Fire ceremony and cleansing ritual on our retreat to Bali. We always do a variation of this ceremony on my yoga retreats. First, we do some journal writing exercises, and then boil things down to one thing we are ready to let go of once the retreat is over. And then we condense that down to just one word. This word gets written down on a piece of paper and gets burned in the fire as part of the ceremony and cleansing ritual. These ceremonies aren't always fun. They aren't always the "feel good" moments on the retreat. Yoga isn't always about feel good moments. You've gotta go through your stuff to get to the other side. The fire ceremony and cleansing ritual offers another opportunity to dig deep and take a look at old patterns, to shine the light on some darker areas, and then to set an intention to let go of this old pattern that isn't serving you. Often times, these ceremonies are uncomfortable. They make you feel vulnerable. They can be confrontational. They make you look at something about yourself or about how you're living your life that you may not want to look at yet. That's the point. This is yoga. Getting out of your comfort zone is your yoga practice. Being vulnerable is your yoga practice. Yoga isn't all about rainbows and unicorns, and neither is going on yoga retreat. Your yoga practice at times will be confrontational. It will challenge you. It should challenge you. Yoga is intimate. It's vulnerable. It's profound work. It's not always about being happy and smiling, or, checking out, listening to music, and distracting yourself. What are you ready to let go of? What are you ready to burn off in the fire? What pattern are you done with that isn't serving you anymore?Read More
I talked a lot about cleansing on our yoga retreat this past week. This is such a big part of our yoga practice. Bringing our stuff to the surface, looking at it, and letting it go.
What are you holding onto right now that isn't serving you? What are you ready to let go of? What pattern, or old habit, do you want to leave behind? One of the excursions we did this past week on the retreat took us to a temple in Ubud, where we got to participate in a cleansing ritual. At each statue in the pool, we were instructed to stop and make an offering. Then we splashed water on our face three times, over our head three times, and were encouraged to go under the water and let it run over our head and body. It was a really great experience. We often use symbols and rituals in yoga to help us draw a connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm and sometimes to help us bring together our inner and outer world. This cleansing ritual, in which we are literally cleansing the body, can help us to connect to the deeper cleansing we need to do in order to go inward and connect with the deepest part of ourselves. In Tantra, you are the individual wave, embodied consciousness, and you are simply the water in the ocean, connected to the entire Universe.
This week in class I've been talking a lot about having to go through the fire to get to the other side.
There is a saying in yoga and spirituality called spiritual by-pass. This is where you don't do the work. Where you pretend that you are already there. Everything is love and flowers and sunshine and everyone is so amazing and so incredible. Have you ever met someone who says things like this but immediately the voice of your intuition says something doesn't make sense with this person, something doesn't feel right? It's like you can feel the tension within them that they aren't acknowledging. These people scare me a little. They are pushing their stuff down and repressing so much and one day they are going to snap and on that day everything isn't going to be all flowers and love and sunshine.
When I first started to practice yoga I think I thought a little bit like this. I had a lot of negative stuff moving through me and yoga was bringing it to the surface. I was embarrassed. I thought this isn't very "yogic" to have all these negative emotions moving through me and coming up in my practice. I didn't really understand that this was the practice. Bringing these emotions to the surface, processing them and learning to let go of things was and is a big part of yoga, healing and a spiritual path.
I was talking with a student recently about this and I think there was some confusion and is some confusion in our yoga community that if you're in your yoga practice and negative stuff is coming up for you then there must be something wrong with you or with your practice. Isn't yoga all about fun?
There is nothing wrong with you if your stuff is coming up for you in your practice. This is the practice! This is exactly what you want to happen. When you go into the fire your stuff comes to the surface. And in the beginning a lot of your stuff is going to be negative. Think of your emotions as one of the ways that you process stuck energy and tension that is stored in your body and in the sub-conscious part of your mind. These raw and powerful negative emotions that often rise to the surface during your practice are not a bad thing. You're releasing a lot of tension. Let it go. Let it come up and let it go. This is the place to feel sad and cry. This is the place to feel angry and frustrated. This is the place to process grief and pain. This is the place to let it all go. This is also the place to laugh, to feel joy and release and to surrender. This is not a place where you pretend, where you fake it, where you pretend that everything is love and flowers and sunshine.
You have to go through the fire first in order to get to a place where you find peace and quiet and calm. And there's no b.s. when you get to that place. It's real and authentic and true and it's as real and authentic and true as the crap you had to go through and the stuff you had to burn off in order to get there. It's earned. You earned it. You don't accidentally quiet your mind and achieve a state of enlightenment. You show up and you do the work.
Whatever comes up for you in your practice is okay. Whatever things need to process let them come up. And then let them go. And it's important to remember that the fire, the practice didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. Your teacher didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. The room being too hot or too cold didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. The pose you are in didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. All of these emotions that are coming up for you represent stored, unprocessed tension that is inside of you already and needs to be released. You can choose to look at it and bring it to the surface and then let it go or you can pretend that it's not there.
Show up for yourself. Do the work. You have to go through the fire to get to the other side. You have to look at the pain and feel the pain in order to heal.
There's an old story that is often told in yoga to illustrate what we are doing in the practice...
Think of your mind like a dirty pot that is sitting in the kitchen after dinner. If you pretend the pot is clean and you put water in the pot it's going to be murky, foggy, cloudy. This is our mind. It's cloudy. We're in a fog. We are trying to connect to the present moment but there's all these patterns and habits and attachments and things that are constantly pulling us out of the moment. We have to clean the pot before we can fill it up with water again or whatever we want to put into it. What happens when you clean the pot, though? And this is why we avoid going into the fire in our practice. It gets dirtier before it gets clean. When you clean the pot and start to scrub all the crap off the sides and the bottom it comes to the surface. The water in the pot while you are cleaning it is way dirtier than it would be if you just used the dirty pot as it is and things are way messier than before you started cleaning things up. And it also takes some work to get the pot clean. You have to put in some effort, especially if there's a whole lot of crap there and your pot is really dirty. But it's worth it! It's so worth it. After you put in the effort eventually the pot is clean again. It's like it was brand new. You can pour water into the pot and it's clear.
The tapas in your yoga practice is cleaning your mind. We're scrubbing away old patterns, habits, impressions and letting go of the phyisical and mental tension that is holding us back and keeping us from seeing the world clearly and being connected to the present moment.
Clean your pot! Show up for yourself. There is no such thing as spiritual by-pass. You can pretend that your pot is already clean but everyone else can see the dirty water in it. You can pretend that everything is love and flowers and sunshine but if you are repressing things, if you are pushing down against the tension, one day you are going to explode and things are going to come rushing to the surface anyway. I don't want to be around when that happens.
Everything isn't always supposed to be flowers and rainbows and sunshine. If it was then flowers and rainbows and sunshine would have no meaning. Earn your flowers and rainbows and sunshine. Go through it and get to the other side.
Clean your pot!Read More
We carry around our backpack full of stuff with us everywhere we go. If you never turn inward and look at your stuff and give it a chance to process and release, you never unload anything from your backpack. Your stuff just keeps piling up and the load you are carrying gets heavier and heavier.
Find stillness and concentrate. Let the mind turn inward. Let the fire build. Sit in the fire and look at your stuff. Let it come up. Let it process. Let it release. Breathe into it and then breathe it out. This is the work. The more stuff you are holding onto, the more stuff you have pushed down, the more stuff you are carrying around in your backpack, the longer it will take for you to dig yourself out and to unload your backpack.Read More