Backyard Sufficiency
→ ISS

Well, it’s a good time of year to start our blog as now is the time we are reaping the rewards, a bountiful harvest!

Apart from a few potatoes we lasted a whole year using only the vegetables from our own back yard. I was certainly surprised how little space we needed to live off, we are currently using about 50 sq foot.

Dave loves making juices with carrots plucked straight from the soil and the health benefits that come from home grown veggies.The highlights for me are picking our fresh strawberries for our one year old, knowing they’re full of goodness. Cooking becomes much more of a joy knowing that everything comes from our garden which is completely organic and grown in line with our ethics, not to mention the rich flavours and sweetness that is so unique to home grown vegetables.

We hope to keep you updated on our evolving journey to a more simple and organic lifestyle.

Limbo
→ Clouds.


Have you ever been on a roller-coaster? What do you remember most out of that experience?

Maybe you remember the deep drop. Maybe you remember your stomach in your mouth. Maybe you remember your head spinning....

What stands out most for me is the feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and anticipation as we climb up the slope. You just KNOW everything will be all right at the end of the ride but the anxiety and 'wait' for the ride to be over does not go away. Why all this roller coaster talk you ask? Well, just when I thought I had everything mapped out, I am yet again climbing this slope of the rollercoaster of life.

When I was still single - and I know a lot of my unmarried devotee girlfriends can attest to this - all the pressure to get married gave me this exact same feeling. I did not know what my future would be, who my husband would be, where I would live - so many uncertainties! I felt I was in limbo just WAITING. Just waiting for Krishna to reveal his plans. Once I got married, everything seemed perfect. I thought I knew my future...

...and then came damodar. :). Of course, just his name brings a smile to my face but he has put me back on this rollercoaster. I'm back in limbo - this time for such a LONG period! Now I am just WAITING again. Waiting for him to grow, waiting to see him crawl, waiting to see his first step, waiting to see him play karatals, waiting to see him play mridanga, waiting to see him serve devotees......waiting for a whole lot of things now!

The only thing I pray for my dear Gopinath is that when this rollercoaster ride is over, please let me be under your shelter and not Maya's.

Limbo
→ Clouds.


Have you ever been on a roller-coaster? What do you remember most out of that experience?

Maybe you remember the deep drop. Maybe you remember your stomach in your mouth. Maybe you remember your head spinning....

What stands out most for me is the feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and anticipation as we climb up the slope. You just KNOW everything will be all right at the end of the ride but the anxiety and 'wait' for the ride to be over does not go away. Why all this roller coaster talk you ask? Well, just when I thought I had everything mapped out, I am yet again climbing this slope of the rollercoaster of life.

When I was still single - and I know a lot of my unmarried devotee girlfriends can attest to this - all the pressure to get married gave me this exact same feeling. I did not know what my future would be, who my husband would be, where I would live - so many uncertainties! I felt I was in limbo just WAITING. Just waiting for Krishna to reveal his plans. Once I got married, everything seemed perfect. I thought I knew my future...

...and then came damodar. :). Of course, just his name brings a smile to my face but he has put me back on this rollercoaster. I'm back in limbo - this time for such a LONG period! Now I am just WAITING again. Waiting for him to grow, waiting to see him crawl, waiting to see his first step, waiting to see him play karatals, waiting to see him play mridanga, waiting to see him serve devotees......waiting for a whole lot of things now!

The only thing I pray for my dear Gopinath is that when this rollercoaster ride is over, please let me be under your shelter and not Maya's.

"An Evening of Bhakti" – Friday, Feb 4, 2011
→ Gaura-Shakti Kirtan Yoga

We would like to warmly invite everyone to experience an "Evening of Bhakti" on Friday, February 4, 2011 at Govinda's Dining at the Hare Krishna Centre.

While we have all become accustomed to seeing the typical images that are conjured up when we think of yoga, it can be an eye-opening experience to learn of "bhakti-yoga" - yoga of the heart. Come and dive into an evening full of divine chanting with Gaura-Shakti and learn more about the ancient teachings of the yoga of love. This will be followed by a delicious vegetarian dinner which will surely leave your tummy as satisfied as your soul!

Bring your family and friends for this unforgettable evening at the Hare Krishna Centre (243 Avenue Road) on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 6pm. See you there!

"An Evening of Bhakti" – Friday, Feb 4, 2011
→ Gaura-Shakti Kirtan Yoga

We would like to warmly invite everyone to experience an "Evening of Bhakti" on Friday, February 4, 2011 at Govinda's Dining at the Hare Krishna Centre.

While we have all become accustomed to seeing the typical images that are conjured up when we think of yoga, it can be an eye-opening experience to learn of "bhakti-yoga" - yoga of the heart. Come and dive into an evening full of divine chanting with Gaura-Shakti and learn more about the ancient teachings of the yoga of love. This will be followed by a delicious vegetarian dinner which will surely leave your tummy as satisfied as your soul!

Bring your family and friends for this unforgettable evening at the Hare Krishna Centre (243 Avenue Road) on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 6pm. See you there!

Album #24: Srutakirti Das
→ Bhakti Centre Gold Coast

Date: 15th January 2011

“You are all the limbs of my body. Unless you cooperate, my life will be useless.”  Srila Prabhupads Letter to Brahmananda, July 17, 1968.

Srutakirti Prabhu was the personal servant of Srila Prabhupad and has an ocean of memories and recollections of Srila Prabhupads transcendental pastimes and lilas.  He travels the globe expounding Srila Prabhupadas glories.  We were so fortunate to host him here on the Gold Coast.  He answered our questions about His Divine Grace, it’s was a once in a life time experience.  Devotees felt the presence or Srila Prabhupad and relive Srutakirti Prabhus memories. 

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Questions that Exercise me (us)
→ the world i know

Integration: The action of incorporating a racial or religious group into a community
                  The act of combining into an integral whole

I like the word. I hear it a lot lately. But then two doubts hover me as I envision the total picture, the finished puzzle: 1. Is it the right puzzle piece and right place its being put into?
           2. What exchanges occur; is the original piece still an original?
 To gain popularity or more acceptance from the larger society, sometimes the smaller entity has to integrate; open its doors to the public and allow them to participate in functions. This can be good, this can be, not good.
Good if the ones integrating are firmly established in knowledge and assimilation of their own culture. Good when one's faith and practice is not interrupted by the friction, or energies exchanged during integration. Good when there is the "serenity to accept" and be accepted, "courage to change" what should be changed to make the bigger picture shine better, and "wisdom to know" the difference.
Not good when the persons propagating integration aren't firmly situated in their own philosophy and practice, firm personal character that imbibes the knowledge, and have a motive of taking, rather than giving.

People know when they see something valuable; people want to be a part of something valuable; people want to learn something valuable. Personal culture involves personal exchanges- association is like a crystal and one begins to reflect the qualities and mentality (ies) of his association. Everyone wants to add to, or influence the growth of something. All good ideas and reasons if the newcomer is willing and able to learn the basics, the fundamental principles that hold up the culture.
I often ask myself what am I learning from people, and what am I giving/ teaching people. What things are essential to learn, and what can be done away with? What values do I uphold? What values am I accepting during integration? Is it OK to blend in with everyone else for the sake of acceptance; as in following their traditions although it has nothing to do with a bigger reality? For example: Thanksgiving and Halloween. Fun holidays, but what is their origin? What is the underlying reason for it? So is it OK to make vegan turkeys and celebrate a holiday based in so much killing of innocent people and animals? Especially if I follow a culture that propagates living a non violent life. Or dressing up as ghosts and goblins and other.. skip that. Especially again when I live in a culture that propagates living in the mode of goodness. Am I more elevated in consciousness after participation? Am I lacking cultural festivals to celebrate?

These are questions that exercise me as I try to live a wholesome lifestyle in a world where wholesome is practically non existent.Where culture and etiquette is lacking, where power is abused, elderly,women and children are exploited, and animals are killed for enjoyment.
What do I give? What do I take in? Am I walking my own walk truthfully? Is it quantity? Quality?
What is my vision for the future?

Questions that Exercise me (us)
→ the world i know

Integration: The action of incorporating a racial or religious group into a community
                  The act of combining into an integral whole

I like the word. I hear it a lot lately. But then two doubts hover me as I envision the total picture, the finished puzzle: 1. Is it the right puzzle piece and right place its being put into?
           2. What exchanges occur; is the original piece still an original?
 To gain popularity or more acceptance from the larger society, sometimes the smaller entity has to integrate; open its doors to the public and allow them to participate in functions. This can be good, this can be, not good.
Good if the ones integrating are firmly established in knowledge and assimilation of their own culture. Good when one's faith and practice is not interrupted by the friction, or energies exchanged during integration. Good when there is the "serenity to accept" and be accepted, "courage to change" what should be changed to make the bigger picture shine better, and "wisdom to know" the difference.
Not good when the persons propagating integration aren't firmly situated in their own philosophy and practice, firm personal character that imbibes the knowledge, and have a motive of taking, rather than giving.

People know when they see something valuable; people want to be a part of something valuable; people want to learn something valuable. Personal culture involves personal exchanges- association is like a crystal and one begins to reflect the qualities and mentality (ies) of his association. Everyone wants to add to, or influence the growth of something. All good ideas and reasons if the newcomer is willing and able to learn the basics, the fundamental principles that hold up the culture.
I often ask myself what am I learning from people, and what am I giving/ teaching people. What things are essential to learn, and what can be done away with? What values do I uphold? What values am I accepting during integration? Is it OK to blend in with everyone else for the sake of acceptance; as in following their traditions although it has nothing to do with a bigger reality? For example: Thanksgiving and Halloween. Fun holidays, but what is their origin? What is the underlying reason for it? So is it OK to make vegan turkeys and celebrate a holiday based in so much killing of innocent people and animals? Especially if I follow a culture that propagates living a non violent life. Or dressing up as ghosts and goblins and other.. skip that. Especially again when I live in a culture that propagates living in the mode of goodness. Am I more elevated in consciousness after participation? Am I lacking cultural festivals to celebrate?

These are questions that exercise me as I try to live a wholesome lifestyle in a world where wholesome is practically non existent.Where culture and etiquette is lacking, where power is abused, elderly,women and children are exploited, and animals are killed for enjoyment.
What do I give? What do I take in? Am I walking my own walk truthfully? Is it quantity? Quality?
What is my vision for the future?

I have a question:
→ Unplugged Ice

A "truth act" is a term that refers to a situation that is found many times throughout the Vedas and their corollaries and is performed by a variety of men and women. An instance of a truth act generally involves an individual who states a situation that he or she is in, that always tends to be an exemplary situation in respect to that person's dharma or something that has happened as a result of that person following his or her dharma, and, from that basis, that person makes a statement to the effect that he or she implores or expects something to happen to fulfill a certain wish. This wish can include the reversing of events or can be the desiring of a miracle. Since the wish is made in respect to dharma, it is very powerful and always comes to fruition. The question is whether the reason for the person performing the truth act is solely for the purpose of fulfilling his or her dharma or whether it is just a selfish desire that, by divine providence, becomes dharmic? Or whether each situation is different?

An example of a truth act is in the story of Damayanti who wants to marry Nala in the Mahabharata. To cut a long story short: Indra, Yama, Agni and Candra have disguised themselves as Nala and, standing with the real Nala, ask Damayanti to choose one from between them. Damayanti then states how she has followed her dharma as a woman and then basically tells all the Nalas in front of her to reveal their true identities. This truth act was so powerful that they do what she says.

I have a question:
→ Unplugged Ice

A "truth act" is a term that refers to a situation that is found many times throughout the Vedas and their corollaries and is performed by a variety of men and women. An instance of a truth act generally involves an individual who states a situation that he or she is in, that always tends to be an exemplary situation in respect to that person's dharma or something that has happened as a result of that person following his or her dharma, and, from that basis, that person makes a statement to the effect that he or she implores or expects something to happen to fulfill a certain wish. This wish can include the reversing of events or can be the desiring of a miracle. Since the wish is made in respect to dharma, it is very powerful and always comes to fruition. The question is whether the reason for the person performing the truth act is solely for the purpose of fulfilling his or her dharma or whether it is just a selfish desire that, by divine providence, becomes dharmic? Or whether each situation is different?

An example of a truth act is in the story of Damayanti who wants to marry Nala in the Mahabharata. To cut a long story short: Indra, Yama, Agni and Candra have disguised themselves as Nala and, standing with the real Nala, ask Damayanti to choose one from between them. Damayanti then states how she has followed her dharma as a woman and then basically tells all the Nalas in front of her to reveal their true identities. This truth act was so powerful that they do what she says.

To All my Friends
→ the world i know

Another year. Gone.
I sit and reflect on 2010 and realize that it was a year for growth. A year that began brightly; seeing new horizons, listening to supersoul's cautions and empowerings, learning to step into my own skin. Association of high level devotees was a highlight. I learned that to become a deeper devotee of Krsna would require utter dependence on Krsna and deeper faith in the process of Bhakti yoga. These lessons came with tests. Was I supposed to pass? Fail? What were the passing marks for each test? Temptations to revisit worlds I lived in; disgust with my own self progress- especially after being drawn by causeless mercy to dedicate myself to Krsna's cause; Krsna's agenda.
The sound of an inner voice, an external force saying "wouldn't it be nice if..."
But we walked on knowing one thing- mercy is whats keeping us even standing. Mercy from those we offended, mercy from the Parampara, mercy from Mahaprabhu's loving decision to get us all back to his lotus association. Temptations called. I answered, but the other end of the line was blank- no response. Hello?.... hello? Then after a few minutes I realized, "thanks for not answering."
But with every dark, light follows. Mercy continued to flow. Convictions that dedication to teaching, to becoming an example, dedication to march back to Krsna, convictions deepened as I stared the other allurements right in the face and saw no future in them.
New friends were made. Good friends were made. Friends were lost. I'll understand why next year perhaps.
Trying to be spiritual isn't always filled with rainbows. There are clouds as well; uncertainties that leaves one feeling vulnerable. Vulnerable is good.
Now there's another 365 to look forward to.
"I know not what the future holds
of marvel or surprise
assured alone that life or death
God's mercy underlies"
So 2010 was filled with one underlying thing- MERCY
Mercy is always there, but its certain moments of reflection that help you see that its all mercy.
On this road back home, its all mercy that pushes us along.
To those I've met anew, perhaps we'll each other get to know.
To those I lost, either through mishaps, or death, it hurts. In the bigger picture, you're still there. I see you.
Forgive me my offenses. Please.
And when tomorrow comes, Scream in, Breathe out!
Happy 2011.

To All my Friends
→ the world i know

Another year. Gone.
I sit and reflect on 2010 and realize that it was a year for growth. A year that began brightly; seeing new horizons, listening to supersoul's cautions and empowerings, learning to step into my own skin. Association of high level devotees was a highlight. I learned that to become a deeper devotee of Krsna would require utter dependence on Krsna and deeper faith in the process of Bhakti yoga. These lessons came with tests. Was I supposed to pass? Fail? What were the passing marks for each test? Temptations to revisit worlds I lived in; disgust with my own self progress- especially after being drawn by causeless mercy to dedicate myself to Krsna's cause; Krsna's agenda.
The sound of an inner voice, an external force saying "wouldn't it be nice if..."
But we walked on knowing one thing- mercy is whats keeping us even standing. Mercy from those we offended, mercy from the Parampara, mercy from Mahaprabhu's loving decision to get us all back to his lotus association. Temptations called. I answered, but the other end of the line was blank- no response. Hello?.... hello? Then after a few minutes I realized, "thanks for not answering."
But with every dark, light follows. Mercy continued to flow. Convictions that dedication to teaching, to becoming an example, dedication to march back to Krsna, convictions deepened as I stared the other allurements right in the face and saw no future in them.
New friends were made. Good friends were made. Friends were lost. I'll understand why next year perhaps.
Trying to be spiritual isn't always filled with rainbows. There are clouds as well; uncertainties that leaves one feeling vulnerable. Vulnerable is good.
Now there's another 365 to look forward to.
"I know not what the future holds
of marvel or surprise
assured alone that life or death
God's mercy underlies"
So 2010 was filled with one underlying thing- MERCY
Mercy is always there, but its certain moments of reflection that help you see that its all mercy.
On this road back home, its all mercy that pushes us along.
To those I've met anew, perhaps we'll each other get to know.
To those I lost, either through mishaps, or death, it hurts. In the bigger picture, you're still there. I see you.
Forgive me my offenses. Please.
And when tomorrow comes, Scream in, Breathe out!
Happy 2011.

And that was my impression
→ the world i know

When we first meet people or visit places, especially for a long term stay, the first few days can be a bit rocky, sketchy, uncertain. But as far as I have experienced in my travels, its a hard thing leaving once you've spent time with people.
Newfoundland is perhaps the most amazing place I've visited in a very long time. The Island is far enough removed from the "big city" atmosphere, and therefore the people are still "people." They walk right up to you, make friends, invite you in for tea, drive you if you need to go somewhere, and share everything with you. At least this was my experience. I went to visit one friend, and ended leaving many.  As I associated with the open-mindedness of the residents of St. John's, I was relieved to know that somewhere in the western world there was still a place that reminded me of home. As a child I would watch my mother and other neighbors exchange gifts in the form of food, clothing, and other things; and so I thought the whole world did the same. It was not until I came to the place I now live (no name required, to be politically correct), that I first learned about racism, religious differences, etc.
Well the people of Newfoundland do not fit into this category. No. I was at home; making dinners for people I had just met, sending bowl fulls to the next door neighbors, etc. One neighbor, a retired High School teacher and his wife, a high school teacher were just so endearing. Neil (the husband) drove me around the city showing me places he frequented as a young man growing up in St. John's, the school his mother went to, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, the Battery-a series of houses built on the side of a hill, Signal hill, and other nice places in St. Johns. Kathy had me speak to her class on Sacred writings in the Vedic culture, being a monk, and understanding divinity from different angles. The students were open to hearing, and also asked very intelligent questions.
One student who stole my heart was this young boy who, after I spoke, darted out behind us. When Kathy asked where he was going, he mentioned the bathroom. Neil and I left shortly after. That evening Kathy told me: "Kesava, you wouldn't believe what happened. Remember when I asked that boy where he was going? He went to his locker, but when he returned you had left. He came back with a handful of coins from his locker-- "where did he go?" He asked. They left, I said, and he became very sad. "I brought a donation for the monk." Well, he's not here, so put your donation in the box for the water fund drive. "No, I brought it for the monk, and I'll keep it until I see the monk again. I'm not giving another cent to that fun drive" "

Very touching. But this is Newfoundland. The people have a lot to teach, or reteach us about human relations.
On my flight back, I meditated on the prayers we say to our Spiritual Master everyday: Obeisances to you,who on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's order, are kindly teaching the message of Lord Caitanya to the western world, where the people are enamored with impersonalism and voidism. In other words, without personal relationship, we become lonely, and empty (impersonal and void).
Personal relationship can be cultivated when we give directly to one another instead of saying: " there's food on the table if anyone wants," or " yeah I got this, I don't need help." Personal relationships happen when we give up our fears that other living beings can harm us. No one can harm us. We are spiritual beings. I guess this will be the topic for my next blog...

One last thing. The Newfoundland adventure happened only due to the desire of one person, my friend Rikin, who lives there. So if one person can be used as a vessel to give Krsna, Imagine what we can all do if we decide to put sometime into giving Krsna to others. Put some time into being used as instruments for Krsna. Put our shopping list down for a second- " God, I want this, that and this, but how can I please you first?"
Rikin's endeavors ki Jay!

And that was my impression
→ the world i know

When we first meet people or visit places, especially for a long term stay, the first few days can be a bit rocky, sketchy, uncertain. But as far as I have experienced in my travels, its a hard thing leaving once you've spent time with people.
Newfoundland is perhaps the most amazing place I've visited in a very long time. The Island is far enough removed from the "big city" atmosphere, and therefore the people are still "people." They walk right up to you, make friends, invite you in for tea, drive you if you need to go somewhere, and share everything with you. At least this was my experience. I went to visit one friend, and ended leaving many.  As I associated with the open-mindedness of the residents of St. John's, I was relieved to know that somewhere in the western world there was still a place that reminded me of home. As a child I would watch my mother and other neighbors exchange gifts in the form of food, clothing, and other things; and so I thought the whole world did the same. It was not until I came to the place I now live (no name required, to be politically correct), that I first learned about racism, religious differences, etc.
Well the people of Newfoundland do not fit into this category. No. I was at home; making dinners for people I had just met, sending bowl fulls to the next door neighbors, etc. One neighbor, a retired High School teacher and his wife, a high school teacher were just so endearing. Neil (the husband) drove me around the city showing me places he frequented as a young man growing up in St. John's, the school his mother went to, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, the Battery-a series of houses built on the side of a hill, Signal hill, and other nice places in St. Johns. Kathy had me speak to her class on Sacred writings in the Vedic culture, being a monk, and understanding divinity from different angles. The students were open to hearing, and also asked very intelligent questions.
One student who stole my heart was this young boy who, after I spoke, darted out behind us. When Kathy asked where he was going, he mentioned the bathroom. Neil and I left shortly after. That evening Kathy told me: "Kesava, you wouldn't believe what happened. Remember when I asked that boy where he was going? He went to his locker, but when he returned you had left. He came back with a handful of coins from his locker-- "where did he go?" He asked. They left, I said, and he became very sad. "I brought a donation for the monk." Well, he's not here, so put your donation in the box for the water fund drive. "No, I brought it for the monk, and I'll keep it until I see the monk again. I'm not giving another cent to that fun drive" "

Very touching. But this is Newfoundland. The people have a lot to teach, or reteach us about human relations.
On my flight back, I meditated on the prayers we say to our Spiritual Master everyday: Obeisances to you,who on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's order, are kindly teaching the message of Lord Caitanya to the western world, where the people are enamored with impersonalism and voidism. In other words, without personal relationship, we become lonely, and empty (impersonal and void).
Personal relationship can be cultivated when we give directly to one another instead of saying: " there's food on the table if anyone wants," or " yeah I got this, I don't need help." Personal relationships happen when we give up our fears that other living beings can harm us. No one can harm us. We are spiritual beings. I guess this will be the topic for my next blog...

One last thing. The Newfoundland adventure happened only due to the desire of one person, my friend Rikin, who lives there. So if one person can be used as a vessel to give Krsna, Imagine what we can all do if we decide to put sometime into giving Krsna to others. Put some time into being used as instruments for Krsna. Put our shopping list down for a second- " God, I want this, that and this, but how can I please you first?"
Rikin's endeavors ki Jay!

CATCH AND RELEASE, … with Knowledge
→ the world i know

Before I left Montreal for St John's Newfoundland yesterday morning, the bhaktas put forth a series of questions, one on the topic of dovetailing our attachment in devotional service. What actually is dovetailing? Especially as we would use it as an ISKCON jargon. Devotional service happens on so many levels and each level, leading up to the highest stage of pure love for God, requires a deeper commitment to serving Krsna as Krsna desires.
In the beginning, for accommodating purposes, one may use certain things natural to his/her culture to offer to Krsna as an act of love. So for example, the offering of foods like pizza, or playing musical instruments like guitars might not be the highest form of expressing devotion, but it does stimulate a devotional mood when the devotee offers it up for service to Krsna. The acharyas do inform us of what type of music Krsna likes most, what type of foods, etc etc. Advancement in Krsna consciousness means that a person accepts Krsna as a person, and wants to offer him what pleases him the most. Simplicity, I find always saves the day. {If your love one likes potato and cauliflower subji with sour cream, and you know that every bit of it will disappear once it hits their plate, then making such subji is the safest,  and simplest way of expressing love. Now, you may change things up a little and offer beets and artichokes, but there's the risk of not knowing whether it was relished or not. They might let you know-- or not.}
But eventually, we have to give it up. Which brings me to the next part of my thought flow, Newfoundland. I am visiting a friend of mine who is a Doctor, and the concept of dovetailing came up, especially when administering medication to young patients. My mother, and I'm sure yours too,  would often dissolve hard to swallow or bitter pills in some kind of juice, just to get us to take them. Why? Because the medicine would heal us. Eventually as we grew up the purpose of the medicine was explained, and when we actually realized how sick we were, we would take the medicine straight.
So we have to find out, or go deep within and see how materially "sick" we are. And from that understanding see how well we want to become. Those who take the first instruction of "you are not this body" seriously, might take more seriously to the process, where as those who come for other reasons, might not.
The underlying principle is being in the know. Of the four types of people who surrender to Krsna, Krsna says He appreciates the one who comes for Knowledge most. He even considers such a person to be like his very self. There is every chance that one who comes for wealth, piety, or solace may leave after they have their wishes fulfilled. But one who comes for knowledge realizes the wealth of knowledge in the books, and ultimately uses that knowledge to transcend the material sphere.
More about St. John's in the next blog... but I should say, the people here are toooo cute! It feels like I just walked into the shire. Every one's completely chilled out, etc etc etc...

CATCH AND RELEASE, … with Knowledge
→ the world i know

Before I left Montreal for St John's Newfoundland yesterday morning, the bhaktas put forth a series of questions, one on the topic of dovetailing our attachment in devotional service. What actually is dovetailing? Especially as we would use it as an ISKCON jargon. Devotional service happens on so many levels and each level, leading up to the highest stage of pure love for God, requires a deeper commitment to serving Krsna as Krsna desires.
In the beginning, for accommodating purposes, one may use certain things natural to his/her culture to offer to Krsna as an act of love. So for example, the offering of foods like pizza, or playing musical instruments like guitars might not be the highest form of expressing devotion, but it does stimulate a devotional mood when the devotee offers it up for service to Krsna. The acharyas do inform us of what type of music Krsna likes most, what type of foods, etc etc. Advancement in Krsna consciousness means that a person accepts Krsna as a person, and wants to offer him what pleases him the most. Simplicity, I find always saves the day. {If your love one likes potato and cauliflower subji with sour cream, and you know that every bit of it will disappear once it hits their plate, then making such subji is the safest,  and simplest way of expressing love. Now, you may change things up a little and offer beets and artichokes, but there's the risk of not knowing whether it was relished or not. They might let you know-- or not.}
But eventually, we have to give it up. Which brings me to the next part of my thought flow, Newfoundland. I am visiting a friend of mine who is a Doctor, and the concept of dovetailing came up, especially when administering medication to young patients. My mother, and I'm sure yours too,  would often dissolve hard to swallow or bitter pills in some kind of juice, just to get us to take them. Why? Because the medicine would heal us. Eventually as we grew up the purpose of the medicine was explained, and when we actually realized how sick we were, we would take the medicine straight.
So we have to find out, or go deep within and see how materially "sick" we are. And from that understanding see how well we want to become. Those who take the first instruction of "you are not this body" seriously, might take more seriously to the process, where as those who come for other reasons, might not.
The underlying principle is being in the know. Of the four types of people who surrender to Krsna, Krsna says He appreciates the one who comes for Knowledge most. He even considers such a person to be like his very self. There is every chance that one who comes for wealth, piety, or solace may leave after they have their wishes fulfilled. But one who comes for knowledge realizes the wealth of knowledge in the books, and ultimately uses that knowledge to transcend the material sphere.
More about St. John's in the next blog... but I should say, the people here are toooo cute! It feels like I just walked into the shire. Every one's completely chilled out, etc etc etc...

GETTING AN INVITE
→ the world i know

The world becomes a bit more interesting each day as we realize that people exist on so many levels and dimensions. Life facilitates as many types and kinds of consciousnesses as there are elements- and then some.
Some like water, go with the flow, others dance around as the wind blows. But the most interesting thing I find lately is that everyone has a place. Or as one monk told me a few years ago, water rises to its own level.

So then how does one know his level? From religious points of view, the principle of humility advices to keep your head low until a helping hand reaches out to you. Some say you'll naturally flow to your circle. Others say its written in the stars.
As a monk I try to find my place in a special circle (doesn't monastic life come with its own circle?), but  even around here, circles create. I find that I don't fit anywhere, but flow everywhere, hoping to take the essence of our culture from great ones, and give it as well to others.
But as I go on, I also find that its not easy to just walk into other people's world; they have to let you in. I had the fortune of being let into a very high circle of monks earlier  this year, and as I reflect on the quality of  association, the culture and the type of discussion, I realize that its a long way to go, but the fruit is very sweet.
My experience was like a person walking through a mall food court and getting samples of various foodstuff sold there. Well, I really liked this dish, but am very poor to afford it.
As I listened to a lecture today by a monk who passed away some years ago, he mentioned something that re-awakened my question, and also gave me an answer that is the key for being allowed again and again into any circle. He said,  "we cannot enter into higher circles unless we are invited in by members of that circle,after they have observed and seen that we can add to or enhance the quality of that circle." And then came an amazing answer too: " and the way to remain in their favor is to have an attitude of gratitude."


There are people with deep spiritual culture who want to pass it on as they prepare to move to the next realm, and all we really need to receive their gifts is a little attitude adjustment...


No one goes back to the Spiritual Sky without being invited back by one of the residents there. 
I can say, with some conviction, that the legacy Krsna talks about in Bhagavad-gita when he tells Arjuna that " this knowledge was received through a chain of disciplic succession...", is one of simply having the attitude that I am supposed to preserve this legacy for the next person, absorb it within myself, perfect my life, and pass it on to another person unspoiled. 
Or as Srila Prabhupada writes, " the intelligent disciple take what the Spiritual Master gives him as sufficient for his  spiritual life..."


Such a culture of just taking the essence, I find, in a world where we practically detest being simple, is the hardest pill to swallow.


that's that for now :)

GETTING AN INVITE
→ the world i know

The world becomes a bit more interesting each day as we realize that people exist on so many levels and dimensions. Life facilitates as many types and kinds of consciousnesses as there are elements- and then some.
Some like water, go with the flow, others dance around as the wind blows. But the most interesting thing I find lately is that everyone has a place. Or as one monk told me a few years ago, water rises to its own level.

So then how does one know his level? From religious points of view, the principle of humility advices to keep your head low until a helping hand reaches out to you. Some say you'll naturally flow to your circle. Others say its written in the stars.
As a monk I try to find my place in a special circle (doesn't monastic life come with its own circle?), but  even around here, circles create. I find that I don't fit anywhere, but flow everywhere, hoping to take the essence of our culture from great ones, and give it as well to others.
But as I go on, I also find that its not easy to just walk into other people's world; they have to let you in. I had the fortune of being let into a very high circle of monks earlier  this year, and as I reflect on the quality of  association, the culture and the type of discussion, I realize that its a long way to go, but the fruit is very sweet.
My experience was like a person walking through a mall food court and getting samples of various foodstuff sold there. Well, I really liked this dish, but am very poor to afford it.
As I listened to a lecture today by a monk who passed away some years ago, he mentioned something that re-awakened my question, and also gave me an answer that is the key for being allowed again and again into any circle. He said,  "we cannot enter into higher circles unless we are invited in by members of that circle,after they have observed and seen that we can add to or enhance the quality of that circle." And then came an amazing answer too: " and the way to remain in their favor is to have an attitude of gratitude."


There are people with deep spiritual culture who want to pass it on as they prepare to move to the next realm, and all we really need to receive their gifts is a little attitude adjustment...


No one goes back to the Spiritual Sky without being invited back by one of the residents there. 
I can say, with some conviction, that the legacy Krsna talks about in Bhagavad-gita when he tells Arjuna that " this knowledge was received through a chain of disciplic succession...", is one of simply having the attitude that I am supposed to preserve this legacy for the next person, absorb it within myself, perfect my life, and pass it on to another person unspoiled. 
Or as Srila Prabhupada writes, " the intelligent disciple take what the Spiritual Master gives him as sufficient for his  spiritual life..."


Such a culture of just taking the essence, I find, in a world where we practically detest being simple, is the hardest pill to swallow.


that's that for now :)

Album #23: Vaiyasaki Das Kirtan
→ Bhakti Centre Gold Coast

Date:  17th November 2010

The Godfather of Kirtan Vaiyasaki Das appeared at the Bhakti Centre Gold Coast.  Local Devotees and Guests supported for his tour and Kirtan Australia by attending the Concerts and contributing the $10 door charge.  All funds recieved at the door went towards helping finance his exciting tour with one of the worlds foremost kirtaniyas.  The kids entry was free, and pure vegetarian feast was provided after the program.

 The Kirtan Explosion Band – 17-11-2010

Photography:  Madhu Manning

Vaiyasaki Das Vaiyasaki Das0 Vaiyasaki Das1 Vaiyasaki Das2

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Album #22: Govardhan Puja
→ Bhakti Centre Gold Coast

Date:  6th November 2010

The Govardhan Puja and Deepawali was celebrated at the Bhakti Centre on Saturday Evening.  Devotees prepared sweets for offering to “Lord Giridhari” and decorated the Temple with Flowers and Candle Lights.  The Class was conducted by Garuda Das.   The materials for the Govardhan Hill was donated by Nirmal Singh of Southport, and the Mountain was constructed by Radha Dasi & Lalita Dasi and decorated with Halwa and Sweets.  Sri Govardhandhari ki Jai!

Photography: Radha D Dasi 

Govardhan2 Govardhan3 Govardhan5

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UN Invites Hungary’s Eco-Valley Foundation to Attend COP16
→ ISS

Our friends in Hungary have a very succesful eco-village called Krishna Valley. Recently they received an invitation from the United Nations this September 20th for the COP16 Climate Summit from November 29th to December 10th in Cancun, Mexico.

The COP summit—the largest meeting of the Conference of the Parties, the supreme body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—is held once a year. COP16 is, of course, the sixteenth annual meeting—the summits have been held since before the Kyoto Protocol came into effect in 1997, establishing legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more here.

Awakening the White Lotus: A Meditation-Based Workshop
→ ISS

Please join us at Gaura Yoga in Wellington from Oct 13 for a 4 week meditation-based workshop series. Based on the premise that certain states of consciousness lead to certain actions which in turn have certain consequences, we will explore the 5000 year old tradition of bhakti-yoga to see how it can provide a framework and practice that will reawaken the qualities of consciousness necessary for truly sustainable behaviour.

Simply contemplate, contemplate.
→ the world i know

For the last few weeks I've been opening up to questions about the civil war in my country and using some memories as tools to help the listener understand how philosophy isn't about hypothetical situations. I sometimes have to take myself back to age eleven and see things from that point of view as well. Today I sat with my mind as it drilled this question into me: " are you telling this story for recognition? Sympathy? What is the actual reason?
As the mental interrogation continued, clarity found its way to the forefront- because it has become real to me. As an eleven year old, the civil war in Liberia was no more than a Rambo war movie happening in my yard and around the country. As a thirty one year old, when I speak of the war, it flows with Krsna's teachings in the Gita about Divine and Demoniac natures. 

Of course as a kid there were some real moments of seeing death and dying and the other things that come with war, and those things made me think of why the war would happen. Didn't the leaders go to church also? Why were they fighting then? As the pages of the 16th chapter of the Gita read on, a clear understanding of people came to mind. Something else that struck was that if I don't contemplate this philosophy each day, that     demonic mentality of exploiting for my senses would also poke its ugly head through my not so strong spiritual fort- and destroy it. After all in this age, the mentality of demon and demigod live in the same body, and the one we feed most becomes the leader.


Srila Prabhupada's books gives us a glimpse of spiritual nature (as well as the full picture), if we contemplate what we read. His simple explanation of the green bird in the green tree to explain individuality over impersonalism, or a young bird maturing and using its wings to fly out of the nest of material comforts, are a few examples that show us day to day exercises that can free us from the illusory energy.

Best example of all is the cleansing of the mirror of the mind, and the constant sincere chanting of Krsna's names as "windex" leaning product. Again, if we simply contemplate, we can understand our position in the material cloudy atmosphere. No sane person, after reading such words like "dukhalayam asasvatam" and contemplating it just a little bit, would want to make a permanent position of this world.  And this mantra is our way  out!
So the mercy has been given and the verses have been read, and now let us all dive a little deeper and try to develop a bit of a higher taste, and give up gradually the lap of illusion we've slept in so long....

Good day :)

Simply contemplate, contemplate.
→ the world i know

For the last few weeks I've been opening up to questions about the civil war in my country and using some memories as tools to help the listener understand how philosophy isn't about hypothetical situations. I sometimes have to take myself back to age eleven and see things from that point of view as well. Today I sat with my mind as it drilled this question into me: " are you telling this story for recognition? Sympathy? What is the actual reason?
As the mental interrogation continued, clarity found its way to the forefront- because it has become real to me. As an eleven year old, the civil war in Liberia was no more than a Rambo war movie happening in my yard and around the country. As a thirty one year old, when I speak of the war, it flows with Krsna's teachings in the Gita about Divine and Demoniac natures. 

Of course as a kid there were some real moments of seeing death and dying and the other things that come with war, and those things made me think of why the war would happen. Didn't the leaders go to church also? Why were they fighting then? As the pages of the 16th chapter of the Gita read on, a clear understanding of people came to mind. Something else that struck was that if I don't contemplate this philosophy each day, that     demonic mentality of exploiting for my senses would also poke its ugly head through my not so strong spiritual fort- and destroy it. After all in this age, the mentality of demon and demigod live in the same body, and the one we feed most becomes the leader.


Srila Prabhupada's books gives us a glimpse of spiritual nature (as well as the full picture), if we contemplate what we read. His simple explanation of the green bird in the green tree to explain individuality over impersonalism, or a young bird maturing and using its wings to fly out of the nest of material comforts, are a few examples that show us day to day exercises that can free us from the illusory energy.

Best example of all is the cleansing of the mirror of the mind, and the constant sincere chanting of Krsna's names as "windex" leaning product. Again, if we simply contemplate, we can understand our position in the material cloudy atmosphere. No sane person, after reading such words like "dukhalayam asasvatam" and contemplating it just a little bit, would want to make a permanent position of this world.  And this mantra is our way  out!
So the mercy has been given and the verses have been read, and now let us all dive a little deeper and try to develop a bit of a higher taste, and give up gradually the lap of illusion we've slept in so long....

Good day :)

Evening Milk
→ Smile of Krishna

One of the most enchanting features of Krishna-valley is its marvellous evening atmosphere. The sunset in summer transforms the sky by magic into a wonderful lively painting, which changes every second due to the movement of the Sun and the clouds. In my opinion to a lot of us this view is one of our favourite memories of the valley. However, this picturesque view is more enlivened by different sounds. The croaking of frogs, the chirring of crickets and the singing of birds are enlaced in a characteristic sound.

Berci prabhu pulls his handcart accompanied by the sound of the cart’s cow-bell. He frequently stops at the houses of families placing the evening milk in front of the entrance-door or on the windowsill. This milk, bearing the scent of the cows, connects us to Syama’s cows, the devotees who render their service in the Gosala, the dust of the holy places, and all the grass, trees and flowers of the valley… we can feel the taste.

A wonderful experience which enriches the heart forever. I think of this at 11 pm at night, as I walk round the snails on the wet pavement in the twilight. A knock on the door and the porter willingly opens the gate of the building. On the third floor I ring the bell in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Tünde, the smiling nurse, opens the door, whose unselfish complexion for some reason or other reminds me of my mother. I would like to hug her, but then I only put the small cup in her hand and say: “I’ve brought the evening milk to Padma from her mummy.”

Increasing dimensions
→ Clouds.

Bliss in Krishna consciousness comes in various forms and through various means. We are usually accustomed to experiencing bliss only in a particular way. You could be that kind of devotee who 'feels' it - that ecstasy, that pure joy, the feeling that your soul is completely drenched in satisfaction of being connected to Krishna only by book distribution, waking up early to chant rounds, an ecstatic dancing kirtan, a meditative absorbing kirtan, dressing deities, doing an arati, being involved in management during a huge festival etc etc - or a mixture of any of the above.

Being an addict to this soul-satisfying ecstasy, joy, bliss - we often tend to get attached to only that particular service which gives us this bliss. And then, like opening our eyes to a new dimension, Krishna somehow throws us into something else. According to our level of maturity, we experience the bliss slowly or immediately. But when our stubborn mind releases its claws on old attachments - oh krishna, we realize the actual meaning of the term 'ever-increasing' bliss. It is a new dimension of joy in KC. "Bliss in KC is ever-increasing".

Today, I experienced a new dimension of pleasure and satisfaction in Krishna consciousness. I did not get my usual 'high' from being absorbed in Kirtan. Nor did I realize some brilliant philosophical angle by listening to a Maharaj or senior devotee. I was not remotely connected with doing anything for the deities. I did not dance ecstatically in a super crazy kirtan. I did not make garlands.

I served the Vaishnavas.

....my soul is super-drenched in satisfaction and bliss right now. :) Thank you everyone for accepting our invitation, coming home and giving us an opportunity to experience this bliss.

Increasing dimensions
→ Clouds.

Bliss in Krishna consciousness comes in various forms and through various means. We are usually accustomed to experiencing bliss only in a particular way. You could be that kind of devotee who 'feels' it - that ecstasy, that pure joy, the feeling that your soul is completely drenched in satisfaction of being connected to Krishna only by book distribution, waking up early to chant rounds, an ecstatic dancing kirtan, a meditative absorbing kirtan, dressing deities, doing an arati, being involved in management during a huge festival etc etc - or a mixture of any of the above.

Being an addict to this soul-satisfying ecstasy, joy, bliss - we often tend to get attached to only that particular service which gives us this bliss. And then, like opening our eyes to a new dimension, Krishna somehow throws us into something else. According to our level of maturity, we experience the bliss slowly or immediately. But when our stubborn mind releases its claws on old attachments - oh krishna, we realize the actual meaning of the term 'ever-increasing' bliss. It is a new dimension of joy in KC. "Bliss in KC is ever-increasing".

Today, I experienced a new dimension of pleasure and satisfaction in Krishna consciousness. I did not get my usual 'high' from being absorbed in Kirtan. Nor did I realize some brilliant philosophical angle by listening to a Maharaj or senior devotee. I was not remotely connected with doing anything for the deities. I did not dance ecstatically in a super crazy kirtan. I did not make garlands.

I served the Vaishnavas.

....my soul is super-drenched in satisfaction and bliss right now. :) Thank you everyone for accepting our invitation, coming home and giving us an opportunity to experience this bliss.

A City Bigger Than Athens?
→ Vedicarcheologicaldiscoveries's Weblog

A City Bigger than Athens? Sandeep Mishra, Aug 7, 2010,

Just outside Bhubaneswar, around 2,000 years ago, stood one of old India’s biggest cities. When they chanced upon Sisupalgarh, excavators could only gape in astonishment at its modern ways  Sisupalgarh sounds like a happening settlement by historic standards: a sprawling urban settlement that housed 20,000-25,000 people, street-linking gateways, pillared meeting halls, water storage systems and disposable vessels for daily use.

In one of the richest hauls for archaeologists in the country in recent times, a 12-member Indo-American expert team discovered the remains of a city from the early historic period in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar two years ago. 

The team, comprising representatives from Deccan College, Pune, and the University of California, in collaboration with the ASI, had conducted surface excavations at the fortified site first reported by Prof B Lal in 1948. Fresh excavation was restarted in 2005 to learn more about this mystery city. A large quantity of debris, including household pottery and terracotta ornaments, were discovered during the exercise.  Enthused over the findings, the head archaeologist of the excavation, Monica L Smith from the University of California, had then told TOI: “This is the most visible standing architectural monument discovered in the country so far. It is a huge city existing about 2,000 years ago.” The pillars were possibly part of a gigantic structure and used for public gatherings.

According to an archaeologist from Deccan College, Pune, R K Mohanty, a city could be known from its walls. “When it has such well-built walls and such a big expanse, it means it was a very important city,” he says. Explaining the importance of the ancient city, Mohanaty says Sisupalgarh has four gateways and could have housed a large number of people (compare this to the 10,000 Athens could manage). From photographs taken through geophysical research methods, the team had found that a huge urban setup, a much larger area than could possibly be excavated, had existed at the site. “The findings were mind-boggling. The lifestyle of the people then could be more advanced than present-day life,” Smith had said. “Potteries found are polished and have ownership marks. The huge number of cups and bowls suggest people then practiced a use and throw system.”  It is hard to say what sent Sisupalgarh into terminal decline. The data and findings when they will be made available to scholars could lead to a conclusive answer.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/6270354.cms?prtpage=1


August is Sustainability Month
→ ISS

Please join us in Auckland this month for a series of talks on sustainability from the perspective of consciousness. It appears that we may in fact be on a quest for environmental enlightenment. We will also look at how the environment is becoming the newreligion and pose the question, do faith-based organizations have a role to play?

These lively discussions start on August 1 with a talk by a world traveling monk and author who has spent the last 40yrs on the path towards true sustainability and will conclude on August 29 on the topic of activism and explore how as individuals we all have a role and responsibility to play in the campaign for a sustainable society.

Making Green Convenient
→ ISS

A convenient choice is most commonly defined as one which saves us time and effort.

It could be argued that adopting environmentally friendly behaviours requires forgoing some convenience. Just looking at some of these behaviours, versus their less sustainable alternatives. Cycling versus driving. Composting versus putting everything in the rubbish bin. Turning off appliances at the wall versus leaving them on standby. Each of these greener options quite clearly require more investment of time and effort, however small the difference.

In a society where we are increasingly “time-poor” (or are increasingly told so anyway), the task for those promoting sustainability requires overcoming the barrier of perceived inconvenience. How important is convenience? Reviewing research related to “cognitive effort”, Garbarino and Edell report that “a consistent finding is that humans have limited cognitive resources and allocate them judiciously”. In order to avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of decisions we are required to make every day, and the myriad choices available, we are attracted to things which reduce the amount of mental effort required. This is one reason why we develop habits, as a shortcut to having to make a new decision every time we encounter the same need. Garbarino and Edell also found that “it is clear that people are willing to forgo some benefits to conserve cognitive effort”. This explains, for instance, why we are willing to buy convenience snacks which we know are less healthy for us.

The effort required to make the decision itself also has an effect on the perceived desirability of our choices. The study by Garbarino and Edell found that, when faced with a choice between two products, the effort required to evaluate a product created a negative emotion towards that choice, even though the attributes of the choices were the same. People were also willing to pay more for the product which was easier to evaluate. This has important implications for many aspects of promoting sustainable choices, such as labeling. When we are asking people to buy the most environmentally friendly product, if it is hard work for them to identify its environmental benefits they are not going to view it positively.

Another demonstration of the importance of convenience is the effect of the “default option”. Studies have found that we will often accept the choice which is presented as the standard option, rather than make the effort to consider the alternatives. Among the most interesting of these was a study of a German town where green energy was offered as the default option, resulting in 94% of people continuing to purchase it, in contrast with single-digit uptake in towns where non-renewable energy was the standard offer.

The stiff competition which convenience provides for sustainability promoters raises an interesting question. Are we best to attempt to convince people to reduce the emphasis they place on convenience, or should we direct our efforts to making green options more convenient? The former option would require a re-framing of the value which we place on certain behaviours. Cycling, for instance, would struggle to compete with driving on the convenience stakes for many people (although traffic congestion in many cities is fast tipping this balance). However, the benefits in terms of wellbeing, cost and environmental impact offer an opportunity to put a strong case for cycling – a case so strong that the trade-off in terms of convenience may seem worth it. On the other hand, some people are likely to drive a harder bargain when it comes to giving up convenience. So making cycling more convenient is also effort well spent. Better cycling tracks, facilities and information would all reduce the perceived trade-off of time and effort.

Therefore, the answer to the question of whether to attempt to influence the importance people place on convenience, or simply to match the convenience of less eco-friendly options appears to be “both”. Although the addiction to convenience has arguably caused us to become disengaged from the realities of production, there is strong evidence that humans are pre-disposed to seek options which minimise our time and effort. In other words, a need for convenience is here to stay, so we can either fight it, or meet it.

The quest to make sustainable options more convenient would benefit from an awareness of the key elements of convenience. Interestingly, nearly all discussions of convenience are centred around marketing to consumers. However, it is possible to apply many of the principles to other types of behaviour which are not necessarily related to purchasing. One useful model which outlines the elements of convenience is presented in Understanding Service Convenience. The model describes 5 types of convenience:

  • Decision convenience – how easy it is to make a decision about the product or service.
  • Access convenience – the perceived time and effort required to initiate service delivery
  • Transaction convenience – perceived time and effort to secure the right to use the service
  • Benefit convenience – perceived time and effort expenditures to experience the service’s core benefits (such as the travel time required to experience the convenience benefit)
  • Post-benefit convenience – the time and effort to re-contact the seller after the initial purchase (e.g. for returns or repairs)

Understanding and incorporating these elements of convenience may go some way towards making eco-friendly options a more convenient choice, and reducing yet another barrier to the uptake of a more sustainable lifestyle.

Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations.  Visit www.awake.com.au for more info

An Exploration of Six Key Components for any Yoga Practice
→ ISS

In this paper, I will present six elements that I feel have become essential components of what yoga is for me in both my personal practice and as a teacher. These components are based on the approach that I have been taught at the Esther Myers Yoga Studio (EMYS), which focuses on discovering the connections that exist between the breath, gravity (or grounding), and the freedom that comes through the lengthening of the spine.

In section one, I will articulate the importance of having a personal practice as the first element. In the next section, I will explore how gravity, the breath, and the elongation of the spine are essential to the practice of yoga and are three core components that are closely interrelated. In the third section, I will highlight the significance of listening to your own body and the value of yoga philosophy as the fifth and six components respectively. To conclude, I will summarise the key findings of my research and provide some personal reflections that speak to the insights and knowledge that I have received as a result of the amazing teacher training programme at the EMYS.

For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on these six components and explain based on my personal experience how they have been helpful and why they are important in developing my style and abilities as a teacher. I will also evaluate and explain why each of these elements are important based on my understanding of Vanda’s approach in Awakening the Spine and Esther’s approach from Yoga & You. Throughout the paper, I will critically examine these elements by comparing and contrasting them with other approaches in books such as Donna Farhi’s Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit (specifically her approach to the breath, ground, and spine); T.K.V. Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga; and B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga. I will also look at what these authors have not explicitly said and note any insight or understanding that I may have as to why this might be.

On teaching yoga Vanda Scaravelli said the following:

“To teach is an act of love. To teach yoga is also a responsibility, because occasionally certain centers are awakened in which the energy released can be tremendously powerful. This energy is not meant to be used for personal or egoistic purposes, but for other people’s sake. To teach implies also a certain vigilance and dedication in everyday life. This is why, in the past, this practice was limited to the very few. There are no good pupils, there are only good teachers. Teaching is not an imposition of the teacher’s will over that of the pupil, not at all. Teaching starts with freedom and ends with freedom.”

(Scaravelli, 46)

So it is here with this beautiful quotation that the exploration of what being a yogi is truly begins. I was first attracted to become a yoga teacher because I wanted to help others. The irony of the situation is that I did not have a clue about how to even help myself, and this is where the journey actually began. “To teach is an act of love,” and I needed to begin by learning how to love myself.

Section 1: The Importance of a Personal Practice

As I began to practice yoga I started to understand the truth of the theory that if you truly want to help others, first you need to learn how to help yourself; or you need to learn to walk before you can run. I had no idea how to make time for myself and the thought of taking time for a personal practice seemed almost unattainable. Esther explains the importance of practicing kindness to ourselves in the following statement:

“Taking this time may seem like an indulgence that is hard to justify. Learning to take time for ourselves and to be kind to ourselves takes practice. It may be painful at first, and surprisingly difficult, but do persist. You and everyone around you will reap the benefits. Turning inward provides a resource and clarity which enhances all other aspects of our lives. The practice of accepting ourselves leads to concern and compassion for others.” (Myers, 33)

This was not an easy lesson to learn as I desired to become a yoga teacher, but I had no steady practice, no understanding of the value of a personal practice, and no real knowledge of how to be kind to myself. I had been an athlete all of my life, so my approach with my body was to push it and train really hard for short intervals. This was how I first approached yoga. However, once enrolled in the EMYS Teacher Training Programme, I understood that this was not how you study yoga—especially if you want to teach and help others. To further highlight the importance of having a personal practice, Esther states the following:

“I think personal practice is essential if you are teaching. I don’t really see how you can teach without it. I think it’s a resource. It’s a way of coming back into your own centre and entering into your own process. You need that return back to yourself, which is different than doing poses with a class. . . What practice is going to consist of, is going to vary tremendously from person to person, because of age, physical abilities, needs, stamina and style. That a teacher needs to be practicing, I would say absolutely.”

(An Interview with Esther Myers, June 2003)

It is quite clear to see from this statement that Esther is a strong believer in the necessity of a teacher having a personal practice. She also talks about it as being a place to return to, a resource and a place to come back to your centre. The words she uses are very meaningful for me because this has also been my experience. When my practice is strong and I am feeling very grounded and centred, I am able to be more compassionate and caring to myself and others. On a very practical level, I know that my students also feel the benefit of my practice because I can more deeply draw on and use it as a ‘resource,’ giving personal examples of something that I am working on or a discovery (an ahha moment) based on my own experience of the body or mind. Esther’s words also speak about how our personal practice also acts like a touchstone—a place I have found that I can trust to recharge (regaining clarity and focus) so that I remain enthusiastic and full in my teaching. Whenever I give a yoga class that is literally what I do. I try to give of myself as much as possible so that others may have the experience of what it feels like to gently and deeply be present in their own bodies. I have learned that I can only effectively do this when I am, in fact, present in my body and have a strong practice.

I also looked to B.K.S. Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga to see what he says about the importance of a daily practice. It was interesting to note that there was no section or area of the book that clearly spoke to a personal practice or the steps you need to take to have one, as you will find in many western-based books. For example, there are sections in both Farhi’s and Esther’s books carefully explaining what you need for and how to go about developing your own personal practice at home. In contrast, I have the impression that yoga from Mr. Iyengar’s eastern perspective is that there is no difference between yoga and having a personal practice. It would appear a fundamental assumption for him that yoga is your personal practice or that one who practices yoga has a personal practice. I presume that this might be why he does not feel the need to mention the importance of having a personal practice explicitly. In India it is also uncommon to have a studio where you go to practice yoga on a weekly basis to tone your body. The focus of yoga goes much deeper than the body, it is as Desikachar explains:

“What is yoga after all? It is something that we experience inside, deep within our being. Yoga is not an external experience. In yoga we try in every action to be as attentive as possible to everything we do. … As we perform the various asanas we observe what we are doing and how we are doing it. We do it only for ourselves. We are both observer and what is observed at the same time. If we do not pay attentions to ourselves in our practice, then we cannot call it yoga.”

(Desikachar, 23)

I found this statement to be helpful in expanding my understanding beyond the physical benefits of a personal practice and the conception that I had coming from a western background about what yoga is. This description is much more in line with what I would now explain my understanding of a personal practice is and why I ‘do yoga’.

Regardless of whether a personal yoga practice is explicitly or implicitly stated, I have applied these eastern and western understandings into my teaching by explaining yoga as a holistic approach which includes the body, mind and spirit, and I give practical examples where students can incorporate a simple breathing exercise or pose at the office, in the car, or at home in front of the T.V. (e.g. I use paschimottanasana as an example of a good stretch to work with when they are watching T.V.). I do this to encourage students to develop the understanding that yoga is more than something you practice in a yoga studio with a teacher. Esther also encourages students to incorporate bits of yoga practice throughout the day by exhaling and dropping your shoulders when you feel tense or becoming aware of your spine as you sit, stand, or walk (Myers, 31).

Section 2: Core Principles (Exploring the Relationship of the Ground, Breath and Spine)

In this section, I will look at the dynamic relationships between the ground, the breath, and the spine as presented by Vanda and Esther in their books. I will also compare and contrast these three core elements with the work presented by Donna Farhi.

On Grounding: Farhi in her book Yoga, Mind, Body and Spirit talks about seven moving principles. There is one principle that she discusses called ‘Yield’ (‘Yield to the Earth: Weight and Levity’) that I have found useful and similar in some ways to the grounding approach that I have been taught at EMYS. Farhi says, “Any surface of the body that makes contact with the ground must yield to the earth. Actively yielding to the earth creates a rebounding force away from the earth, elongating the body upward into space. Whenever the relationship of yielding to the earth is lost, breathing is restricted.” (Farhi, 35) Farhi’s observations, based on this idea of yielding to the earth, express the relationship that Vanda also talks about: the relationship between the ground and the breath. Farhi presents this relationship with grounding and the breath within the context of three patterns: 1) Collapsing—dropping into the earth without the ability to use gravity to our advantage, resulting in lethargic and shallow breathing; 2) Propping—a pattern where we push the earth away tightening the knees, chest, and thrusting the spine forward creating a chest breathing pattern; 3) Yielding—the proper relationship when we make contact and give our weight to the earth, and thus receive the rebound of gravity up through our bodies, resulting in ease and effortlessness in breathing. She explains that yielding creates a ‘push’ back through the body (Farhi, 35-36).

Farhi has presented these patterns in such a clear way that it makes it easy to identify where we are at in our relationship with the ground and understand how this is impacting our breath. I could catch myself throughout the day (especially at work) using this ‘propping’ pattern when I lost my attention on grounding through my feet, and I noticed that my breath would become shallower and I would fall back into this chest breathing pattern that my body was familiar with. As much as I have found a great deal of truth and relevance in Farhi’s presentation of these three patterns, I haven’t found that the word ‘yielding’ means much to me when I apply it to my practice and this idea of ‘push’ back through the body doesn’t feel quite right. I agree that energy is freed up and there is a release upwards but I haven’t experienced it as ‘push’ when working with it in my practice or teaching.

Another point of difference between Vanda and Farhi’s explanations of grounding as you will see later on in the sub-section on the spine is that Vanda very clearly makes reference to the spine when she speaks about grounding. As you can see above Farhi doesn’t make any mention of the spine in her discussion about yielding. I see this as a weakness in Farhi’s presentation of ‘grounding’ as I have found it very valuable to understand and nurture this dynamic relationship between the ground and the spine.

I have also found that there is a significant difference between Vanda and Farhi in their use of language. I prefer the language that Vanda uses and how she talks about growing roots in relation to grounding and elongating and spreading into the space around it. “The roots of a tree are pulled deeply down towards the center of the earth while the trunk grows vertically towards the sky, elongating and spreading through the branches into the space around it. The deeper the roots penetrate into the ground, traveling below the surface of the earth, the taller and stronger grows the tree.” (Scaravelli, 10) I have discovered the value of language both for my personal practice and when teaching others as I find working with images from nature and gentle language more meaningful and therefore provides a greater benefit for my students and myself.

Another aspect that Farhi doesn’t speak about in her approach to grounding is the relationship between this idea of ‘yielding’ and the effect that it has on the mind. Esther clearly explains the relationship between grounding and how it results in freeing up the mind: “When the lower part of the body is grounded properly, the upper part of the body, including the mind, becomes light and agile. Energy is freed up. We learn to have our feet on the ground, to find connection to the earth and to grow upwards to toward the sky.” (Myers, 81)

This is an important point as it is something that I have also experienced in my own practice. The more firmly I am grounded, the more light and easy the mind becomes. I am able to not take myself so seriously, and I can give myself more easily to the practice and just be calm, clear, and present in my body. This lightness of the mind is something that Farhi does not talk about perhaps because this has not been her experience in using her approach to grounding. I think because with Esther’s approach one learns how to more deeply ground this results in the lightness that one may feel in the mind. This connection between the mind and grounding is a unique perspective Esther brings and something that I have identified is a significant insight in my practice.

Moving with the Breath: In learning to work with the breath, I have found it helpful to start by gaining an understanding about how the breath moves in my body. I have found Donna Farhi’s approach to the breath and her concept of ‘letting the breath move you’ to be very perceptive and supportive in working with breath.

“Becoming attuned to your breath is like learning to dance the waltz with another person. At first you have to become familiar with your dance partner—how he moves, when he moves, and where he moves. To be a good dance partner with the breath, you must be suggestible and let the wisdom of the breath guide all of your movements. As you learn to follow the lead of the breath, you will know what to do next. I call this ‘moving inside the breath.’” (Farhi, 31)

From my practice, I have found that this is indeed the first step in learning how to move with the breath: we first need to become familiar with it and then we can let it guide us.

Desikachar, in his presentation of the breath, shares many of these same fundamental insights about ‘moving with the breath’ as he speaks of consciously following the breath and becoming one with the movement.

“When practicing an asana our attention should be directed toward the central point of the movement of breath. For instance, the main action when we breathe in moves from the upper chest to the navel; when we breathe out the action is mostly in the abdomen. Our attention is on these movements. Consciously following the breath is a form of meditation in which we try to become completely one with the movement.” (Deikachar, 22)

Desikachar also speaks about the breath being the intelligence of the body and explains the importance of ‘feeling’ the breath as it moves in and out and with practice the quality of our breath in our asanas will improve (Desikachar, 22).

The understanding that the breath is essential to our practice and allows us to go deeper into our poses is a very fundamental point in the teachings of Vanda and Esther. This point is further highlighted by Farhi’s statement: “Whatever movement or yoga asana you are practicing, allow the basic expanding, condensing pattern of the breath to express itself through you at all times. Then, all your practice will become like a dance in which the invisible partner of the breath guides you.” (Farhi, 32) This is the essence of what my experience is in working with the breath, and Farhi’s teaching in ‘moving inside the breath’ has indeed been like ‘dancing with an invisible partner’. I feel that Farhi really complements the approach that I have been taught at the EMYS in terms of becoming aware of your breath and allowing it to guide your movement. This aspect of my research has allowed me to see how other leading yoga teachers have also highlighted the importance of the breath in relationship to our asanas and movement. All of my research supports that the power of the breath can be utilized to guide us deeper into our experience of yoga.

In addition, another aspect that I would like to explore in this section about working with the breath is the importance of how we, as yoga teachers, present this to our students. I have seen through this research that because the breath and pranayama are such key components to any yoga practice, there is a lot that has been written about the correct use of it and the role that it plays in the postures. For example, in Iyengar’s Light on Yoga there is a whole section specifically on pranayama. He speaks strongly on the importance of qualifications for fitness before practicing pranayama techniques: “Pneumatic tools can cut through the hardest rock. In pranayama the yogi uses his lungs as pneumatic tools. If they are not used properly, they destroy both the tool and the person using it. The same is true of pranayama.” (Iyengar, 431) However, based on Mr. Iyengar’s instructions for practicing pranayama, it would seem a bit dangerous and even harmful if practiced incorrectly. If I was reading about yoga for the first time, I might be a little bit put off and very cautious if I did attempt to try. I do not find it useful to present the use of the breath in this way, but I understand that there are some cautions that we need to be aware of before engaging in strong pranayama practices.

In contrast, I find Esther’s language and approach to working with the breath much more helpful and encouraging, especially when working with beginning students:

“…attention to and awareness of our breath is central to the practice of yoga. In many languages the words for breath and spirit are the same. Awareness of our breathing gives life to the postures, and builds the bridge between body and spirit. And just as stress can affect our entire body, so can the relaxation that comes with deep and quiet breathing. …The overall benefits of a regular breathing practice-physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually-cannot be over-estimated.” (Myers, 59)

I recognize as a teacher that it is sometimes helpful to give students the experience of the breath without a lot of strict instructions and words of caution. Once you understand how fundamental the breath is for the body and poses, you start to get insights into the power of the breath. Through your own practice you learn that the breath is your friend and you start to respect and feel more comfortable with the breath, especially as you start to experience some of the benefits that Esther speaks about above.

The final aspect that I would like to look at in this section is how the breath works naturally in relationship with the spine and the importance of bringing our attention to the breath.

“Breathing is the essence of yoga. Breathe naturally, without forcing. No pressure, no disturbance, nothing should interfere with the simple, tide-like movement of our lungs as we breathe in and out. After a while, when the last three vertebrae closest to the ground start to receive life, if we are attentive, we will discover that the energy running along the back of the spine (from its base to the top of the head) increases in power, making the spine alive and strong. Breathing is the most important part of yoga practice.” (Scaravelli, 176)

Vanda describes very elegantly the role that our attention and being gentle with the breath plays in the spine and in our experience of yoga.

I also want to highlight Vanda’s understanding of how attentive breathing makes ‘the spine alive and strong’. This same insight is also described in Farhi’s work:

“While the position of our spine is important, simply finding a balanced position is not enough. To bring life to the back we must be able to move force through it. Just as a fountain is an inert object until we run water through it, so too, the spine lacks vitality until it is brought to life by the combined forces of gravity, the breath, and our directed intention.” (Farhi, 45)

Farhi underlines Vanda’s point about ‘energy running along the back of the spine’ with her analogy of a fountain and ‘running water through it’. I am not sure that Vanda would agree to compare the spine to an inert object, but the basic principle of the spine being brought to life by the combined forces of gravity, breath and intention is very much in-line with her teaching. Farhi also brings up an important aspect about the use of our directed intention or awareness. This has been a valuable understanding and something that I have incorporated into my work and teaching. I often express it as ‘what gets noticed or attention changes.’ This can be practiced by breathing into a tight place where you are experiencing some tension or holding. I have felt how bringing the awareness of the breath to the area can often release or free up the space.

One aspect of Vanda’s teaching that is unique is her analogy of the breath as a wave and its relationship to the spine. “To follow the way the spine functions during this process of breathing is of the greatest interest. The wave of expansion while exhaling, originating from the spine, is the basis of our teaching” (Vanda, 22). I wanted to conclude this section on this point, as it acts as a very nice lead into the following section on the spine. In her teachings, Vanda often speaks about this harmonious relationship between the wave of the breath and the spine, and here she has presented the wave of expansion that we experience when exhalation originates from the spine.

Elongation of the Spine: On a basic physiological level, the spine is the central axis of the body and also acts as an information highway for the whole body. The spine has been a central focus of my practice for this reason. I have also learned that through the breath and grounding the spine becomes a good friend and a place of great strength and flexibility. Here is a statement by Vanda that speaks about the importance of the spine: “The first structure that is formed in the child’s body (while still in the mother’s womb) is the spine, and consequently all the other limbs, the arms, legs and hips, derive from it. For this reason the spine is of the greatest importance.” (Scaravelli, 18)

If I had to focus on one aspect of my practice that I have found to be unique from other approaches, I would say that it is based in Vanda’s deep understanding of the spine and how she uses it in her teaching:

“What is this new teaching? A revolution has to take place. A revolution based on one very simple physical truth. There is a division in the center of our back, where the spine moves simultaneously in two opposite directions: from the waist down towards the legs and feet, which are pulled by gravity, and from the waist upwards, through the top of the head, lifting us up freely.” (Scaravelli, 8)

Vanda explains that gravity is like a magnet attracting us to the earth, but it also allows us to stretch towards the sky. Farhi explains this in a similar way stating, “Give the weight of your lower body into the earth and wait for the effortless rebound that will lift your body upward.” (Farhi, 37) This language is very helpful as it reinforces what Vanda is saying about the spine releasing in two directions.

I also appreciate how Vanda clearly explains how each yoga pose is accompanied by breath, and that during the process of exhalation the spine stretches and elongates effortlessly in a wave of extension produced by gravity and breathing. “The resulting wave is extraordinarily powerful and helps us to find the right approach: and unexpected opening follows, an opening from within us, giving life to the spine, as though the body had to reverse and awaken in another dimension.” (Vanda, 10) This seemingly simple sentence is articulating what has been a very profound realisation throughout my yoga teacher training with EMYS and practice. This ‘unexpected opening’ can actually be experienced as a dynamic release where one can feel the spine lengthening up through the crown of the head and at the same time down towards the tailbone or feet. Or, expressed another way, Farhi says, “As you start to release the spine from the core down toward the earth, the most amazing thing begins to happen. As you exhale, the spine above the waist begins to ascend lightly.” (Farhi, 46) Both authors are articulating a similar experience, and this dynamic focus on the spine is still unique to most yoga styles that I have found. I like to give students this experience when I am teaching by giving them a hands-on assist in child’s pose. Here I am able to physically demonstrate by placing my hands on their back at the waist. I then run one hand along the spine on the exhale up towards the crown of the head and the other down towards the tailbone. I ask them to feel this dynamic release of the spine in both directions that both Vanda and Farhi speak about.

After carefully researching and analysing the different aspects of grounding, the breath, and the spine, I am firmly convinced of the value, advantages, and applicability of the EMYS approach and perspective in my practice and teaching. “We have three friends: gravity, breath, and wave (connected with the supple movement of extension along the spine). These three companions (fused in one) should be constantly with us.” (Scaravelli, 24) Here Vanda does a good job of summarising how these ‘friends’ or elements combine to create the foundation of our yoga experience. It is only by using all three of these components together in my yoga practice that I start to understand the profound nature of this statement. In examining each of these ‘friends’ independently, I have discovered that without an understanding of the ground (as expressed in Farhi, Esther, and Vanda’s work) we can’t breathe: without the breath we can’t know the spine, and without the extension of the spine it simply wouldn’t be yoga. I am further convinced that this approach works because it has also been my experience and is supported by other globally respected teachers such as Donna Farhi, B.K.S. Iyengar and T.K.V. Desikachar. I feel fortunate to be able to share this wisdom with others through my teaching.

Section 3: Listening to Your Own Body and the Value of Yoga Philosophy

Esther always encouraged her students to find their edge and listen to their own bodies, which I have experienced is a powerful combination. In this process, I can remember using my breath to take my body as far as I could, and then Esther would encourage ‘a couple more breaths here’. At the same time I was also gently reminded that I could always back off at any point if the pose became too intense.

“Each time we practice, we begin again with an acceptance of our bodies and ourselves. We give ourselves time and quiet attention, and allow our bodies to release and unwind naturally. From this acceptance and a willingness to work with our bodies rather than against them, we find happiness, security, serenity and balance within and through our bodies. This process gradually takes us deeper and deeper, opening up infinite possibilities.” (Myers, 45)

The process that Esther speaks to in this quotation has helped me develop a strong trust in listening to my body and the ability to work with it not against it. This is another one of the unique things that I deeply appreciate and experienced in my training with Esther and the EMYS. This permission to release and unwind naturally by listening to the body and what it needs on a moment to moment basis is an important concept that is not always highlighted in other approaches.

In comparison to Esther’s approach based on ‘releasing and unwinding,’ I have looked at Mr. Iyengar’s language and approach in Light on Yoga.

“He seeks a body strong as a thunderbolt, healthy and free from suffering so as to dedicate it in the service of the Lord for which it is intended. As pointed out in the Mundakopanisad the Self cannot be attained by one without strength, nor through heedlessness, nor without an aim. Just as an unbaked earthen pot dissolves in water the body soon decays. So bake it hard in the fire of yogic discipline in order to strengthen and purify it.” (Iyengar, 42)

I feel that Mr. Iyengar’s approach using strict discipline, firm form and stern language may not encourage students to turn inwards and become more aware of the needs of their body. As your yoga practice develops you have to learn to listen so that you can build a caring relationship with your body. I have noticed in Iyengar’s language, when describing how to practice a pose, he uses strong words like strong like a thunderbolt, chinlock, tighten and keep the legs rigid at the knees. The use of this language does not resonate with me because this has not been my experience when working with the poses in my practice. This harder terminology is something that was avoided in our training at the EMYS perhaps because it does not promote one in becoming kind and gentle. The following quotation by Vanda again highlights the results of listening to our body by ‘going with it and not against it’ and contrasts the statement above by Mr. Iyengar:

“You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain and centering your attention on that very delicate point, the back of the waist (where the spine moves in two opposite directions). You will be amazed to discover that, if you are kind to your body, it will respond in an incredible way.” (Scaravelli, 16)

Another important aspect of listening to our own body is this inner intelligence that we can develop. Vanda speaks about the intelligence that we can develop with a patient approach to our practice in the following way:

“When some difficulty arises we can always find a different movement, since the body is surprisingly able to adjust itself. It has its own intelligence and is willing to cooperate in finding a solution to any problem. One has only to approach problems with patience, care and attention. Nobody can help you to do this. ‘You have to become your own teacher and your own disciple’ (these are Krishnamurti’s words).” (Scaravelli, 40)

This quote also speaks about what I have experienced with my yoga practice. I have come to realize that there is a profound difference between someone who can teach and someone who is a teacher. I have been teaching for many years now, but it hasn’t been until recently as I have developed more patience in my practice that I have gained the ability to become ‘my own teacher and disciple’. If one of my students (or me) is struggling with a pose, I am becoming increasingly able to find a solution by using the intelligence of the body by being patient, caring, and deeply listening. I can now often find a modification or suggestion of how to work with a pose in a different way through the intelligence and this ‘teacher disciple’ understanding that Vanda references above.

As a complement to Vanda and Esther’s approach, I found some similar understandings from T.K.V. Desikachar as he spoke about his father Krishnamacharya’s yoga.

“What makes my father’s yoga teachings unique is his insistence on attending to each individual and to his or her uniqueness. If we respect each person individually, it naturally means we will always start from where each person currently is. The starting point is never the teacher’s needs but those of the student. This requires many different approaches; there is not just one approach for everybody.” (Desikachar, xviii)

This statement complements the individual and gently listening to your own body type of approach taught to me by Esther and reinforces the statements of Vanda. Desikachar does not come out and explicitly state you need to listen to your own body, but expresses yoga is about respecting each person individually and requires many different approaches. It is my experience that through this deep listening and attention to your individual needs you will find your own approach, as yoga is a personal discovery and journey.

I have also come to understand that yoga is much more than skin deep, and I want to acknowledge the value of yoga philosophy and knowledge as expressed by Desikachar: “Of course there was the study of the texts too, which took much more time than asana technique because once you have understood there is nothing more to say about it. The texts provide the content of your practice and make what you are doing comprehensible” (Desikachar, xxiv). I find that there is a lot of wisdom in this statement, as it confirms my experience of the necessity to integrate some knowledge of the yoga texts and anatomy in being a teacher. Yoga is not just about asanas as I have learned through my training at the EMYS. It is important to understand that to be a good yoga teacher some time also needs to be spent studying and learning from the yoga texts.

Conclusion:

Through this research, and also due to insights gained from my personal practice and teaching, I am able to draw the following conclusions based on the six key components for yoga practice (personal practice, grounding, breathing, elongating the spine, listening to your own body, and yoga philosophy):

  • Personal practice is essential for teachers. Even when not explicitly stated by eastern teachers, it is considered to be non-different to the way a yogi lives.
  • Personal practice is a resource to draw inspiration and energy for teachers and students and also to show how yoga can be practically applied in daily life.
  • Grounding work, as presented by Farhi and Vanda, highlights the importance of understanding our correct relationship with gravity so that we can rebound and elongate through our bodies. It is only through grounding that we achieve true synchrony with the breath.
  • Farhi, Desikachar and Iyengar’s work strongly compliment Vanda and Esther’s approach to working with breath in one’s practice to move deeper into the asanas.
  • Vanda and Farhi very clearly compliment and reinforce the importance of understanding and experiencing the dynamic rebounding of the spine in our practice of yoga.
  • The work of Vanda, Esther, Desikachar, and Krishnamacharya all stress the value of listening to your body in order to develop your own inner intelligence. This is essential, and yoga should be based on an individual approach.

On a more personal note, throughout the course of researching and writing this essay, it has become apparent that I deeply resonate with these findings, and that these understandings have developed in a large part as the result of my training in the EMYS approach. It is an approach where I have been taught three very precious principles: 1) Give yourself freedom and permission to explore; 2) Poses are practiced by bringing intention and awareness to the breath; 3) Learn to take the time to firmly ground the body and experience the elongation and dynamic nature of the spine. This is what yoga has become for me.

In addition, by comparing and contrasting both Vanda and Esther’s approach to others like Farhi, Iyengar, Desikachar, and Krishamacharya, I have been able to gain additional knowledge and resources to draw on about the approach and training that I have received. Through this research, I was unable to come up with any significant evidence that was contradictory to the teachings and writings of Vanda, Esther, or from the teacher training program. My confidence in the EMYS approach is further confirmed by the experience and insight that I have gained from my personal practice and teaching.

I am confident that by working with this literally breathtaking approach to yoga based on: having a personal practice, finding the ground, breath, and spine, deeply listening to your own body combined with yoga philosophy, anyone can live and love yoga. It is this love for yoga that I hope to share with others through my teaching.

As Vanda says, “To teach is an act of love” and I would like to deeply and sincerely express my appreciation to EMYS for sharing this most valuable teaching with me. I would like to offer a very heartfelt thank you for all of the teachings of Vanda, Esther, Monica, Paola, Tama, Mar Jean, and all the teachers at the Esther Myers Yoga Studio that I have had the pleasure of studying with. Yoga is a practice that truly allows you to come as you, and I don’t know where I would be today without it.

Bibliography

Browning Miller, Elise and Carol Blackman. Life is a Stretch – Easy Yoga, Anytime, Anywhere. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1999.

Desikachar, T.K.V. The Heart of Yoga – Developing a Personal Practice. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1999.

Farhi, Donna. Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit – A Return to Wholeness for students of all levels and traditions. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan Ltd., 2000.

Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on Yoga. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

Myers, Esther. Yoga & You – Energizing and Relaxing Yoga for New and Experienced Students. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, 1997.

Myers, Esther. An Interview with Esther Myers. FOYT Space. June, 2003.

Scaravelli, Vanda. Awakening the Spine – The Stress-free New Yoga That Works with the Body to Restore Health, Vitality and Energy. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.

Appendix 1 – Additional Quotations

In preparing to write this paper I researched and identified a number of quotes that had significance for me. I have included a few of the quotes here to share some of the wisdom that I came across in my research but was unable to incorporate into my paper.

On Teaching: “Teaching is the highest level of work required by civilization in the world.” (Scaravelli, 44)

On the importance of daily practice: “Instead, in this kind of work, continuity and perseverance are required. We will progress much more effectively through daily training. When we are not well we turn to our practice. But perhaps, illness could have been prevented, avoided or even totally rejected, if we had kept our body in full health by practicing.” (Scaravelli, 64)

How to respect your body: “The way we live is destructive to the body; there is no respect towards its needs and demands. We destroy, little by little, that precious, complex, vital, vessel of life we received at birth. why? For ambition? For a final cause? For the sake of our children, or of our family, for the “superior” mind, the

“higher” self, the glorification of the brain, enlightenment, etc.? All religions encourage self-sacrifice, but when we are ill we pray to God to heal us. How inconsistent we are! To be simple, to appreciate what has been given to us, and to take care of our body, is an act of humility.” (Scaravelli, 38)

In relation to following your breath: “As always, this physical experience of greater depth has corresponding emotional and spiritual aspects. The feeling of being pulled down with gravity will also draw you inward to the roots of your thoughts and feelings. It is important not to close off your thoughts or deny your feelings. Many of the tensions in our bodies have been caused by this denial. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.” (Myers, 65)

Three questions that I thought were unique in Desikachar’s approach to a yoga practice and were not mentioned by Vanda or Esther: “Who should teach whom? When? And what?” These he says are important questions to be asked in beginning a practice. (Desikachar, xix)

Insights on breath: “The heart is the most important organ in our body and it can be controlled by long training in breathing exercises. It is not possible to teach how to breathe, but by watching and listening to the beating of the heart and the movements of the lungs, following attentively the inhalations and exhalations, one can discover a great deal.” (Scaravelli, 22)

On the importance of daily practice Vanda Scaravelli says: “In the beginning you have to make room for yoga in your daily life, and give it the place it deserves. But after some time yoga itself will pull you up by the hair and make you do it.” (Myers, 33)

“I enter each living creature and dwell within as the life-giving breath.” (Bhagavad Gita)