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PASSION & PEACE: 2019 Kiss My Asana Offering #14 April 15, 2019

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Lent, Religion.
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The (slightly belated) “practice preview” below is part of my offering for the 2019 Kiss My Asana yogathon. I encourage you to set aside at least 5 minutes a day during April, to practice with today’s theme or concept as inspiration. You can practice in a class or on your own, but since the Kiss My Asana yogathon raises resources as well as awareness, I invite you to join me at a donation-based class on April 27th or May 4th.

I also challenge you to set aside a certain amount every day that you practice with this concept/theme in mind. It doesn’t matter if you set aside one dollar per practice or $25 – set aside that amount each time you practice and donate it by April 30th.

Founded by Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions helps those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. They provide classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga. Or, as this year’s tag line states…

do yoga. share yoga. help others.

***

Om

sahana vavatu
sahano bhunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai
Tejasvi navaditamastu
Ma vidvishavahai

Om shanti shanti shantih.

Conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind /
on every plane of existence

May we be protected
May we be nourished
May we work together with great energy
May our study together be brilliant and effective
May we not hate or dispute with one another

On every plane of existence peace (within us), peace (all around us),
peace (to and from everything we encounter)

 

– Teaching Peace Chant (translation courtesy of Richard Freeman)

“Let us go forth in peace.”

– Final instruction in the Divine Liturgy

In many yoga traditions, the physical practice begins and ends with a chant or mantra. There are mantras that trace the teaching lineage of the tradition as well as a mantra that honors Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutra.  Because of the way they end, several mantras are referred to as a şantipat. Pronounced “shanti,” the first root word means peace. It is not uncommon for people to think that the last part (pronounced “pot”) means path – and as it establishes how you want to move forward you could consider it your way or path. However, pat means “falling” or “going,” and these types of mantras are usually translated as “the falling down of peace.” They could also be translated as “going in peace” – which mirrors the final instruction in the Divine Liturgy and one of the last things stated before the Procession of the Palms in some Palm Sunday services.

In the Western Christian tradition, Sunday, April 14th marks the end of the Lenten Season and the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday or the Second Sunday of the Passion, is the Sunday before Easter Sunday. It is a time when Christians are getting ready to commemorate the last days of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection: in other words, the Passion of the Christ.
 

Passion (noun): 1. [mass noun] strong and barely controllable emotion; 1.2 intense sexual love; 1.3 [in singular] an intense desire or enthusiasm for something; 2. (the Passion) The suffering and death of Jesus.

 

Origin: Middle English: from Old French; from late Latin passio(n-), from Latin pati- “suffer”

 

– from Oxford Dictionaries

All four (4) canonical Gospels in the Christian New Testament refer to Jesus returning to Jerusalem, for an observation of Passover.  Remember, historically speaking, Jesus was a rabbi focused on getting his Jewish community to be better and more devout Jews. So, he comes home for Passover, but he does so in a way that is quite memorable and jubilant. He rides in on the back of a donkey, a symbol of peace (as oppose to riding in on a horse, which would be seen as a symbol of conquest or war). As he enters the city, it says people welcome him and honor him by laying down palm fronds and sometimes their coats in the middle of the road. (And all of this happens after he raises Lazarus from the dead.)

As part of a Palm Sunday service, Christians will display palms throughout the church and have a Procession of the Palms. Children wave the palms. Similar branches will be used in areas where it is hard to come by palms – leading the day to be called “Yew Sunday” or “Branch Sunday.” The palms waved on Palm Sunday will be burned down to ashes, blessed, and then the ashes will be used for the following year’s Ash Wednesday observations – which kick off the Lenten Season.

Theologically speaking, Jesus was aware of his destiny: the temptation, betrayal, and suffering that would all lead to his crucifixion and resurrection – all intended to usher in an era of peace. He attempts to prepare his disciples for what’s to come, but they are not prepared to go forward in peace, at least not in the way the faithful may be prepared today.

“Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty and the most insidious of temptations by preserving in our hearts a peace that is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, bestows life and mercy.”

– excerpt from 2019 Palm Sunday homily by Pope Francis

When referring to Jesus’s return to Jerusalem, many Christians will refer to his “triumphant” return. In his 2019 Palm Sunday homily, however, Pope Francis focuses on Jesus’s humility and his ability to surrender to God’s will. Pope Francis said, “He shows us this kind of abandonment by spurning, at every point in his earthly ministry, the temptation to do things his way and not in complete obedience to the Father.”

Even if one is not Christian, there is a lesson in this message and an opportunity for svadyaya (self-study). Consider how you show up when you are challenged and/or things aren’t going your way. Do you show up in a way that alleviates suffering or in a way that creates more suffering?

Eastern philosophies, like yoga and Buddhism, view suffering as imbalance in the natural state of being (yoga and Taoism) and/or the result of attachment to (craving / desire for) a particular outcome (yoga and Buddhism). We all want things to go “our way” and yet more often than not things go in a different way. If we can’t let go of “our way,” we suffer. To find balance and to alleviate suffering, one must detach and practice non-attachment until it becomes a habit.

But, let’s get back to that experience of peace.

“So the redeemed of the LORD will return and enter Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.”

– Isaiah 51:11, Berean Study Bible

“From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.”

Yoga Sutra 2.42

Isaiah is considered the first of the “Latter Prophets” in the Hebrew Bible and the first of the “Major Prophets” in the Christian Old Testament. Much of the “Book of Isaiah” contains details about what people can expect from and how they can recognize the Messiah or Savior. For Christians, Jesus fits the criteria and, therefore, brings them joy and peace now and in the hereafter. (Isaiah 51:11 and 52:7) It is not only a message that is brought; he also brings salvation (or the promise of salvation).

Consider, for a moment, how much easier life is if the hard stuff is being surrendered to a higher power.

In the second section of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali also talks of peace and joy. He particularly indicates that if someone diligently practices the external restraint (yama) of non-harming (ahimsa) then the people around them will give up hostilities (YS 2.35). Furthermore, he states that practicing the internal observation (niyama) of contentment (santosha) then “unexcelled, happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction.” (YS 2.42)

Consider, for a moment, what happens if you accept what is in the moment and surrender everything to the moment.

 

FEATURED POSE for April 14th: Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)

Palm Tree Breathing is a sequence of poses from Jasna’s Yoga that I include in certain practices; sometimes for physical and energetic reasons, sometimes for symbolic and emotional reasons, sometimes for all of the above. The sequence consists of two (2) poses in repetition – Mountain Pose (on the toes variation) (Tadasana) and Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana). Both poses require strong core engagement (locks or bandhas), strong foundation engagement (asana), and balance, combined with breath awareness (pranayama). While the sequence can be modified by keeping the heels on the ground during the Mountain Pose, finding ease and stability in the Forward Fold is a critical element – and one that is often overlooked or taken for granted.

Standing in Mountain Pose, with feet together or slightly apart, focus on balancing the weight and standing up tall. (Remember, this is also Equal Standing.) Spread the big toes and little toes wide in order to start activating the arches and stabilize the ankles. Squeeze the legs towards one another and spiral the outer thighs in towards your mid-line. Squeezing a block, small book, or small ball between your legs encourages adduction and internal rotation. Use the quadriceps to lift the knee caps up, so that the thighs are firm; lift the pelvic bones up so that the sits bones drop down; squeeze the perineum muscles together and up (like you’re trying not to go to the bathroom); draw the belly button up and back; and the shoulders.

Inhale deeply and – with hands on hips – hinge from the waist as you exhale. Inhale, look up and lengthen so that you are in the Half Lift position (see yesterday’s post). Place your hands on your thighs or bend your knees and place your palms on your thighs. Spend a few breaths in the half lift position in order to find the flattest back position possible – even if that means the knees are bent.

Now, if it’s accessible, places your hands on a floor or a block – so you have closed-chain engagement and, therefore more control over accessing your muscles.  If placing your hands lower causes you to round your spine, bring the hands back to the thighs and use the legs as a prop. Keeping the back flat and the core engaged, start to hinge or fold from the hips. See if you can bring your hands flat to the floor or the block without your low back rounding. (Remember: Low back issues, unregulated blood pressure, eye issues like glaucoma, and certain types of osteoarthritis are reasons to stay in the Flat Back position.)

Keep your weight balanced between hands and feet, arms and legs. You want dynamic tension that pushes your hips and ribs away from each other. After a few breaths, bend your knees, let your chest rest on your thighs, but maintain the core and foundational engagement. Release the arms, but keep the feet, legs, and core strong. While you surround your upper body to your lower body, let something roll of your back, something that no longer serves you. Or, let go of something you know. Or something you want but aren’t getting. If you are in the Half Lift position, whatever you are releasing rolls off when you stand up.

Either roll up, one vertebra, or inhale to a Half Lift and then lift the whole torso up on the next inhale.

If you want to move through Palm Tree Breathing, inhale your arms up for Mountain Pose. Again, make sure everything is strongly engaged. Use a block if you want to strengthen your adductors. Stay on your heels or roll up to your tip toes. Keep your eyes on something that’s not moving. As you exhale, lower the heels, hinge from your hips and fold. At the end of your breath, your heart will rest on your thighs. Inhale and reverse swan dive, maybe lifting the heels as you go, but definitely straightening the knees and rolling up one vertebra at a time until arms are overhead. Exhale and repeat at least 3 – 5 times. Finish with an inhale to Mountain Pose.

{NOTE: The Throat Chakra (the fifth intersection or wheel created by the overlapping of the three (3) primary nadis or energy channels/rivers) is associated with will and determination – specifically, Caroline Myss uses the mantra “Submit personal will to Divine will.” You can think of “Divine” as God, as the Universe, or as the World as a whole. Either way, consider the different positions your neck is in as you move through Palm Tree Breathing, and notice how the breath feels moving through your throat.}

### OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTHI OM ###

#PrayforPeace August 2, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Karma Yoga, Lent, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Passover, Peace, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Science, Suffering, Sukkot, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Yoga.
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A funny thing happened when I was getting ready for the classes I do at the end of Ramadan. I say “funny” meaning “ironic,” but it’s also something that got a laugh. And, it was also something incredibly profound and fitting.

Reba McEntire released a new song.

For the last three (3) years, at some point during the last 10 days of Ramadan – and for 2 – 3 days after Ramadan, my class themes focus on this holy time for Muslims. My “lessons” are pretty basic: I outline Kriya Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras and briefly explain that “ritual actions” which combine purification/training of the senses, self study in the context of sacred teachings, and dedication to a divine source occur in every major religion and philosophical practice. (Think, for example, about Lent, a Vipassana retreat, Sukkot, Passover – or Ramadan.) After explaining the basic premise of Ramadan, I outline the Five (5) Pillars of Islam; and break down six (6) Articles of Faith. I point out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all Abrahamic religions – meaning they share one historical origin. I also talk about the importance of the last 10 days with regard to Laylat al-Qadr and the power of prayer, especially as it relates to peace. And, as always, I try to include poses and music which reinforce the message.

OK, before I go any further, let me answer the two (2) most popular questions: Why would you do that? What’s it to you?

More often than not, I pick a theme because it has MEANING. The all caps means it has BIG meaning, so big that (dare I say it) it is universal. Or, at the very least, is accessible to a large group of really diverse people. The theme is a way to get everyone on the same page. And, getting everyone together (on the same page) is one definition of yoga.

Going deeper, going off the mat: It is also an opportunity to expose people to information that might not otherwise discover or seek out on there own. The Twin Cities have a large Muslim population – and, an estimated 1.6 billion people in the world practice Islam. However, many people in the West (including here in the Twin Cities) only know about the faith when it is in the news. And, unfortunately, Islam is in the news a lot because of negative situations. (Keep in mind, the majority of the people in the world who faithfully practice a religious faith are not making the news!) So, here again, is an opportunity to practice yoga – to come together.

If I play a song with lyrics during a Ramadan class, then the musician is Muslim. That’s been my personal modus operandi. I realize that within the Muslim community there is debate about what is permissible (halal) when it comes to music. I have considered only playing a cappella  music or voices accompanied only by percussion; however, in the end I’ve played a wide variety – all inspirational and devotional in some way. And, again, all songs with lyrics are performed by Muslim musicians.

This year, however, I felt like something – a song – was missing. I kept going back and forth between my Ramadan mixes and music in my library that I had chosen not to use. Nothing extra fit. So, for the first class, I left well enough alone. But, I still had that nagging sensation. Between classes, I was surfing the internet and I came across Reba’s new song Pray for Peace.

When I decided to include Pray for Peace in my remaining Ramadan mixes I wanted to be very clear that (so far as I know) Reba is not a Muslim. People seemed to find that statement funny – or maybe it was nervous laughter. Either way, I thought being clear was the best way to respect all the musicians on my playlists. This song, Reba’s call to prayer, was also another way for people to come together.

At first, all you hear are beats/foot steps; then what sounds like bagpipes (and maybe a fiddle). Then, for about 2 minutes, Reba sings, “Pray for Peace.” Over and over. “Pray for Peace.” Even when the lyrics evolve she doesn’t tell you how to pray or to “whom” you pray – she just asks that you pray. And, although the song requests that you pray for peace, the request is open ended: the nature of peace is not defined.

Granted, there was a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when Reba wrote the song last year. And a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when she released the song. But, I find it very interesting/ironic that this call to prayer was released (for free) during a time when 1.6 billion people on the planet believe their prayers are magnified.

Right about now, somebody is doing the math and thinking, “Well, yeah, 1.6 billion seems like a lot – but that’s only about a sixth of the world’s population.” This is very true. But before you discount the value of those 1.6 billion people, add in all the non-Muslims who were going to pray during Ramadan anyway. Now, add in all the other people on the planet who were meditating, or singing, or sighing, or dancing, or crying, or wishing and hoping.

Now, let’s say all people were on the same page.

 

~ Om Shanti Shanti Shanthi Om ~