YOGA AS A TRANSFORMATIONAL TOOL TO LIBERATION
We live in an age of change when the concept of “freedom” is being even more challenged. We are going through periods of lockdown, where we experience isolations and restrictions on several levels; however, crisis goes both ways – they are portals to new opportunities and possibilities as well, and if we can learn how to see and step through them, we may create a life beyond what we are experiencing now. JFK once inspired with this quote:
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word, ‘crisis’.
One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.”
Even the stars align with us on this day of the New Moon, September 6th 2021. What makes this new moon even more special is the harmonious transits that are accompanying it. First up, Venus in Libra will form a trine with Jupiter in Aquarius. “This is one of the most positive astrological aspects, bringing optimism, opportunities, and the promise of growth,” says Narayana Montufar, senior astrologer for astrology.com.
I have created Yoga Bali’s Online Refuge “Practice to Freedom” as a place to come together, to reflect, to find stillness, to access inner strength and get clarity to make wiser and more informed decisions. We are then able to find again freedom and stability within, even in an unstable world. We are then able to bring these aspects of optimism, opportunity and growth into our own lives and be part of creating the life and the planet we want to see.
I repeatedly realised during lockdowns that within these current limitations, the essence of freedom appears as a space opening up within that is not dependant on outside circumstances. I recognise that the basis of freedom is our own daily attitude shining from deep within. It is that moment of harmony with self and others that sets us free. These spontaneous feelings arise during meditation and … meditation takes practice.
The Practice of Yoga teaches us that we can get to that point of inner stillness and kindly gives us practical tools in ancient scripts. Today I chose a few tools form different yoga paths to support us on our journey of freedom: Vairagya(detachment), Shraddha (Faith), Sadhana (daily practice) and Tapas (discipline. With these tools we all have the possibility to “set the stage” for freedom to happen. Many paths lead to Rome, my path to freedom is Yoga.
B.K.S. Iyengar says:
“Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known even existed. To a yogi, freedom implies not being battered by the dualities of life.”
Yoga is an instrument for living life, a path to attain freedom. But freedom from what? What are we talking about really? Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras answers: it is the freedom from our ever so busy monkey mind.
or non-attachment is outlined in the Upanishads as well as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. We have a plan, a need, we want something, we want life to go back to “normal”, the economy to function, this love to last, that car to drive, the harvest to be good this year, the test results to be positive, the boyfriend responding to a text message, then … suddenly everything turns out differently, and especially in current times the world is changing so rapidly around us. Hey, we didn’t sign up for this! How did this suddenly happen? The holiday that we were planning, was cancelled – when am I going to fly again? Let yoga be that ticket to fly.
When we realize that our happiness is not dependent on our expectations to be fulfilled, we are practicing vairagya, non-attachment, The happiness then comes from the connection to what is, what is given in that present moment, even if is different to what we expect.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Frankl was able, even in a place of detention, to find freedom in his attitude, in his way of thinking. And that gave him meaning. The meaning to help others. The meaning to keep the hope in being reunited with his loved ones. “If you have a why, you can endure any how.”
What is our meaning in present times? Can we see that this is a portal is not just a door to challenging occurrences but also a portal of necessary change and new opportunities.The choice is ours to walk through this portal to the other side of fear.
As the world is changing, we are also being asked to change to find meaning in our lives.
Change requires a shift in perception and an enquiry into our own personal values. Shopping becomes less important, being with friends and family takes priority. Opening a third business is less relevant, mental and physical health come first. Values are changing in this time of re-structuring – in this time of awakening – to what is needed to heal ourselves, our societies and our planet.
When Frankl found meaning, he connected deeper, he found faith (shraddha). Faith to survive, faith that the connection to love would get him through to the other side. And it did. He survived against all odds, with the strength that his hope and faith had given him. He became a world-famous author and psychotherapist for thousands of readers and patients around the globe. How can we find that faith right now, to keep hope, to hold ourselves high and lift up others along the way.
The best way to uplift our own lives is to do all we can to uplift the lives of others.”
Faith requires connection. First of all the connection to ourselves. Yoga calls our true inner self, the source of love (atman) which in turn connects us to something higher than us, yoga calls it Brahman, some call it God, or Your Higher Self, Your Higher Power, Source or Nature. This is where the practice of vairagya and shraddha ultimately lead us to an inner knowing, an inner peace, a place of love. It is this devotion to life, our doing and even showing up on our mat, that makes our practice alive, that makes us alive!
The development of Vairagya (non-attachment) and Shraddha (faith) is a matter of practice, it doesn’t just rock up in the backyard:
Sadhana is the path of a consistent practice. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras it is also called Abhyasa – to have that determination to do the work for it, not just wait for the miracle to happen, to take action. Yoga Bali calls it PRACTICE TO FREEDOM. And it is exactly what it says: a practice, as Patanjali adds, a consistent practice, a devoted practice full heartedly. It is through passionate practice that we will encounter that place of stillness, that place where we transform and heal. Most ancient scriptures tell us that the ultimate goal of that practice is Samadhi (the absolute freedom, enlightenment – a place of awakening), which is reached through meditation. Finding stillness is essential for meditation and is our goal before we can head anywhere else.
“If we want to save the world, we need a plan.
But no plan will work unless we meditate.”
There are daily practices, that support and lead us into the state of meditation on our path to freedom. Practically speaking, what kind of practices (sadhana) are those?
On the one hand, it is our daily yoga practice; be it our asana (physical exercises) practice with our teacher/group or our personal practice at home. It is our conscious breathing or breathing techniques, meditation, meditative walking through nature with mindfulness, listening to or singing music/chants, dancing, writing in our journal, praying, revising our gratitude list, setting regular resolutions, reading ancient or modern scriptures for self-study. And whatever we choose as our practice that leads us to stillness & intuition, calms and clarifies.
Yoga practice reaches far into our daily lives when we act consciously, ethically, fairly, mindfully and holistically. We meet our sadhana, our yoga in the laughter, humor and by giving feelings their space, sharing with others. It also means taking regular breaks, doing what is really good for you and fun, turning off the TV and the cell phone so that we can listen to our inner voice again instead of following the pull of one-sided media. It is selfless service, such as checking on a neighbor who may be unwell, or listening carefully to a friend without being distracted. It is finding new creative ways for our well-being or cleaning our planet. It may also be to take action when we see inequality or an animal being mistreated. This Sadhana,
In Yoga the motor for jumping into action is referred to as
Tapas is that discipline to get us to vairagya, shraddha and abhyasa/ sadhana consistently. It is that fire that burns inside us to keep our passions and intentions alight no matter how confronting the situation might be outside the window or what report has just come through on TV.
Tapas is structure that ultimately gives us the freedom to soar and spread our wings We find this freedom through regularly going to the yoga studio and suddenly the backpain and the trammels of the mind have somewhat subsided. My mother whose hands had so much pain from arthritis said to me once: “Yoga is so painful for me; to do the downward dog on my hands is excruciating but you know, what is even more painful? Not doing it” – her way to freedom! But even there are times when we dont feel at all like practising regularly, our tapas can be that little voice to rest and take good care of ourselves, to get to bed earlier when we are tired, to be gentle with ourselves, to just be aware of our thoughts and actions and giving them the space and love as they are there. Tapas will be the fire I the background burning for you, keeping you warm until you are ready again while you keep faith.
So … I invite you to experience these ancient practices sprinkled with smiles and humour to support us through current times to find our freedom within and to support other through this newfound opening. May we connect to the love in our own heart reaching out to each other and unite to create a world of mutual understanding.
I am free, when we all are free. by Beate