from people whom we come in contact with, relationships status, friendships status, things, happenings, social status, career status, and etc, as we (the egoistic mind) depend on all these elements to support and compliment us for who we think what we are.

When we realize compassion that is free from (or by letting go of) attachments, craving and aversion, separateness, discrimination, selfish desires, possessiveness, judgment and expectation, we will be able to perform all our duties and responsibility at home, at work or in the society, without being affected or determined by our actions and the result of our actions, whether the actions are being performed for ourselves or for other beings, whether it is a job that is getting some pay, or it is a volunteering work without getting any pay. We are able to perform all actions without fear, without selfish intentions, desires and attachments, without possessiveness and expectation... There is no stress, tension, expectation, disappointment, as there is no such thing as success or failure when we renounce the fruit of actions... We do our best in everything we do, and we renounce from the fruit of our actions. We are not affected nor determined by the result of our actions, or other people's reactions towards our actions.

Compassion and friendliness is nothing to do with how many personal friends or good friends that we know and have, whom we can spend time with, to eat, to drink, to talk and to do things together (or how many friendships that we have been accumulating and possessed), or whether we have an active social lifestyle or not. It is being free from ill-will, or hatred, or discrimination, or judgment, or expectation, or fear towards any beings, even if some of the beings' thinking and behaviors are not what we like nor what we can agree with...

When we have selfish intentions, desires and attachments, cravings and aversions, expectations and fear, we will identify or categorize the people or beings whom we like and agree with, as friends. And we will identify or categorize the people or beings whom we don't like and disagree with, as not friends (or as enemies)... These are friendships or social networks that are made under the influence of our selfish intentions, desires, attachments, cravings and aversions, likes and dislikes, discrimination, judgment, expectation and fear...

When we see a poisonous snake in front of us, out of fear and self-protection (by imagining, or anticipating, or expecting the snake is going to harm us), we might attack and hurt the snake first, even if the snake has no intention to harm us at all... This is selfishness and ignorance... This is absence of compassion and wisdom...

Yoga practice is in life. In our every moment of existence.

Om shanti.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yoga (Asana) classes?

One of the yoga students requested the yoga teacher to give a "gentle" yoga asana session this morning, as after a few days of continuous yoga asana practice, the physical body was experiencing discomfort sensations like muscles fatigue, tightness and soreness.

This was the teaching in the class today...

This is what yoga practice is about. It is being aware of the reality of the present moment now as it is, and accept the reality as it is, without generate craving or aversion towards the pleasant or unpleasant experiences... This physical body is now experiencing discomfortable sensations coming from a few days of yoga asana practice, is actually a great opportunity for us to learn how to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, even though it's not necessarily the way that we like it to be, nor the way that we think it should be. As well as we are learning, experiencing, observing and accepting about the truth that everything is impermanent. It doesn't matter they are pleasant or unpleasant sensations, thoughts, conditions or feelings, they all are impermanent...

The yoga asana class is just being what it is. It is not an intense session nor a gentle session. In the same yoga asana class, there are some students might be very fit, strong and flexible physically, and some others might be less fit, less strong and less flexible... Those who have stronger physical condition and are familiar with the yoga asana poses and exercises, they will say this yoga asana session is an easy and gentle session (for them). While the others who have poorer physical condition and are not so familiar with the yoga asana poses and exercises, they will say that this yoga asana session is a difficult and intense session (for them). But the yoga asana poses and exercises in the yoga asana classes have no qualities nor intentions to be something easy or difficult, gentle or intense... The yoga asana class is neither a beginner level nor advance level class. When our body can do it, our mind will judge "it's easy", and when our body cannot do it (yet), our mind will judge "it's difficult". The same exercises everyone is doing, some will say it's easy, and some will say it's difficult, but the exercises itself has no quality or intention to be something easy or difficult...

Yoga, or peace and compassion, is not determined by how strong and flexible we are to perform the yoga asana poses, nor it is about how perfect we can perform the asana poses, nor how good we look and feel during and after performing the asana poses or exercises, nor whether we can perform all the yoga asana poses or not...

And performing the yoga asana poses and exercises in a yoga class is not about trying to attain good feelings or pleasant sensations, or to avoid unpleasant sensations... It is not about "I only want to do the yoga poses and exercises that I like to do, and I don't want to do the yoga poses and exercises that I don't like to do...", or "I only want to do the exercises that will make my body feels comfortable, and I don't want to do any exercises that will make my body feels uncomfortable..."

Yoga asana practice in yoga classes are here for us to find out what is the ego and how to be free from the ego, or how to let go of the ego... It is for us to practice non-attachment or letting go of attachment. It is for us to practice letting go of the identification with the body and mind. It is about letting go of craving and clinging onto the objects or conditions that we like and agree with, and letting go of aversion towards the objects or conditions that we don't like and disagree with...

Yoga asana practice and its exercises are here for us to purify the mind, to remove impurities, to balance the mind, to calm the mind, to silent the mind and to channel or direct the mind to contemplate on the Truth of things, names and forms, and to inquire who am "I"... It is to eliminate ignorance to know the Truth... During the yoga asana class, we are limiting or restricting our thoughts, physical activities and speech by focusing on learning and performing the exercises and yoga poses. Most of the yoga poses request paramount of concentration being in the present moment, and letting go of fear, for us to be able to do it. And during this period of time our body and mind is being busy engaging in performing wholesome yoga asana exercises, and stop engaging in unwholesome thinking, physical activities and speech.

Attending yoga (asana) classes is not about expecting the teacher to give us something that we prefer, or what we like it to be, or what we can agree with... It is about learning to be open-minded to adapt and accommodate the exercises that we are not familiar with, and to adjust ourselves into any types of exercises with knowing our own physical limitations, and we do our best without forcing, nor trying to challenge our physical body to go beyond its limitations. We don't have to force ourselves to perform all the exercises in the yoga class. We don't have to look like other people in the yoga class, or be like the yoga teacher when we perform the asana poses, as we all have a different body and having different physical limitations. We should know when to take some rest and when to continue practice. We should know whether it is the ego rejects to continue the practice, or it is the physical body has come to its limitations and it needs to take some rest... We learn to become our own teacher and take full responsibility for taking care of the well-being of our body and mind.

We learn to forbear or withstand certain amount of physical "discomforts" coming from performing the yoga exercises (this discomfortable sensation is not the same as the sharp painful sensations coming from muscular tendon injuries due to pushing our body over its limitations, which is an alarm warning us that we should not go beyond that limitation), and allow the physical body to improve its stamina, strength and flexibility gradually as we practice regularly. And allowing the physical body to continue to practice the exercises that it doesn't familiar with until it can adjust and adapt into all these yoga exercises.

Unless the physical body is experiencing or suffering from certain injuries or illness, then we should allow the physical body to take some rest and avoid performing certain physical activities that will stimulate or exaggerate the injuries or illness. In order to improve physical fitness level, we need to "push" the physical body to its maximum limits, but not beyond its limitations, so that we can train the body to become fitter, stronger and more flexible without injuring it...

In the beginning of our yoga asana practice, it is normal that our body will feel discomfort, struggle, tiredness and soreness from time to time, as the physical body needs regular practice to adjust and adapt into the physical activities that it doesn't familiar with, and it needs to take sufficient rest in between practices. Then only the physical body can improve its overall fitness level with continuous regular practice... Eventually as we continue performing the exercises while enduring some discomfort sensations due to the unfamiliar physical activities, the stamina, strength and flexibility will improve, and all these muscles fatigue, tightness and soreness will become less and less... Our body will develop stronger endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility.

This practice of non-attachment is not just being observed or practiced in yoga classes while performing the yoga exercises, but it is every moment in our heart, in our life, we are practicing non-attachment. We learn to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, even though it is not what we like it to be. We accommodate the discomfortable or difficult situations or conditions. It is not about trying to change the situations or conditions that we don't like, into something that we like it to be to accommodate us, but we are able to adjust and adapt ourselves into any discomfortable, or difficult conditions or situations. When we experience some discomfortable situations or difficult conditions in life, we do not, or cannot ask life to be easy and gentle on us... Instead we accept the reality as it is, adjust and adapt ourselves into any discomfortable or difficult conditions and situations, and accommodate the present conditions or situations that we don't like or disagree with, in peace...

This is the inner strength and flexibility that we want to develop in our yoga practice while performing the yoga asana exercises... It is about life. It is not just in a yoga class performing some yoga asana poses, and telling ourselves and other people that we are practicing yoga, or we have done our yoga practice everyday, but then in life, we attached to the body and mind, over-powered by the ego, and we are constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced, determined by our craving and aversion towards the situations and conditions that we like and dislike, agreeable and disagreeable... It is about being able to be undisturbed, unaffected, uninfluenced or undetermined by the qualities of names and forms that our mind perceives through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think, without generating craving and aversion... It is knowing and accepting the truth of things as they are. Knowing that everything is just what they are... They are not something good or bad, positive or negative, happy or suffering...

Compassion is not just about performing some good and kind actions in the world. It is about accepting the reality as it is, and accepting everything and everyone as they are... There is no fear, no worry, no anger, no hatred, no greed, no dissatisfaction, no selfish desires, no selfish expectation, no discrimination towards all the different qualities of names and forms, no preferences of likes and dislikes, no attachment towards the qualities of names and forms, no jealousy, no possessiveness, no pride, no arrogance, no disappointment, no criticism, no condemn, no attachment towards the actions and the result of the actions... It is realizing what is non-duality, namelessness and formlessness, oneness, non-separateness, and being free from dissatisfaction, restlessness, unpeacefulness or suffering that comes along with impurities or ignorance...

In the process of learning and trying to perform the yoga practice and yoga asana poses or exercises in yoga classes, we are actually developing inner strength and inner flexibility. These are the positive qualities that will allow us to realize unconditional peace and compassion that will free us from ignorance, doubts, impurities, restlessness, dissatisfaction, anger, hatred, disappointment, fear, worry, unhappiness or suffering.

The physical strength and flexibility are just a side product coming from performing the yoga exercises. It is not the main purpose of performing the yoga practice.

We should be developing patience, perseverance, determination, will-power, forbearance, withstand, acceptance, tolerance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, cheerfulness, courage, positive thinking, observation, mindfulness, awareness, thoughtfulness, humility, concentration, being in the present moment, one-pointedness, self-disciplinary, non-judgment, non-comparison, non-expectation, non-identification, non-attachment and letting go of the ego, during the process of learning and practicing the yoga asana poses, breathing exercises, chanting, studying or contemplating on the yoga teachings, selfless service, self-control or self-restraint, concentration exercises and meditation practice.

These positive qualities act as a medium, or a tool, or an instrument for us to render the mind calm and pure, for meditation or contemplation upon the Truth, to realize our true nature as it is, which is unconditional peace and compassion.

Without these positive qualities, it is not easy for us to realize peace and compassion, as we will be easily be annoyed, frustrated, irritated, angry, disappointed or hurt by the objects of the senses or names and forms that we don't like and disagree with. There is no peace, as we are constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced, determined or over-powered by all the impurities that arise in the mind coming from the reactions of the egoistic mind towards what it perceives through the senses, from moment to moment.

When we hear the yoga teachings about "Go beyond the physical body", it doesn't mean that we challenge our physical body to go beyond its limitations to make it stronger and more flexible than what it is now, but it is about go beyond the attachment or identification with the physical body. Let go of the identification with the impermanent conditions and abilities of the physical body as "I", as making the body stronger and more flexible, or being able to perform many asana poses, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion... Peace and compassion doesn't come from being physically strong and flexible...

Being a "vegetarian" or "non-vegetarian" is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being a good person or bad person is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Performing good actions or bad actions is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being highly educated or having limited education is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being artistic or not, creative or not, intelligent or not, is also not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being in good conditions or bad conditions in life, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Having a good physical condition or poor physical condition is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Peace and compassion is our true nature as it is. It is realizing the Truth, realizing namelessness and formlessness, or attributeless-ness, or non-duality, or oneness, or non-separateness...

It is going beyond the attachment towards all the qualities of names and forms that will allow us to realize our true nature which is unconditional peace and compassion.

Yoga is not about being positive... It is about not attached to the qualities of names and forms, or to go beyond what our mind believes is positive and negative, happiness and suffering, good and bad... As it is not the truth of what things really are. Everything is just what it is. They have no qualities or intentions to be good or bad, positive or negative, happiness or suffering... All these "qualities" are coming from our own mind, what our mind wants to believe what things are...

And so, allow the teacher to teach whatever the teacher wants to teach in the yoga class, without expecting the yoga class to be something that we prefer or what we like it to be... But we adjust and adapt ourselves into the practice that are new to us, or being different from what we familiar with... In the same session, some students will prefer more gentle form of exercises, and some will prefer more intense form of exercises, even if the class is stated "gentle yoga class" or "intense yoga class"... As we all have different expectation or projection towards what types of gentleness is "gentle" and what is not, or what types of intensity is "intense" and what is not... A gentle class can be too gentle for certain people or might not be gentle enough for some other people. An intense class can be too intense for certain people or might not be intense enough for some other people... Everyone has different types of physical stamina, strength and flexibility, different types of physical limitations, and different types of likes and dislikes towards certain asana poses or exercises...

The physical exercises and its effects that come from attending yoga (asana) classes are here for us to be aware of our ego, and not being influenced by craving and aversion that comes from the ego...

Om shanti.

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About Yoga

Know thyself. Everything is impermanent and selfless. There is no 'I'. There is no 'I am selfless'/'I am not selfless'. There is no 'I am hurt'/'I need to be healed from hurt'. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

Om shanti

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