Tuesday, June 29, 2010

amazing enneagram: nine faces of the soul

If you are not familiar with the personality-typing tool, The Enneagram, try this brief test and see if it rings true for you. The same website also offers a battery of similar tests, if you're interested in more in-depth assessments.

Beyond just the nine basic enneagram classifications, I wanted to introduce a brilliant book that takes the types into a realm of spiritual self-transformation: The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram by Sandra Maitri.

From the book's introduction:
"The recently deceased Sufi teacher Idries Shah recounts a parable that I have always used when introducing the enneagram. It tells of a tinsmith who was unjustly imprisoned and who, seemingly miraculously, made his escape. Many years later when he was asked how he had done it, he replied that his wife, a weaver, had woven the design of the lock to his prison cell into the prayer rug upon which he prayed five times a day. Realizing that the prayer rug contained the design of his cell's lock, he struck a deal with his jailers to get tools to make small artifacts, which the jailers then sold and profited from. Meanwhile, he also used the tools to create a key, and one day made his escape. The moral of the story is that understanding the design of the lock that keeps us imprisoned can help us fashion the key that will unlock it."

Intrigued? You can download chapter 1 here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

matsyasana and the first incarnation of vishnu

Matsyasana (fish pose) is one of my favorite asanas because it's so energizing and calming at the same time. It induces a feeling of joy and happiness, a readiness to take on whatever the day has in store. In yoga lore, matsyasana is said to be the destroyer of all diseases, and among its many benefits, counteracts fatigue and anxiety.

Even more interesting is its esoteric significance. In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar writes that matsyasana is dedicated to Matsyavatara,
"the fish incarnation of Vishnu, the source and maintainer of the universe and of all things. It is related that once upon a time the whole earth had become corrupt and was about to be overwhelmed by a universal flood. Vishnu took the form of a fish and warned Manu (the Hindu Adam) of the impending disaster. The fish then carried Manu, his family and the seven great sages in a ship, fastened to a horn on his head. It also saved the Vedas from the flood."

Other versions of the story invite comparisons of this flood with the biblical tale of Noah. Vishnu takes on the form of Matsyavatara during a deluge that submerges the Earth. A rishi gathers together in a boat two of each animal species, and the golden fish avatar of Vishnu then pulls the boat through the deluge to safety.

When perfoming matsyasana, try feeling the expansive opening of your heart as if you, too, are an incarnation of Vishnu, the preserver and restorer of the universe. God lives within you as you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

what's your mission statement?

I was inspired this week, by a post at The Pragmatic Yogi blog, to come up with a mission statement for my life. Here's what the PY wrote:
"I cultivate discipline. I have a realistic and balanced schedule for my seva(service), sadhana(spiritual practice) and personal needs. I am disciplined and also relaxed. I do not drain my energy by over effort and overwork. My purpose is clear, my mind is decisive."

Hmmm. Here's mine:
"I am free to explore how much I can leave undone today without incurring any serious consequences. I take time to breathe. I consciously slow my work pace. At least 50% of my activities are unnecessary in retrospect, so it's okay to complete only the most pressing tasks, and leave the rest alone. My happiness counts as much as any other responsibility."

Share your own inspiration: What's your mission statement?

Monday, June 7, 2010

let's all lighten up!

"We are people of the mighty
Mighty people of the sun.
In our hearts lie all the answers
To the truth you can't run from."

1970s soul meets surya namaskar: Inspiring music from Earth Wind & Fire for your sun salutatory enjoyment! Let's all lighten up this week.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

opening the heart chakra

Connectedness. Comfort. Peace. Openness. Joy. We don't have to wait to feel love from others in order to experience these blissful states. You can start with yourself, wherever you are.

Try any of these:

Sit in a comfortable place. It's wonderful to sit in the sun, if it's a sunny day. Give yourself a hug. Stroke your hair, your face, or your arms in a gentle way. Send feelings of love and compassion to yourself.

Give yourself permission to stop and center yourself throughout your day. Notice things of beauty around you. Imagine that plants and other living things are sending love back to you as you admire them.

Spend a moment scanning your body for any areas of tension or pain. Send love to those areas, or as taoists say, send an "inner smile" to those areas until you feel them smiling back at you.

When dealing with difficult emotions, it's much easier to let them go when you first offer your own love and understanding to yourself. Before thinking of what you could have done better, or kicking yourself for a mistake or misstep, offer compassion to yourself first.

Take a moment midday to think of all the things you've accomplished so far that day. Appreciate yourself and your efforts. And in addition to what you've done for others, be sure to include a couple of ways that you've been kind to yourself!

These are simple techniques, but don't underestimate them. They can be more powerful than complex yogic techniques -- simply because they are so easy to do.

Remember, all you need is love.