January 5, 2018
I sit in meditation. After 20 minutes, the subtler aspects of my inner dialog, my monkey mind, or “chitta1,”become apparent. With the past 3 months of a Dharma Teacher Training (TT) intensive, I witness this monkey mind with greater awareness, more like a cat ready to pounce on a mouse. I hear Dharma’s words,
”Thoughts have power.
‘Dis-identify’ with the ego.
You become what you think.
Be receptive to the divine essence within.”
It is the final leg of my internship and I am reflecting on the transformation this experience has catalyzed. I originally applied to the training simply to be able to experience Sri Dharma Mittra, 78-year-old living master in Hatha-Raja Yoga, in person, during his lifetime. I had never taken his class before; never even been to New York before (I’m a California girl). Now his words are infused into my mind. As I go through my day I hear him saying, “Create amazing things,
Attract with your vibration,
Delight in the natural process of growth,
See divinity in everything.”
I feel transformed. Dharma’s daily homework assignments, including Dharma’s “Shiva Namaskar” asana practice, along with pranayama, meditation and journaling, have been all consuming, like a fire in my life, melting my dross, and creating something beautiful, more vibrant.
According to Dharma, ahimsa (non-violence) is the cornerstone of a successful yoga practice, a foundational “yama” in the 8 Limbs of Yoga written about by Patanjali in around 500-300 b.c.e. Dharma lives this with every ounce of his being. He taught us to make this the cornerstone of our practice on the mat, making it without strain, effortless even, taking the ego out of the equation and listening to the body’s cues.
For the past 3 years I have been cultivating a daily yoga practice and have fallen in love with yoga, weaving it around my day. I aspired to begin it at 5:00 am, to bring better balance to my mealtimes (and balanced meals at that!), and a longer, deeper meditation practice. This never happened. So, my meditation, the main course of the practice, was usually cut short. I longed for this deeper space to meditate.
Reflecting back, these aspirations seem so simple now, but as a mother of a large, busy family, with everyone going in different direction, this level of balanced intention was the antithesis of our modern life. According to Dharma, “Because of your conditions, you have no choice, so be happy! From the standpoint of the Self, there is no creation, no pain, no suffering.”
Most days distractions would arise and my meditation would be postponed till “tomorrow.” My body was ready but my mind needed to be trained. With the commitment to my TT homework, I would hear Dharma’s words, “I suffered. Let me show you so you don’t have to suffer.” Every day I would sign a paper standing in my commitment and my truth. (Truthfulness, or “satya” is another yama and pillar of raja yoga that we would journal about).
Finally these good habits are shaping my life, with a deeper sense of self-responsiveness and self-accountability. These shifts are profound, refining my relationship with myself, and so, others. My body-mind-spirit complex now rejoices at 5am, knowing it will soon enter nirvana. I hear Dharma’s words, “You see what you want to see. IMAGINE THE BEST IS HAPPENING!”
Dharma assigned a specific diet and moderation was a theme, including avoiding eating late in the evening. In our assigned reading I began to understand moderation and balance as encapsulated in another one of the yamas we journal on; “Brahmacharya,” meaning conservation of energy. My mealtimes are more regular and balanced. My stomach is happy, I feel nourished, and wake up in the morning feeling amazing!
“Satya”, or truthfulness, is another Yama that filled my daily journal. My youngest daughter called me out on my over simplified, inaccurate exaggerations, a bad habit of mine I have had for many years. I hear Dharma’s words,
“Make the crooked straight,
Beyond the yoga mat.” After quelling my ego, I resolved to be one hundred percent accurate in my speech.
It is early in the morning, and I begin my pranayama practice. Dharma speaks to me again, ”Imagine prana in continuous flow.
Pranayama is moving energy. It cultivates the sixth sense. Feel it exists!
Keep improving; the glands, pituitary and pineal improve,
Keep improving so that you are operating at Full Force.”
I move on to the assigned Om mantra. Mantra is new to me. I begin, “aaa-uuu-mmm,” deep inhale, and again, “aaa-uuu-mmm.” I feel my vocal chords deep in my core waking up, as if for the first time. Over time, they are firming and strengthening, deepening my voice. Later in the day I will play the harmonium and sing mantra, inspired by the Dharma culture, and the vocals come up from my core. It is a new experience. I love it! It feels invigorating and activating. Dharma’s words come again, “Sing. This purifies the mind.”
In meditation, I tune into Dharma’s guidance, “Tune your mind to a higher mind
(I was always trying to copy Yogi Gupta’s spirit of meditation).”
I imagine I’m sitting face to face with my Highest Self. Meditation is becoming more and more enjoyable and peaceful, gradually, as Dharma guides, “Learn gradually to strengthen your meditation time.”
Still, some meditations are stiller than others. Sometimes my meditation is on the run. I hear Dharma’s encouragement, “The Self is the witness. Keep the attention on the Self,
Before the big bang,
The void behind all.
Whatever I see is me.”
Soon my class arrives. I will be teaching them Dharma’s Shiva Namaskar sequence. I smile. As Dharma says, ”Smile. Offer up ‘fruits’ not expecting anything in return. This is service. This is karma yoga.”
I am elated to be of service in this capacity. Teaching yoga, the science of life.
I had no intention to teach yoga when I signed up for this course. I was going for the experience. Now on the other end of the training, I have been transformed, and the joy of having a small part in other people’s transformation has consumed me. Thankfully, Dharma has prepared me well. The training wheels are ready to come off!
Thank you Dharma!
1Chitta is the Sanskrit word for mind that Patanjali writes about. This mind, with all its inner workings, is what I refer to as the monkey mind.