The nice thing about cleansing is you know exactly what you’ll be eating for however long you cleanse. I took out all the bottles after picking them up from the Organic Avenue on Suffolk and placed them on the kitchen counter to admire. The beautiful, jewel-toned glass bottles filled with nourishing juice… to cleanse is a luxury and a blessing, and with all things in life, its necessary to remind myself of that again and again. I have done juice cleanses before so I know what I’m doing and I know that I can do it. In fact on a juice cleanse like this, you drink so much it’s not about hunger. It’s about overcoming your mind, purifying yourself, being introspective and challenging the habits your used to. Food is all over this city and usually I’m tempted by every piece of chocolate in every store I walk by. It’s nice to not even entertain the “should I eat that, just one?” dialogue and know that I’m going to pass on it. I don’t need anything. It’s a refreshing way to look at the world, needing nothing from it. Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati described yoga as the state of being whole and needing nothing. It’s a practice; feeling content and satisfied with what you have and who you are. Not looking outside yourself for validation or more, more, more. It’s so liberating when you realize you don’t need anything, you’re whole and perfect just as you are. Sweet dreams…
As you get more into yoga, your idea of yoga expands. Gradually it becomes about so much more than stretching, about so much more than the physical asana practice that lured you to the studio in the first place. Yoga is the type of expansive practice that can truly be used to manifest whatever you want in your life. If you are looking for healing, balance, refuge, strength, direction, joy, yoga can help you create it. Yoga can also lead you to other subjects that you might never have studied or even known about and that you will suddenly find yourself curious to understand.
After chanting to Sita and Ram in class at Jivamukti and hearing about them from my teachers, one day I was inspired to pick up the Ramayana. The Ramayana is an epic poem and one of the most revered stories in India (Yana means story in Sanskrit, so it’s the story of Rama). In fact, to them it is not a magical, mythological tale but a true recounting of past events.
The Ramayana tells the story of Ram and Sita being banished to the forest, of Sita’s abduction, and of Ram rescuing her and defeating the evil Rakshasas and their King Ravana. Along the journey, we are taught lessons about how to live through every interaction of the characters. We are taught about the path of dharma, the path of righteousness, about karma, about fulfilling our duty, and loving and respecting our companions and family members. We meet Hanuman, the monkey-faced god and Lakshmana, Ram’s devoted brother who accompanies him and Sita into the forest. The writing is gorgeous, filled with metaphors and life lessons and reading the story gives you an idea of the values of Indian culture.
If you are expanding your idea of yoga and wanting to delve deeper into the path of dharma, read the Ramayana and add another layer to your understanding of the culture that yoga comes from. It reads like an adventure story, travelling through the magic of India, dripping with beautiful and sweet teachings. Highly recommended!
My wonderful friends Hayden and Carly opened the most incredible juicery, Pressed, in Los Angeles a few months ago conveniently located right below Maha Yoga in Brentwood. When I went home for the holidays, I stopped there everyday because the juices are that good and they make you feel good, too. They really did their research (Carly is a nutritionist) and worked for months to create the best combinations for your palette and health. The menu is amazing and they provide all the nutritional benefits and information you could want on the website, laid out in the most simple and clear way. They sell the juices out of their tiny Brentwood storefront or by delivery to pretty much all of Los Angeles. They sell cleanses, too, that are made of 5 juices, 1 nut milk (hands down the best I’ve ever tried and I’ve tried A LOT), an aloe water and chlorophyll water (which ensure that your digestion is smooth while you are cleansing). I honestly can’t recommend somewhere more. Pressed has the highest quality, hydraulic-pressed juices available and I am begging them to open one in NY so I can enjoy them everyday! Love you, Hayden and Carly. Thank you for Pressed!!
On New Years’ Eve I peeled myself away from my friends and took some quiet time to do some reflecting on the year past and intention setting for the year to come. I was wracking my mind with what I have experienced and learned from 2010 and what I hope to achieve, who I hope to become in 2011. Here’s what I wrote:
- Open heart to keep evolving: Study my Self (svadhyaya in Sanskrit) in order to keep growing.
- Be honest, always and without exception. Clean up all the little cracks where I allow myself to be untruthful.
- Be kind towards others: don’t be judgmental.
- Experience mutual love: cherish and respect each other. Remain grateful, enthusiastic and caring.
- Follow yamas and niyamas: tighten personal discipline to help focus.
- Deepen study and dedication to apprenticeship as a way of honoring my teachers.
- Daily meditation practice.
- Intention: Evolve and purify my Self. Create and celebrate happiness for others.
I look back at this torn out sheet of paper a couple of times a week just to stay on track. Already having problems meditating everyday (Why is this so challenging for me? What am I so afraid of? Why do I resist this?) but at least I am trying. Hopefully my list can help you organize your own thoughts for this year. It’s never a bad idea to sit down, be introspective and set some intentions for the future. Everything we experience in our lives is first a thought, so start thinking about what you want.
This month the focus at Jivamukti is on 3 simple steps that a profound and magical teacher taught our beloved, holy Sharon Gannon. He told her that before she could reach enlightenment, she must master 3 things:
- 1. Cooking-You have to learn how to become a good cook;
- 2. Cleaning-You have to learn how to keep the place where you live clean and organized; and
- 3. Gardening-You have to know how to grow, nurture and care for plants.
How does this relate to yoga? Why is this important as part of our spiritual practice. After resisting this advice at first as mundane, Sharon finally realized that these three steps were essential to her spiritual growth. She writes, “Without mastering the seemingly ordinary basics of living, no spiritual maturity, much less real spiritual evolution, is possible. One has to first grasp the magic in the ordinary before the extraordinary dawns, and once it does the everyday is the same as it was before-only sweeter.” We have to up our consciousness level so that doing the mundane and everyday of our lives can become our spiritual practice, then washing the dishes can be as magical as taking the best yoga class.
For me, cleaning and cooking are everything (need to work on gardening). Making food for others is the sweetest offering you can give so why not learn how to do it. Cleaning, and I know this might sound insane, can be the most rewarding activity. When you are feeling out of control, immobilized, or stuck, cleaning your living space feels like a million bucks. Whenever I need a fresh start, I organize and clean, and it helps to settle the whirling thoughts racing through my mind. These are those basic steps that make travelling further on the path towards enlightenment (bliss!! joy!! happiness!!) possible. So get to it, clean up your room and try making a fresh salad for dinner and sharing it with the people you love. Enlightenment to follow…
From my incredible teachers (thank you, Narayani + Rima!), I have been exposed to the teachings of Buddhism (this is why you “sit near” [upa (near), ni (down) and sad (to sit)] teachers, because then you are always learning). So far, this is my understanding of Buddhism:
- Buddhism first and foremost recognizes that everyone is suffering in the world, and this suffering is because things end and will be torn from us; our relationships will end, our body will end, this dinner we are enjoying so much, will end.
- The buddha tell us that there is a way out of suffering, a method to be free from mental affliction.
- This method is about recognizing the true nature of the world, and coming to understand that all things are empty from their own side, and are merely our own projections.
- Buddhists believe in purifying the mind and one’s actions, so that we can create our own worldview and literally create the world that we see.
- The laws of Karma are abided by, meaning that Buddhists only want to plant karmic seeds that will produce the kind of life they want. i.e. if you want wealth, you are generous and never greedy; if you want to be in love, take care of a lonely person and celebrate the love of others; if you want to be treated with respect, respect others.
- Meditation is used to help the mind stay grounded and focused and is essential for the continued spiritual development of the Buddhist, as is continuing to learn the wisdom of the teachings.
As Narayani so beautifully said in class at Jivamukti, “Our lives are like a ripple in a pond, meaning our actions, our presence expand out and affect the world. We have a choice what kind of ripple to be. Don’t you want to be a kind ripple?”.
These concepts are radical, especially the idea of emptiness, but as you start to refine your thoughts and actions, you will notice a shift in how you affect others and how the world is reflected back to you. If you want to read more, Lama Christie McNally’s The Tibetan Book of Meditation is amazing. It’s very practical advice given in a straightforward and kind manner that clearly illuminates the core teachings of the Buddha.
I am the luckiest girl in the world… All of my friends are getting into yoga and they want me to teach them! Everyone is reaching that point where they want to do something that provides relief from their daily lives, something that detoxifies their bodies and makes their minds stronger and clearer. Truly a blessing to be able to share this practice I love so much, that has enriched my life so much, with all of the people who I am usually hanging out with on the weekends.
While I was teaching my friends this week, I couldn’t help but think how we were creating our own satsang. Satsang is the coming together of like-minded individuals to hang-out in a non-mundane way. It’s like hanging out with friends with a higher intention than just passing the time away like we always do. It’s hanging out with the purpose of experiencing yoga and it’s an essential practice for staying on the path and deepening your understanding of everything that yoga can embody. As my 5 friends’ mats were lined up (at 9:30am, no less), I was so excited to get to share in their practice and all come together as a class. I made this playlist for them, and I hope you like it, too.