Introducing the new “State of the Union” blog series where yogis discuss how to approach the circumstances of our world from a yogic perspective.
WHAT CAN I DO Rama Jyoti Vernon shared with permission from: https://www.rama.yoga/blog by Alumni presenter and lifetime world peace activist Rama Jyoti Vernon June 16th, 2018
It is three o’clock in the morning.
I was awakened by vivid images: children being ripped away from their parents on the borders of our country; a baby pulled from its mother’s breast; two and three year olds weeping and wailing for their parents. For the rest of their lives, the endless pain of lack of trust will haunt these children and their parents. There have been repeated inhumane acts throughout history that have demonstrated the inhumanity plaguing the human condition. As Pete Seeger wrote, and many have sung, “When will we ever learn?”
How can those of us in Yoga, who understand the law of cause and effect, be silent and allow this situation to continue through the support of our current leaders who are deaf and insulated to the pain and suffering of others? Are they our representatives? I think not!
We become part of these decisions when we are born into a country of origin. We are part of the dharma of the laws of that land and if that law of dharma, which is supposed to bring order, social stability, and organization, creates chaos, instability, and suffering, it is no longer dharma but adharma. Adharma goes against the grain of the laws of nature and humane social conditions. It destroys instead of builds, and we become part of its destruction if we acquiesce in our silence.
In the scriptural studies of Yoga philosophy and the law of karma, it is believed that if we are born into a country that unjustly makes war upon another and we do not protest, at least in our own hearts, then in another life we will be born into a country that is made war upon.
What can we do? It is the eternal question wherever people feel helpless in making changes. Yes, in Yoga it is possible to rise above the sea of samsara, the sea of endless pain, to experience in consciousness a place beyond the duality, separation, and forgetfulness of the unified soul consciousness. However, in Yoga, even if we
have a glimpse of this paradisiacal state, does it mean we cannot try to alleviate human suffering on this earth plane?
Swami Vivekananda would say that the world (and its problems) is like the kink of a dog’s tail. As long as we are holding it we think it is straight. But the moment we let go, it will just kink up again. Does this mean we can never effect change? Is this the difference between pragmatic action and static inaction?
When we see injustice do we remain silent, thinking someone else will do something or do we go into our meditation and practices asking what our dharma, our destiny, our life’s purpose is in this instance? Do we shed our own tears for the suffering of others? Do we go to the border to light candles, participate in a “sit in” or go on a
hunger strike? Do we write our government representatives or participate in a march on our state and/or nation’s Capital? Or do we continue to turn a deaf ear to the lies told by leaders that thrust the blame on everyone else but themselves? Do we continue to share our thoughts with those who we feel are lacking in discrimination due to
radical political choices they are making?
I awakened in the middle of the night asking the invisible Masters what I can do, and wondered if Germans in l930s Germany did the same. It is always difficult to know when the tide of human decency turns into a cruel regime that conditions the minds of its people while insidiously stripping away the freedoms they are accustomed to. Why is it that so many leaders come to power only to have power over others, but not to serve the needs of their people? Are we being lulled into a hypnotic slumber until it will be too late to awaken? A frog when dropped into a boiling pot will jump out. However, if the heat is turned up gradually, it will be too late for him to escape the boiling cauldron. Is this the acceptance of the abnormal becoming the “new norm?”
Dawn is breaking, the birds are singing, and now rain is softly falling as my tears fall with it. Some might say this is not yogic thinking. We are to be unattached. However, there is a very thin line between non-attachment and indifference. As the Masters say “until we know attachment, we will never know true non-attachment”. I arose to sit with eyes closed, holding the people in all war torn countries in my consciousness. I felt the mother’s grief of the loss of her children, and the children’s loss of the parent. I felt the pain of the wounded in body and in heart. I felt the loss of those who will never return to their homes and lands wandering to seek refuge wherever they are accepted. I held the children and parents fleeing violence and persecution seeking safety and protection in the embrace of Universal consciousness.
That is what I can do! What can you do?
Now is the time to arise from within, like a spiritual warrior guided by the power of compassion, and discrimination, in whatever way we are called. Perhaps for some it is a time not to be silent but to speak out, and stand firm in the winds of growing tyranny and divisive policies that separate nations, states and people. For others, there may be a call for inspired, transformative action, or some may wish to offer the power of silence, prayer and meditation.
Yoga means Union, transcending the allusion of separation to see the Oneness of all humanity and human unity. Together let us hold a vision of a world where peace can prevail; where our thoughts, words and actions are no longer weapons of destruction but are divinely guided to lift the hearts, minds and spirit of others. Perhaps if enough of us hold this vision we can reach a critical mass to impact the collective consciousness of all humanity.
Rama Jyoti Vernon is a Yoga teacher and peace activist, and one of the founders of Yoga Journal. She founded the California Yoga Teachers’ Association, and the California Institute for Yoga Teacher Training, which later became the first U.S. Yoga Teachers’ Training program for the work of Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar. She hosted and organized programs for Mr. Iyengar and started his first organization in the U.S. She is considered one of America’s yoga pioneers, and one of the first yoga teachers in the U.S., beginning in the 1960s.
Her mother, a student of Swami Paramahamsa Yogananda, took her to her first yoga class at age 15. As an adult, Rama Jyoti was one of the earliest students of B.K.S. Iyengar in North America, and hosted him for two of his first workshops in California in the early 1970s. She founded the American Yoga College, and Unity In Yoga International that eventually evolved into the Yoga Alliance. Under Rama Jyoti’s direction in the 1990s, Unity In Yoga sponsored seven national and three international conferences in the Soviet Union, the Middle East and Central America. Richard Miller and Larry Payne, founders of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), have frequently acknowledged Rama Jyoti’s contribution to the creation of IAYT through the connections she fostered at the Unity in Yoga conferences. Rama Jyoti established the Center for Soviet-American Dialogue in 1984 to help connect citizens of the United States with those of the Soviet Union during the Cold War years. She served as a citizen diplomat, bringing groups of grass roots citizens to dialogue across borders, and was interviewed numerous times by U.S. media and Soviet television and radio. She later simplified the name of her organization to the Center for International Dialogue and expanded its out-reach of dialogue and conflict resolution trainings into Afghanistan and the Middle East, visiting Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, China and Cuba, with American citizens.
Rama Jyoti, mother of five children, twelve grandchildren and one great-grandchild, continues to travel nationally and internationally to teach Yoga and Yoga teachers. Her work is codified in the ultimate yoga practice book, Yoga: The Practice of Myth and Sacred Geometry, and her yoga philosophy commentaries, Patañjali’s Yoga S?tras, Gateway to Enlightenment.
It’s time… the glory and the chaos of the holidays is drawing to a close; the new year is ahead now and our sight may drift to the future as we contemplate where we’ve been and where we would like to go… in presence.
Where do you want to go?
This time of year is universal in its opportunity to grow and expand our horizons; to find an inner solace that soothes the past in hopes of wiping the slate clean. We all carry baggage; our bodies often bearing the scars of times past and humanity as a whole has come to see the New Year as the time for fresh starts and letting go…
On the heels of Christmas (I grew up celebrating this time of year in this way), I think we have an Aumazing Opportunity! I mean, let’s think about it… The Spirit of the Holidays is the same, regardless of the Holiday one celebrates… Presence.
“Be like Him that we celebrate today… regardless of race, religion or creed; kindness and compassion. Love everlast.”
Spirit… The Life Force, Consciousness. God. Whatever you choose to call it, even whether or not you choose to acknowledge it, it exists and is the very fabric of reality that weaves us all together in inexplicable ways.
But, what does it want?
I have come to see, through a lifetime of empirical studies, my path, that it, ultimately wants nothing more than to expand into new territories of experience, and we, the human being, appearing to be its most advanced avatar, must realize that in its omnipresence it could not possibly want to destroy us, rather it is the giver of LIFE and without it I could no longer write, sit, think, or type, nor could it experience itself expanding through me anymore… Why would it want to harm me, let alone any of its Creations?
Yet, we look around us today and there is such uncertainty and fear… tumultuous times, I have said often, even now, this Holiday Season, humanity seems to be walking the razor’s edge, precipice on either side, wondering when it all may come crumbling down.
I awoke today, the day after Christmas, with a slight panic… like, something is wrong, and yet, I know this is not true. It means something is out of balance within me, the scales tipped to the darker side of consciousness where fear and uncertainty live and after looking deep inside, again I find my solace; my peace. Presence. Om Shanti.
I have come to realize that I HAVE A HUGE PART TO PLAY IN ALL THIS. (and so do you… it turns out.)
You see, my teachers have all told me, as have pretty much ALL the saints, sages and masters that have come before, that I (and you… ) are Happiness itself… Joy itself… Love itself… BLISS… ANANDA… Ecstasy.
I have experienced this to be true, maybe you have too! Fleeting at times, yet when I release all the stress and trappings of our modern ways, quiet my mind, purify my body and tune into my Souls’ voice… Peace is there. Joy is there. Happiness is there. Presence.
Mark Whitwell tells us that if we come away from our practice in any other state than described above, then we aren’t doing yoga…. I laugh out loud at this now, as it sinks in…
And like a ton of bricks it hits me (again)… head in palm…
I don’t go to my practices to seek aggravation, frustration, anger, or fear… those only exist in my fragmented and unbalanced mind, body and spirt…. NOPE!!!! what happens when I find my way… my balance… is undeniably PEACE…. Happiness, Joy Itself.
THEREFORE… that is the underlying reality for ALL OF US…
So, we have our work cut out for us… and to be true it is our work… your work. Mine.
Focussed practice ahead! Presence.
It is time…. that we come hOMe.
(I am planning to do a spiritual detox and total body cleanse beginning in the next few days…it has helped me in the past to gain, presence and clarity… let me know in the comments if you would like to join in! and Click here to see part 1 in this multi-part blog series!)
Photo: Alan Alcid Yogi’s Vo Vera & LaMonte Goode Inverted in the Vortex
What can you expect at SYF2017…?
Photo: Alan Alcid Yogini Taylor Kurz
Well, the conference and festival itself evolves each year so there’s lots we will be unfolding in late September about the Who, What, When,and Where of it all. But the WHY remains steady. We create and nurture this platform and the relationships built within and around it for the purpose of uplifting and expanding human consciousness and providing Sedona transformations with a focus on yoga and meditation.
SYF is accessible to all, and there is truly an access point for the newest beginner as well as in depth networking, studying, practice, and continuing education opportunities for the professional. We believe this intermingling leads to authentic and powerful interactions.
Photo: Alan Alcid Taylor Kurz @ Bell Rock Vortex… Flying.
Have a look at the SYF2016 pages to get a taste of what’s to come in March 2017. We hope you will join us in Sedona, where the magic happens…
I have been watching a dear brother on the path lately… Nick Hansinger, co-founder of Source Movement has been laying it down, Realzies these past several weeks. I have been inspired. There is something deeply profound available to each and every one of us, literally right now. The conundrum, oft mistaken as the Truth, exists in only the fact that humanity has become sensitized to a perception of reality, created over millennia, that is incongruous to… ‘what is really going on.’
Consciousness is seeking to take the leap and open into new experiences predicated upon soulfully divined and deeply intuited inspirations. We can all feel it. That deep knowing that propels oneself towards ease and grace in all that they endeavor in the world. The Divine support lended to that one, steadfast in Truth, is what most would call Miraculous.
We have evolved and will continue to explore the edge throughout time, and yet, the ancient scriptures and mythology points to a human experience much likened to human challenges we face today. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Yogis have gone before us and smoothed the path to our enlightenment; to our awakening. It is clearly defined and we are forging it anew in this fiery transformation of consciousness itself.
Heather, myself and the SYF Team have created the platform for your transformation. SYF, a consciousness evolution conference is truly the environment for exceptional growth and change… a transformation into the next phase of your life experience. Whether you have decades of practice or you are just drawn out of curiosity to this notion of a ‘good life’, SYF will meet you right where you are, impeccably providing the perfect teachers and classes to take you to the next level. Newcomers to yoga can experience Master Yoga Teachers, adept at conveying the simplicity of the practice, along with the astounding benefits of a yogic lifestyle, to all levels of experience.
The lineup of presenters, speakers and special guests, each bringing unique and authentic perspectives, were selected to share the many and varied ways to begin or expand a yoga practice. With over 77 presenters and 150 workshops, the fourth annual Sedona Yoga Festival is something to experience.
Our collective experience, cradled in the Sedona energies, will be filled with opportunities to release into the highest and best you. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, pranayama, energy medicine, kirtan, and more will be the landscape of transformation amidst the spectacular backdrop of red rock country. Sunrise asana and meditation on the lawn, plenary speakers, forums, workshops & classes, blissful kirtans and a World Peace Meditation led by monks of the Dhammakaya Foundation and the World Peace Initiative’sPeace Revolution Project. We are the first ever United States event, blessed and supported by World Peace Architect, Dulce Ruby. SYF2016 will launch you into the stratosphere!
We have taken SYF Gives Back to new levels this year as well. Traumatic Stress: Resiliency and Healing with Yoga unites masters in the field of PTSD and Trauma and presents a holistic, deep dive training in the use of yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and other proven methods to alleviate the symptoms and heal the roots of post traumatic stress and trauma related illnesses. On the heels of previous years service projects aimed at supporting Yoga For Veterans and Yoga For First Responders, we recognize that the human physiological response to trauma is universal, regardless of the experience. This years training will provide proven methods to heal and resolve past trauma, alleviate and eliminate symptoms and lead a more stable and resilient life, along with expert instruction on all aspects of trauma and its affects on the human being. Focus groups, panels and expert testimonial to bring cultural competency various fields in need. i.e law enforcement, fire service, nurses, abuse survivors, etc.
Attending this pre-event training will prepare you to be in service to your family or community if you choose and/or provide insight, awareness and solutions towards the very real and oft debilitating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress.
That’s us… Pondering… Well, I am Pondering, Heather is looking cool. On our way to another EPICasana experience at SYF2016!
Every year, as we deepen the experience of the Sedona Yoga Festival, there comes that time when we sit and ponder how it all began and where we are today. SYF has become an event not to miss; it has marked the transformation of many a yogi these past 3 years. In the beginning we saw an epic experience, situated in the Heart of Sedona, AZ that cradled the participant in the healing energetics and allowed for a truly transformative experience. Well, the Sedona Yoga Festival has become that and much, much more.
The 2016 Sedona Yoga Festival is rapidly becoming THE yoga festival to attend next year. Whether you have never done yoga or you have practiced meditation and asana your whole life, there will be something for YOU! Save the Dates and/or get your tickets at Early-Bird Pricing now because you will not want to miss out on this. Some big announcements are coming shortly, but for now, just cruise through the website to see what is coming so far… We have added little bits and pieces, so you yogi sleuths out there can start to imagine just how awesomenasana SYF2016 is shaping up to be.
We’ll leave you with a big blast from the past; Yogini Silvia Mordini honors us with her experience of the inaugural SYF2013. See ya in the ethers, dear friends.
Marc & Heather
First Penguins at Sedona Yoga Festival
February 8, 2013. Feels a little bit like the first day at a brand new school. Starting today, I am presenting at the Sedona Yoga Festival to a whole new group of yogis. It is my first time teaching in Arizona (although I’ve taken many a workshop/training here in my Anusara days).
As always before teaching, my thoughts turn to how will I best touch the hearts and minds of my students. What will they think? Will they understand me? Regardless of your experience, Yoga Teachers still get nervous. I may have over 11,000 hours of teaching experience but today will be my first hour in the teacher’s seat at this first ever Festival!
One of my biggest strengths is my humanness. After leading 15 RYT200 Teacher Trainings, I work hard to keep myself off the pedestal and keep things real. I am imperfect, fallible, sometimes quirky, certainly silly, and a bit earnest when it comes to manifesting happiness. Being born in Ecuador to an Italian father and Ecuadorian mother only adds to my uniqueness.
If you know anyone in Sedona coming to the festival, applaud them! They—like me—are First Penguins. The first penguin is a term coined by the late Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch who offered his last lecture there when he was dying of cancer. Here is one of his key pieces of advice: Be the first penguin. “I encouraged students to attempt hard things and not to worry about failing…failure is not just acceptable, it’s often essential.”
Pausch rewarded his students who took the biggest risk with a stuffed penguin representing how when a group of penguins takes to the water, one of them has to take the FIRST plunge. If that penguin survives in the potentially predator filled, dangerous water, then the other penguins follow.
I am grateful to everyone involved with Sedona Yoga Festival. It is heroic to manifest—from nothing—an entire yoga festival, replete with teachers, searchers and healers from all over the world. To every single attendee, presenter, volunteer, and staff, I present you the First Penguin Award! Thank You Silvia!!!
You are magnificent and your courage to jump into the water not knowing what will happen is inspiring. And that is why I am proud to be involved—even if I am also a bit nervous.
To those who are considering doing something that really scares you this year, be encouraged. Manifest your biggest dream! The world needs more First Penguins in yoga, in art, in science, in relationships, in life. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
ABOUT SILVIA MORDINI, Happiness Coach, Yogipreneur, lululemon ambassador, manduka ambassador
Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She is a long-time Experienced Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) with over 10,000 hours of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and has been teaching and practicing yoga over the last 15 years after being run over by a car and using it to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia will be leading a Tuscan Adventure in Happiness week long retreat in June 2013 and an Amalfi Coast Wellness Adventure in July 2013 as well as offering her Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica this August 2013. Silvia is currently writing a book about Prescriptions for Happiness and has a popular blog called Loving Your Life, along with producing her “Loving Your Day” videos.
We make a point during this time of year to outwardly express gratitude for the good things in our lives. Some take to social media or a journal each day to write about something for which they are thankful, while others specify time for prayer with the theme of gratitude. There seems to be no limit to the quotes, blogs, images, and articles (like this one) available on the topic.
As yogis we often advocate making gratitude a year-round practice. But what is the best way to incorporate gratitude into daily living, and what makes it worth the effort?
Gratitude is all about perception. As an example, think of the classic “glass-half-full or glass-half-empty” conundrum. One aspect of our yoga practice is learning to become observers of our thoughts and feelings so that we may avoid feeling consumed by the deleterious effects of negative thoughts and emotions. By becoming not the subject, but the observer of our inner monologues, we can alter our perception of transient events, and therefore decide whether to let them affect us in negative or positive ways. Gratitude is a strong positive emotion that we can choose to express whether we really feel it or not. But why work so hard to act grateful at times when we don’t feel grateful? What about when we are stuck in a doom-and-gloom mental cycle, and it seems impossible to think of anything good happening now or in the future?