Category Archives: articles from IYN

PERMISSION TO EXHALE BY DELAMAY PATRICK

It’s wonderful to go to a yoga class and have a teacher tell you to relax and exhale deeply. I love that flash of stillness, the moment of clarity when you’re given permission to exhale. In a fast-paced society not many people exhale fully and reap the benefits of the full inhalation that follows.
The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain and to all aspects of the human experience. Rhythmic, deep and slow respiration stimulates a calm and content state of mind. Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical, emotional and mental blocks. These in turn can lead to inner conflict.
The body is intelligent, the body is part of nature and we are part of the body. We are of course more than the mind and the body, we are pure consciousness, but the body is the gateway. Humans are not machines we are an organic unity. When we get sick it is a sign that they body is going through some difficulties and the symptom is the weakest part. We often treat the symptom but not the cause. The body and mind support each other and the more we respect our bodies the longer it will serve us.
The body gives us a way to communicate with the rest of existence. When we are in harmony with our body we are in harmony with nature. To be yourself and to listen to your own body allows us to listen to our own heart and then we can listen to what we want out of life and what we want right NOW.
With the autumn upon us it is time to go internal by slowing down, sleeping more and perhaps reflecting on the past year. By doing so we are exhaling fully, enabling stress levels to reduce and being grateful for our families, friends and who we are. So during this time of year don’t forget to take a moment to give yourself permission to exhale!

Love

Olga

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Crying Yoga by Anna Ingham

We all know how good it feels to have a good cry and dump all that unwanted tension, so why don’t we do it more often? Usually we hold our emotions in for as long as possible until the dam breaks and we find ourselves sobbing on a stranger’s shoulder at a bus stop or hiding in the toilets at work. This process of forcing ourselves not to cry is, in itself, stressful and exhausting.

Why not save yourself the trouble and release the valve a bit sooner?
In my experience, crying is the BEST way of releasing emotional tension, whether it be caused by a painful situation in our lives, physical pain or illness, working too hard, lack of sleep, nasty people winding us up, grief, PMT or any of the many other things that we encounter in our lives that make us feel like shit.
What does a baby or a young child do when they are tired, uncomfortable, in pain or simply frustrated and bored? Generally they throw a massive fit and sob their hearts out at the top of their lungs. This is because all their emotional safety valves are well-oiled and ready for action at a moment’s notice. They can be screaming like the word is ending one minute then be giggling the next. They use crying to instantly rid themselves of their immediate emotional tension then quickly move on. We have this capacity too but have learned to restrain it because society tends to frown on adults who have a screaming fit in the super market because their favourite chocolate has sold out.
But sometimes I feel that we have learned our lessons of self control too well and some of us find we can no longer cry even if we want to. Many of us have been taught to believe that crying is a weakness and is something to be ashamed or that it is annoying or that you are only crying ‘to get attention’. Whatever social conditioning around crying you have been subjected to, you can dump it. The only thing you need to believe about crying is that it is a normal, natural, healthy, very effective and completely safe way of releasing any kind of tension.
And it’s free!
So how can we tap into the natural release of crying and use it to our advantage? Well, firstly it is essential to have some time to yourself. It is hard to really let yourself go if you have an audience. Peace, quiet and solitude are the perfect conditions to cry like a baby. But you may be thinking ‘Huh, that’s easy for her to say, I never get any peace and quiet in my life!’ If this is the case then this may be a little more difficult for you but you can still have a go.
Yesterday I was walking down the corridor to our kitchen and I became aware that my shoulders were a bit tight, possibly due to not sleeping very well the night before. I thought ‘Ay up lass, bit of tension collecting here. I had better get rid of it.’ So I had a little blat in the kitchen as I was cooking the dinner. It didn’t really slow me down much and the cat was undisturbed so all was well. If you have a regular yoga practice then this will be particularly useful as you will most likely be on your own and be very aware of how your body is feeling and how relaxed (or not) you are. Unfortunately there are no guaranteed techniques or methods you can use to cry at will when you want to release something. Using my yoga to
allow myself to open up and cry is not something I have been taught but something I have discovered on my own. I have been doing yoga for about 18 years now and have discovered quite a lot of unteachable things. They are unteachable because the internal shifts that allow you to experience these things are too subtle to be described in words. I think the best I can do here is to try to describe to you what it is like for me when I do crying yoga and hope that some of it makes sense. But there are a few definite things that will help. Crying yoga needs to be as spontaneous and ‘in the moment’ as possible. If your yoga practice is regimented this will not work. Also, you need to NOT be thinking about what posture to do next or trying to remember exactly where your feet go. Crying is utterly natural so the yoga that draws it out should be natural too, not forced or prescribed.
I usually begin by waiting. I stand or sit and let things settle. I become aware of how my body feels, how my breathing feels and see what is rolling around in my head. I wait. I sink down and see what is there and I allow what is there to move me. Any physical yoga that I do is arrived at by ‘being moved’ rather than me deciding to move. I allow the yoga to do itself.
The movements I end up doing may involve no postures at all. The best release is the one that comes when you simply allow it, but sometimes I need to go to where the tension is hiding and unwind it. For me this place is nearly always deep in the center of my chest. I allow my awareness to settle there and breathe into this space. Sometimes I will touch this area with my hands. I send my awareness deeper in and the sensation gets stronger, like I have a big thorn stuck in my chest. My breathing changes and I start to gasp. The pain intensifies. The thorn starts to move and I am on the floor. I allow myself to feel all the pain and dive into the whirlpool of all that it is. I do not analyze the pain or wonder why it is there. I am simply with it. The more completely I give myself over to it the quicker it will shift and the release will be more complete. I trust this and do not struggle against the current. It hurts but I am not afraid. I know it is taking me to a much more peaceful place. The crying comes with sound and gasping. It lasts for as long as it needs to. I let it run its course.
When it stops, I look up, speechless. Everything feels different. The silence inside is beautiful and vast. The boundary of my skin seems insubstantial now. I breathe and it feels amazing, like this is my first breath. All senses heightened. Whoever I was before has now gone but
I feel no loss. I feel absolutely clear and connected to everything. The experience of being alive is wonderful. I breathe and the air delights me.
This is an extreme example. It is not always this way, but if you can really get into this it can be very powerful. If it is a powerful experience for you, just don’t be scared of it. It can feel very extreme sometimes and you wonder if you are going to be ok, but don’t worry this is a natural process and however weird it feels it is only your own pain unwinding itself. I cried for 3 days solid once and I was ok!
Good luck everyone! I hope you all have an amazing time trying this!
xx
Anna Ingham lives and works at the Parkdale Yoga Centre and has been teaching Yoga (retreats and weekly classes) there for fifteen years. She is also the author of There Are No Rules for Love. For more about Anna’s work see

AWAKENING THE HEART CHAKRA by GORDON SMITH

Non-Yogic man is a divided being, caught in a body of ancestral inertia’s. It is a body, which for generations has had to fight for survival. During the Ice Age, to be aggressive and able to hunt the sabre toothed tiger and other wild animals was an admirable quality, as it ensured survival and food for the cave dwelling family.
Today the qualities of aggression and fierceness when they come to the surface in a civilized community, (for example, at a football match), are no longer considered virtues unless the nation is at war, when the fighting man resumes those qualities that ensure survival.
The inherited tendencies in man to procreate and survive are very strong indeed and every man must recognise the tendency for his head to turn and his gaze to follow every attractive girl that passes by. That which turns his head is patterned deep within his protoplasm and is the pressure of his ancestors seeking rebirth. The same can be said of the female who attracts the male in more subtle ways, with her interest in fashion and clothes. One is here reminded of the sea anemone, attracting the interest of every small fish that passes by. We really associate any of these qualities with individual free will.
Reflexive Self Consciousness
Fortunately man has another quality and that is his ability to be reflexive and to look deep within himself for the answers. To break identification with the inertic demands of the outer world has taken time and often with the guidance of enlightened teachers both religious and Yogic. These visionaries who can see beyond the limitations of the finite world have seen a greater purpose for mankind and have outlined the steps to be taken in order to put their houses in order – Physically, Emotionally, Mindfully and Ideationally – to reach the highest levels of Spiritual Self Awareness.
The Heart Chakra
The heart chakra is central to the way we feel and its seed symbol (Yantra) is a six-pointed star, one triangle is pointing downward to the earth and the other apex upward. For the Nada Yogi listening for the inner sounds both physical and spiritual the H-ear-t is the  centre from which we can listen to sounds of our ancestors, educators, parents etc, that still try to exert control over us at some level as well as those from a much higher spiritual source so that resolution can be found at the very centre of our being.
The Mystic Rose
Meditations of the heart are very much Bhakti meditations that enable us to mediate between the world of spirit and the temporal world of every day life, as the way we feel not only influences our actions but also the health and chemistry of the body. We have here chosen the rose as a Mandala for the heart chakra as it is a symbol of love and development, which when coupled with the light of consciousness can become a powerful link with higher levels of consciousness.
It is important to note at this stage that the foundations of Yoga i.e. the Yamas and Niyamas need to be well established otherwise the more refined levels of spiritual consciousness will find difficulty in finding resolution at the level of the physical, and if not accepted can cause problems of a psychosomatic nature.
Meditation
When meditating, visualize a rose at the center of feeling within the heart, make it as beautiful and as perfect as you can. The rose is a creation of Intelligence and light, once established let the image of the rose fade back into the light from which it came. Holding the feeling of perfection, allow the image of the rose to return more beautiful than ever, its light refining the way that you feel. Light is a symbol for consciousness and as the meditation continues, the form of the rose and the light or essence from which it arises will become inseparable and the whole body will become filled with light. The breath also will become peaceful and refined and experienced as a healing breath throughout the body.

From deepest part of my heart

Olga

NOTES ON PRANAYAMA (to my friend- Miraslava)

ARTICLE BY SAMA FABIAN

The word pranayama refers to a practice involving the action of two forces: prana and consciousness.
Prana is the kinetic vital power that moves within the breath and consciousness is the principle that knows and effects. The science of pranayama is the intentional regulation and arrest of the vital currents of energy in the body.
In affecting prana, we affect consciousness and vice-versa.
Of the five vayus, prana and apana are directly related to breath and the most accessible to our intentionality. In the Upanishads they are respectively referred to as inhalation, moving inwards and producing an upward surge from the navel to the throat and exhalation, moving outwards and triggering a downward release from navel to anus.
Where there is breath there is rhythm and polarity, of left and right, above and below, expansion and release, internal and external, moon and sun, , full and empty, individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness.
When integrating our pranayama practice we come to a silent stillness where those polarities meet in equilibrium, a still point.
This regulation of the breath is effected through a variety of procedures, which range from simple observation to highly refined graduations in ratio, rhythm and volume.
Some practices are cooling and pacifying while others are energizing or heating. Some awaken vitality while others tame excessive vital surges.
All can be performed at different levels of intensity, and if practiced with discernment can effectively transform unconscious negative patterns, restore homeostasis at an organic level, and also help with mental and emotional disturbances.
Pranayama is a delicate art and although the exercises themselves can easily be understood conceptually, if not practiced with integrity, that understanding serves no purpose but to feed the current all too common greed for more information and more techniques. The practice requires an undivided commitment under the discriminative guidance of an experienced teacher. Prana Shakti is a highly refined jewel that can cast the careless practitioner into the darker recesses of a disturbed energy body or reveal to the sincere Sadhaka the vibrant luminosity of a higher and broader consciousness.

With love

Olga

Yoga Praxis by Godfrey Devereux

Can Physical Postures Constitute a Yoga or Spiritual Practice?

In order for our answer to this question to be free from prejudice, we must ask a number of questions, and answer them on the basis of experience as best we can:

What is Spirituality?

If there is any validity to the popular ‘trinity’ of body, mind and spirit this allows us to make sense of what spirituality can be. It would refer to a part of our nature as human beings, and not to something outside or alien to us, something innate rather than cultural, which would of course be experienced in different ways according to its cultural context. Spirit, if there is such a thing, is to be found within our experience of body and mind, or it is not to be found at all. Spirituality would then be what allows us to access, within our experience of body and mind, the aspect of our human nature that is perhaps not only the most subtle but even perhaps the most significant.

What is Yoga?

The most common use of the word Yoga is in relation to practice. Yet Yoga also refers to the result or purpose of practice. While our practice may be a process of (re)union the result will be a state of unity. This unity will apply equally to mind, body and spirit, as well as finite and infinite, self and other if it is to fulfill the promise of Yoga propaganda. It is the magnificence of this promise that leads many to doubt that the body is a valid vehicle for spiritual experience or Yoga. This may only be because in focusing on the limitations and abilities of the body they are blind to its nature and significance.

What is the Body?

The human body is not simply a sophisticated, organic machine. It is a mobile capsule of multidimensional intelligence. The tissues of our body are direct biological expressions of the human genome inside each individual cell. It is the intelligence inside our DNA, that is the result of billions of years of research and development, and that lies at the root of our form, abilities and experiences. This genetic intelligence also binds the apparently separate parts and activities of our body into a functional singularity that expresses its intrinsic nature as an indivisible wholeness, even when divided perceptually and conceptually by the mind. The body is no less intelligent than the mind it generates.

What is Intelligence?

Intelligence is the ability to accurately discriminate. In the human mind it is the ability to know. In cells it is the ability to survive. Intelligence is the basis of life. The cellular intelligence that underlies our creativity and cognition, no less than our perception and action, is not a sophisticated by-product of the body. The ability to discriminate is an expression of consciousness long before it becomes self-conscious awareness. The human body is packed with the intelligence of consciousness, the ability to discriminate and know from a cellular to a cerebral level. Its very existence depended upon the prior existence and cohesive power of consciousness in order for the cellular integrity upon which the body is based to have been possible in the first place.

Can a Somatic Practice be Spiritual?

The human body is by nature intelligent, conscious and self aware. While the human forebrain uses the fundamental power of intelligence to discriminate conceptually, its discriminations, potent and often necessary as they may be, are not so much expressions of the nature of reality as they are of its own nature. The intelligence of mind divides the singularity of existence, extracting apparently separate parts from its intrinsically indivisible wholeness, in order for the body to be able to act within it effectively. The seamless singularity of Totality is reflected in the unity (Yoga) of body, mind and spirit which is a multidimensional formal singularity of intelligence that is nothing other than formless consciousness in limited, local self-expression. Obviously, then, a somatic practice can be a spiritual practice, but only if it is able to consciously access and honour that singularity.

How Can Yoga Posture Practice be Spiritual?

Yoga posture practice can be a spiritual practice if it uses the intelligence of mind to navigate the intelligence of body so as to access the intelligence of consciousness. It must begin by honouring and expressing the overt, biomechanical nature of the body. This can only take place through sensitivity to the sensations the intelligence of the body continually generates in response to its own activity. By becoming intimate with these sensations it becomes possible for mind to support body in a gradual, gentle and comprehensive neuromuscular recalibration. This is much more than simply exercising and releasing the body through movement and stillness. In articulating and recalibrating the body on the basis of somatic intelligence, mind must let go of its insistence on treating the body as if made up of separate parts and activities. It must find its way through their functional interconnectedness to the indivisible wholeness that the body is to itself. In doing so the non-duality of body and mind becomes clear: there can be no experience of body without the intelligence and experience of mind. Eventually it may even become equally clear that there can be no experience of body or mind without the intelligence of consciousness. Recalibrating the body, then, naturally re-orientates and recalibrates mind. If mind does not re-evaluate its assumptions and prejudices about the body it will continue to impose the aggressive ambitions of its unacknowledged anxieties and remain snared in its own divisiveness, not least the divisions it makes between body, mind and spirit. If, on the other hand, mind is able to trust somatic intelligence enough to surrender to its imperatives it will soon recognize the divisions with which it had interpreted the presence of the body as conceptual and perceptual extractions from a deeper unbroken, and intrinsically unbreakable, wholeness. As the intelligence of mind becomes intimate enough with the presence of the body, as subtle sensation to encounter its subtle nature as the intelligent presence of consciousness, it may let go completely of its ability to discriminate and come to rest in the indivisible wholeness of conscious awareness itself. This will allow it to be nourished and further recalibrated by the intelligence of consciousness so that it functions more fully from its integrity. As the indivisibility of wholeness becomes more familiar, the divisive dualities of body and mind, matter and spirit, finite and infinite, self and other may become less and less able to sustain themselves and the magnificent claims of Yoga propaganda turn out to be true after all, without any effort, skill or knowledge having been required.

To enquire into the possibility that this might be so, please visit

http://www.windfireYoga.com, http://www.dynamicYoga.com

MEDITATION

ARTICLE BY DAWN ARNO

Many of our students assume that as Yoga teachers we are conversant with all aspects of meditation, that becoming a yogi sits hand in hand with a diligent and serious meditation practise. That presumption is not unlike the belief that to meditate one must sit bound in the lotus position, empty the mind of all thought and become terribly serious and austere. Of course we know this not to be the case.

Over my years of practise I have been drawn to meditation both on and off my mat. In my youth sitting in meditation would have been torture for me – it was hard enough just to hold a posture for any length of time. The fire in my belly wanted me to move, run, leap and dance. Trapped in my physical body or in annamaya kosha, a powerful physical practise was most appealing to me.

In those early years I would have said my meditation happened when focus was turned inward during asana practise. In fact that was probably the only time my mind was completely still.

I first became aware of the deep stillness and clarity which can occur during savasana. I now know this to be a glimpse into the state of bliss or connectedness with the soul, my anandamaya kosha. I began to look forward more and more to spending time on the mat. Slowly I found it was not always necessary to be doing something with my body to bring my mind into sharp focus. That it was possible to go inward through the five sheaths of existence and into the centre of my being.

When the five koshas or sheaths of being are misaligned one being more dominant than the other we suffer from disease or disharmony within self. This manifests in many different ways. Health, relationships, poor emotional states, even wealth can suffer.

So often we or our students simply exist in the physical state, anandamaya kosha and there is no dialogue, understanding or communication between these sheaths.

The beauty of our practise is that what happens on our mat is simply a mirror of what is manifest in our lives. Therefore through our asana, pranayama and our meditation practise we can bring our koshas into balance then this will be positively reflected in our material existence. Improved health, relationships even our ability to manifest the kind of life we wish to live.

So how do we get in touch with our internal being, our soul, our blissful state?

By switching off the internal dialogue of the mind and allowing ourselves the time and space to look inwards.

But how is this done?

There are many methods which work but here is a method that has worked for me and my students.

Introduce a few minutes of stillness sitting on the mat before you begin asanas. This grounding brings you to a place of deep pratyahara – concentration.

If necessary turn your attention to watching your breath, perhaps deepening it in preparation for asana.

I tried this with my students in class and was astounded at the results. Their own practise seemed more powerful, intense, authentic. They spent less time examining the postures of the other students and seemed to find it easier to turn inwards.

This simple yet powerful discovery led me to intensify my own personal meditation. I would give myself time each day to just be still, to look inward rather than explore the internal dialogue. I learnt simple techniques which would allow me to become non-attached to the stream of distractions which ran through my conscious thought facility.

At first this was immensely difficult. But having seen the results on the mat with my students I persevered. If by being still for five minutes watching the breath the following asana practise can be so much more focused and intense then how would a daily meditation practise change my own interactions with the world. Would I learn to stop the internal chatter? How would my relationships change, my own Yoga asanas, my emotional health?

The practise began really with my own pranayama. I went right back to basics and began to follow the complete yoga breath. I later learnt that this simple practise which had grounded myself and my students so effectively was utilized in Buddhist Meditation as Mindfulness of the Breath. This wonderful practise is the most basic and yet most powerful of all meditations. Even now after years of meditation and teaching this is the practise I teach first, second and last. There are so many layers of awareness which can be uncovered, developed and utilised that no matter what kind of student you have in front of you. This simple meditation holds the key to a state of bliss.

How it works:

Find a place to sit comfortably. Make sure your spine is fully supported and that you feel relaxed. Place the hands palms up on the knees.

Perhaps decide how long you wish to meditate and set an alarm so you don’t have to wonder what the time is. (Aim to build up to 30 minutes but do as little as 5 if you wish to begin with.)

Gently close the eyes and mouth.

Begin to watch the flow of breath through the nostrils. Perhaps you can feel it brushing the top lip on the in and out breaths..

Sit with this for a while.

Feel the change in temperature of breath, cool on the inhale warm on the exhale

Sit with this for a while.

Notice were the breath moves to in your body. Don’t attempt to change it in any way. You are not looking for a deeper breath or more shallow breath. You are simply trying to become a silent observer of the process of the breath.

Sit with this for a while.

Notice the pause or stillness which sits at the top of each breath, between the in and out breath.

Here the breath is held within the body.

Next notice the stillness which sits at the end of the breath between the out and in breaths.

Here the breath is held outside the body.

Take care not to try to change the pauses between the breaths. We are not trying to make them longer or shorter. There is no reward for a really long retention. They simply ARE what they are.

Sit with this for a while.

If you wish begin to add a mantra to this simple breath meditation. On the in breath hear the sound SO and on the out breath hear the sound HUM.

SO HUM meaning, ‘I am that’.

(Many students who find it difficult to focus on a sensation or in other words are auditory rather than sensory will find the practise of adding the mantra a powerful tool to help them along the road to stillness and internal focus.)

So allow yourself to sit quietly simply being aware of all of these sensations, the sound of the breath, the temperature of the breath, the pauses which sit between the breaths, and finally if you wish too the sound of the mantra.

A word of caution, don’t become attached to any one of the processes. Don’t seek and search for some perfect breath, moment, stillness. Meditation is practise. Sometimes it is blissful the mind sliding easily into a rhythm of awareness a potent and heady connection with the energetic body and the energy of the universe around you. Other times your mind will behave in its own way. The nature of your mind may cause thoughts, sounds, sensations to intrude upon your stillness. This is the job of the mind, to react to stimuli, to consider, ponder, engage in the world around you.

The goal of the yogi is not to dissociate from the physical world but to learn to blend the five koshas. To explore the internal nature of being. By discovering our true blissful nature we must understand that that exploration. That journey takes place within our own bodies. We are not trying to lose our sense of self rather this journey brings us closer to a more authentic way of being. Losing the anxiety, expectation and the fear attached to our consciousness due to the non-reality we each have created around us. We become more peaceful, calmer; we have a genuine sense of wellness, health, and a much greater chance of success in our own reality.

So practise non-attachment. Watch the breath but don’t judge it. See or hear the thoughts but don’t engage with them. Feel the sensations but don’t grasp at them.

And as those moments of bliss arise, those glimpses of bliss which sit between your breaths when you feel connected to your true nature and connected to the universal energy we inhale with each breath don’t cling to it. Just observe it. Practise just being, don’t judge it, analyze it, discuss it, label it, change it, that action of simply just being with it will transform your meditation, your practise, your health it will lead you to a state of bliss.

With these methods in place – the mind discovers a place of sharp awareness, clarity and stillness. All thoughts, fears, anxieties, worry, passion, anger, desire, expectation both your own and that of others will dissolve. You will experience a deep relaxation of body and mind.

In the end the action of letting go and just being, moves you towards your own personal anandamaya kosha. Your own personal state of bliss. Thoughts suspend, breath seems to stop, sensations disappear, the total awareness, connectedness, blending of everything, every being, every single atom is so simple so natural you will wonder at its beauty and simplicity.

 

Dharmagita by Godfri Devereux

It is impossible to imagine a predicament more desperate than that faced by Arjuna in his chariot that fateful afternoon. He was not just any young man threatened by the bloody chaos of impending battle. He was suited perfectly to his task. A prince of impeccable lineage and upbringing he was also the most proficient, deadly master of his trade. Arjuna was perhaps the most lethal warrior ever to bear arms. Such was his mastery that it was a foregone conclusion that if he bent his arrow arm with a living being in his sights, death would follow as surely and as swiftly as the lethal flight of that arrow from his fingertips.

Arjuna, then, was in the depths of the deepest despair. Out of his duty as a Prince, loyalty to his clan and love for his family he was to engage in deadly battle. This was no ordinary battle, for as Arjuna stood heavyhearted in his chariot, brothers and kinsmen to the left and right of him, he could see his enemies: enemies he was impelled to select and kill – enemies he loved no less than his allies alongside him. For facing him were not only his cousins, but his guru also stood amongst them.

Yet Arjuna was not alone in his chariot. He was accompanied by his charioteer. While he was to exercise his royal fingertips, someone must guide the horses. This was not the task of a prince, nor even a warrior: it belonged to a servant. Yet to the relief of our prince, and the advantage of us all, this servant could not bear the despair of his master in silence. Casting aside the niceties of protocol, he began to speak, and slowly the desperate clouds in Arjuna’s heart dispersed. So that, at the last our noble Prince was able to ride forth to his duty and kill whosoever chanced within his aim. For this impertinent servant was none other than God incarnate.

Krishna spoke from his immaculate wisdom straight to the heart of the problem and explained to Arjuna the true nature of action. Arjuna knew from the Vedas, that nothing was more important than his Dharma, the sacred duty to which he had been born. Yet as he stood in his chariot he was overwhelmed with anxiety and doubt, he did not know what to do. If he went forth he would break his own heart, as he would break his royal and filial duty if he did not. Faced with this desperate choice, he did not know what to do. He was faced, in a way that he never had been before, with the most fundamental question of being human: “What am I supposed to do now?”

Though not in such desperate circumstance, that is a question we all know well, and in many forms. How are we to know what is the path that we must tread through the unpredictable vicissitudes of life? How do we know if we are doing the right thing? To this line of questioning our divine charioteer gave the most liberating answer.

“My Prince”, he declared, in differing and interwoven ways, “take not the fruits of your actions unto yourself. Give them back to me, to whom they belong. You are not the doer, but merely my instrument. The fruits of your actions belong not to you, no more than do your actions themselves. Take them not from me to whom they belong, and go forth, take aim and bring death to the field this day, just as I bring thousands of beings in and out of existence every moment with a heart as light and clear as day”.

Understanding, this hero rode forth to his Dharma of fratricide with a heart light and clear. Just as we also are invited to do the same in our lives.

Knowing that the fruits of all our actions belong to God, is to know that all our actions also belong to God. Knowing that all our actions belong to God is to know that we are not the doer; is to know that we are but his ordained instrument; we are the agents of his will. We are brought to act by his power alone. Even as it functions in and as our body, mind, thoughts, desires and intentions.

The lightening of Arjuna’s fingers on his arrow does not originate in a release of muscular contraction. The shooting of an arrow begins long before the motor nerve loosens the fingers. Consider that those were not just any fingers. They were the fingers of a prince whose birth and power permitted him the finest training as both warrior and prince. A training since childhood that had left Arjuna with an unerring eye, an imperturbable hand and a body that supported them impeccably. But, a simple release of muscular contraction does not begin in the body. There must first be intent.

To raise the bow, to fit the arrow, to kill. Killing is not an easy intention to summon, for the human heart is deeply sensitive to death. Yet Arjuna was a prince. He had been well tutored.

Not only in the Vedas and the seriousness of his sacred duty. But also in the niceties of politics and the subtleties of the power that it was his to uphold. Arjuna knew how to think, he knew how to choose, he knew how to decide.

Yet, that bountiful day, he learned something about choosing, about decision making that not even his guru could teach him – a lesson that had been left to God himself to deliver.

Just as he was not the doer, equally not was he the chooser, the decider, the deliberator, the thinker. For Krishna demonstrated to Arjuna that the world is nothing but the body of God. That there is not an action nor its fruit that does not originate in and belong to God; that the world is the power of God in self-expression; that nothing exists, nothing happens except as an expression of the will, the power of God.

In seeing this deeply, Arjuna understood that he was not the doer, that he was not the chooser, not the decider, not the thinker. He knew that he was but the vessel of the thinking, deciding, choosing that took place through his mind: a vessel created, moved, controlled by the power of God. He knew that he was but the instrument of the actions that took place through his body: an instrument created, moved, controlled by the power of God.

No longer stealing these actions from his beloved Lord, he relinquished also their fruits, and rode forth with a light heart: to kill. He rode forth to fulfil his destiny, to uphold his dharma. He rode forth, as we can go forth likewise, knowing that as all actions, their fruits and their origins belong always and only to God. Our Dharma can only be that which he ordains us to do.

Know that whatever we have done, whatever we are doing, whatever we will do: that is our dharma.

For if there is any truth in this beautiful and pertinent story, if it was God in that chariot that day, then there is no escape for us, his instruments, from his will. If indeed we are but the instruments of God, there is nothing that we can steal from him and make our own, no matter how much we may claim to do so and no matter how much we may believe that claim. All that we do, all that we choose, all that we think, feel and desire comes to us from him. This, then, is our dharma: the actions that we actually take, the choices that we actually make, the decisions that we actually take.

Escape from our dharma is there none.

Our dharma is ordained by the will of God, whatever name or gender we may give him, or her. Our dharma is not determined by the legislative powers of man, but by divine dispensation. Our dharma is not what society says we must do: but what God bids us do. Our dharma is not what our parents tell us to do: but what God commands us to do. Our dharma is not what our mind says we should do: but what we actually do.

No matter how insistently and clearly our minds, our parents, society urge us to action; it will not come about without the power of god’s will. Whatever it is that we actually do, this is what God wants, commands us to do.

For we are not alone.

No matter how often we may feel that we are. No matter how much we may think we are alone and unaided. God is always in our chariot. His hands are always on the reins of our life. He is guiding our chariot this way and that. We are neither the slaves of fate, nor masters of our destiny.

We are instruments of divine creativity.

When we see this clearly we can sally forth like Arjuna with a light heart.

No matter how unclear our path,

No matter how difficult our circumstances,

No matter the carnage that we enter or leave behind us,

We may be unable to see the way forward.

We may see no one with us in our chariot .

The reins may well be in our own trembling hands,

But our hands are always, always, moved by God.

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