Karachi Yogini

Yoga for Life!

Search the Darkness (Rumi) August 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 2:28 am

Aug 2, 2016

On the eve of ending a 7 year cycle. This thought pushed me out of bed and on to this page to write and share.  It has been another 7 years.  A good friend had recommended a book for me to read and in January 2015 I read Michael Brown’s Presence Process.  His exploration of the inner life is unique and insightful, and one of the most interesting claims he makes is that we experience life in 7 year cycles.  Whatever emotional currents we experienced in the first 7 years of our life are being repeated until we do the inner work required to integrate the charged emotions from our childhood.

I won’t get into his book further, but for anyone interested it is widely available and I did receive a lot of benefit from reading it and going through its practical part.  But far from integrating my emotional charge, I seem to have become deeply stuck in trauma in a way that I have never known.  Maybe because before these cycles were so underground.  Maybe it is because i’m more connected now.  Maybe its because I’m more ready now.  But being ready or more connected doesn’t change how difficult this work is.  A woman’s account in her recovery of childhood pain shares that staying with the feelings is like moving through broken glass.

Its another night, and I am restless.  I have been fighting with my husband about so many things and yet just one thing for so long.  I cannot break free from this cycle.  But tonight, as we moved another step forward in my many steps backward my mind suddenly went into the 7 times table.  I realized I’m 8 days away from a cycle ending, and a new one beginning.

28-35

At 28 I officially was divorced from ex-husband.  I moved back from Canada to Pakistan.  I quit my career as a researcher/academic and social worker and started to study yoga.  I became a part time teacher at a university and I pursued body work.  I became a believer.  I remembered what I had forgotten.  What I still keep forgetting but only because the game is getting more difficult, the levels more intricate, and so the remembrance is a dance with forgetfulness.  I started traveling and loving nature in a way that someone like me was never groomed to but the spirit in me had never forgotten how to.

In the last 2 years I met my heaven sent husband, had a child (the most precious and beautiful gift I can ever know), and am pregnant with our second.  I have gone from a life that moved at the speed of a cruise ship with all the illusion of protection and security, to drowning in the rapids of abandonment, despair and hopelessness to now a river of endless twists and turns.

Ship-wrecked in the embrace of grace, I have met myself over and over again in this dark dark place of emotional pain. It has lived so long in my body that as the sensations begin coming to the surface not only are my wounds  raw, I can feel that I’ve got an infection or two.  Maybe more.

Maybe more.  And I know, this is contagious.  This state of mind of ingratitude, this constant chatter, this incessant mistrust is pushing me into a deep abyss of forgetfulness.  Yet tonight, in this brief respite of a realization,  I can witness that a pathway of sincere inner work is being established despite the onslaught of trauma rising to the surface.

For every time I succumb to the conditions of my nature, I am also for the briefest of moments able to hold with presence, hand on my heart, and say, I am sorry you are suffering.  It’s going to be ok.

If when I was falling into the abyss of the unknown 7 years ago someone from the future had given me a video of my baby, and my wedding photo, I would have been shocked into submission.  Yet somehow its a lesson that needs so much repeating.  We cannot know the design of our lives.  We can only trust and surrender.  Submit to what is, and always believe that what is coming to us is from a design so benevolent that no science can ever explain it, and no mind can ever truly understand it.  But the heart can hold it, it can hold the loving awareness that is Us, and remind us of what we really are.  Human, and complete with our acceptance of it.

“Search the Darkness,” from The Pocket Rumi, ed. by Kabir Helminski

(also recently referred to by Tara Brach in her talk, Night Travelers)

Search the Darkness

Sit with your friends; don’t go back to sleep
Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.

Life’s water flows from darkness.
Search the darkness don’t run from it.

Night travelers are full of light,
and you are, too; don’t leave this companionship.

Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
don’t slip into the dirt like quick silver.

The moon appears for the night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full.

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Ahimsa (nonviolence towards the self and others) October 31, 2014

Filed under: healthy lifestyle,spirituality,Yoga In Karachi — yogini786 @ 9:13 pm

This is an article that I had half written 2 years a go as a response to some observations I had about the exercise and diet culture in Karachi.  Finally got motivated to complete it thanks to Nabeel Khan who administers a Facebook group for people trying to change their lifestyle in a healthy and mindful way.

Ahimsa (nonviolence towards Self & Others)

I was quite dissatisfied with the shape of my body for years, as it had accumulated stress and fat in all the wrong places. Yet every yoga teacher made me feel like my body was an incredible gift.

My experience with yoga had been long and uneven, until a moment of deep recognition on a Sunday afternoon in April 2009. During a yoga session, while holding my body, an awareness of my body and self dawned on me. In a flash I inhaled peace, exhaled presence and attention in my body and breath, and sensed a deep source of stillness in my heart. I returned to that yoga class every Sunday to build on and explore this incredible new way of experiencing myself, my emotions, thoughts and my body. Every class I attended, and as I developed my personal practice, I became more and more amazed by the capacity my body had to adapt and change. At the same time I became aware of my body’s limits, where I held tension, where I continued to feel pain (even now), and with how little awareness I moved my body. However, with practice the awareness of my body has grown and with it so has my respect and gratitude for what my body allows me to do every day.

Eventually practicing yoga became the focus of my life, and in 2010 I decided to attend my first teachers training in Baja, Mexico and subsequently began teaching yoga in Karachi. In the past few years I have had the privilege to teach people of all ages, sizes, gender, and experience with yoga. However, I have consistently observed that yoga is growing as a practice in an exercise culture where one’s external form is our primary focus. Where if someone has some extra belly fat, or large hips and thighs, or any normal female shape then they feel that they have to punish themselves through exercise and diet to conform to what has become a dangerous female body ideal: too thin to be healthy or a size 0.

The first question I ask participants – What is health to you? What qualities do you find in people that are healthy?

When I look at a person who is healthy, my first cue is their face and eyes. A healthy persons face and eyes shine with vitality. Then I watch their movements, which irrespective of shape, present a grace in their coordination. And finally I notice their breathing, which is natural and light. You can’t hear their breathing, and you can feel peace and warmth in that person’s presence.

In yogic terms the answer to this question is exceedingly simple and deep. Health is internal peace and union with the Divine. To achieve internal peace the body must be taken care of as it is the home of our soul. How do yogis suggest we take care of our bodies? Through a simple diet (vegetarians for those who can) that includes whatever is local and fresh, grains and dairy. A simple set of basic yogic movements to keep the spine flexible and strong (no six pack required, or certain size). And most importantly the focus on the breath to help reduce the turbulence of the thinking mind and increase the life force (prana) in our body.

There is no correlation between one’s external form and these signs of health. When we fixate on the form, we may think its someone’s biceps, or calf muscles, or their restrictive diet and daily exercise that create health. But the ancient teachings of yoga do not point in this direction. They point us towards the internal, and challenge us to surrender our desires in the external form.

What can we do to support ourselves with the genuine desire to feel healthier, lighter, stronger and more energetic? How can we embody the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, into our desire to improve our health?

1) Evaluate past attempts to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your life: In my experience most people with good intentions begin an exercise/eating regimen that requires drastic change. We forget in our desire for certain outcomes that the process of change is gradual and mindful. There are also some people on the other end, who have the opposite experience and commit to too little and keep putting off necessary lifestyle changes, delaying their response to their body and minds needs for exercise and nutritious food.

Make the intention to have a balanced approach to bringing changes into yourself.

2) Exercise and Eat to Fit Your Life:- We have to accept that changing our eating habits is also a gradual process. Try to create goals that are reasonable and be grateful for all the bounties available to a person. Also realize that at times, our emotional state can also determine the types of food we eat.

My primary goal is to eat food that is easily available, affordable, local and fresh. I personally try to eat nutritious home-cooked food, and avoid processed foods and sugar. I am mindful about how my emotions affect my eating habits. The more I eat food that is nourishing and wholesome the more energetic I feel, which motivates me to continue to eat better. Being around people who are focused on a healthy lifestyle can support your lifestyle goals.

Make a commitment to incorporating exercise based on your current lifestyle with the goal of it being sustainable. If that means a daily 20 min routine, or just an hour once a week, start with that. The process will unfold at its own pace for each individual.

Remember with exercise and food there is no one-size fits all prescription, but that our bodies were built to move regularly, and digest a varied, diverse diet of fresh wholesome local seasonal food! Be curious and non-judgmental about your process, increase awareness about your needs, and develop tools to cultivate self-compassion along the way.

When I started yoga I could only do it once a week regularly and even that one class a week and tremendous benefits for me! Now I practice yoga, run and swim regularly, and also love to walk, hike whenever I travel. I am open to trying new classes, new forms of movements, and always honor my body.

3) Just Breathe:- The most amazing, simple, and important intervention in my experience is making time to practice breathing exercises. Simply 5 minutes a day to start with and you can build up to 15-20 minutes. It can be done anytime of the day, but ideally before you start your day in the morning or in the evening before sunset. Tips for a beginner – all we have to do is notice our inhale and exhale breath, through our nose, and very gently make the exhale longer than the inhale. This affects one’s body physiologically at the level of their nervous system and organs, while simultaneously affecting their mind, emotions and spirit.

4) Be kind and compassionate with yourself, so you can be with others:- Lastly but more importantly our exercise goals are based on feeling better about ourselves. But we keep chasing an elusive illusion of our ideal self because we forget that actually the best part about being at peace with ourselves is our impact on others. So reorient your intention from self improvement for an external purpose (so I can be a certain weight, or look a certain way) towards an internal one. Make a goal of becoming more aware of yourself through examining your body, mind and emotions.

Exercise and eating healthy are important tools to balance our emotions, thoughts and physical body. By approaching these goals gently, you will be able to be more present with others, and give more to the various priorities in your life.

 

Like wind, Life moves. July 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 5:49 am

July 16, 2014

Like wind life moves,
what was once simply
drops away
into its own space.

Inspired to sing some of my poetry (after years of wanting to) something deep inside unlocked and I found myself able.  to catch the inspiration before it disappeared.  to tune into the music that belonged to these words and maybe because finally, I understood the nature of impermanence in a deeper, more intimate way.  Life continues to reel away, one scene after the next, and still there remains a deep desire to grasp to pleasure, to project my expectations on the outside world, but finally there is a space from pain & suffering.  and often I can spend some time there.

and what is now
becomes Real
in a moment
of Grace.

For years now I have trudged on a path, that I didn’t even know would ever form into anything coherent, I just knew that I had to keep walking on it.  And as I kept walking, sometimes forwards, other times backwards, and yes a lot of times in spiraling circles upwards to the sky and down into the earth I found the practice of presence.  I would do my usual, get caught up in the movement of life’s particular story, drama and when the anxiety would open up the floor underneath me I somehow found myself able to practice.  Aisha.  You are here.  Now.  Can you feel your breath?  Can you check in with something like the sky? the moon? perhaps a friend with loving eyes?  Can you be ok with all this that you’re feeling?

Yes.  Finally the resistance has started to melt.  Pema Chodron’s words somehow deeply implanted into my consciousness would return.  Start Where You Are.  Soften.  Lighten up.  I understood now what it meant, how aggression became a part of my desire to improve myself, and for just today I wanted to not be so hard on myself anymore.

To long for Freedom
from desire
I step onto a blank canvas
with all these colors
and my simple touch.

It is so tricky being human.  So very complex, and yet so simple.  One paradox after the other unveils itself, until everything disappears and melts away into nothingness.  And that also becomes its own craving.  To let my stories die. To escape from my me-ness, to stop the incessant thoughts, so conditioned, so deeply ingrained that it feels so often as if nothing could ever change.  And yet the longing for this freedom, this desire of no desire, became a truth.  And life, which had for so long seemed so limited, bleak and small inside my head, was suddenly expansive and vast in my heart.  I carried in it mountains, the endless sea, the rushing river, the sounds of dawn, sunset, and the music of prayer.  Somewhere in this vastness, somewhere, I started to feel a clearing where I could spend a little bit of time.  Where there was no rush to get anywhere, or to be anyone, or to try anything, or to say something.

What may be, what may not
What may come, and what may leave
I’ll never know.

And so the circle returned into itself.  I realized that it had always been about impermanence.  of not being able to accept this natural flow of life.  of not knowing it, being able to predict it, protect myself from loss or gain.  I thought somehow if I fixed myself that it would mean I would stop experiencing loss.  But this project of fixing it was exhausting.  it was inauthentic, moving fast, working from the surface, erasing flaws as if they weren’t meaningful lessons towards deeper awareness.

Yet in that in-between
freedom breathes.

So the practice shifted from the outside, to the inside.  I held myself and truthfully examined.  Oh what a long way there is to go if I keep trying to fix whats broken.  And if I take charge of this process then I am just forgetting, forgetting, forgetting all the time whats Real.  Life is in charge of me.  It needs to flow through me, and I need to create the space for it to breathe.  Otherwise my inhale will always feel sharp, like a thorn in my ribs, and my exhale will always feel shallow, like a race to the end.

You can plant your feet.
And dance,
to the beat.

And if that inner space is cultivated, nourished, with love and kindness, patience and gratitude that’s when this light starts to come to life.  your feet.  they want to move.  your mind, it wants to be a friend, but for so long it has been lost to its own mis-perception of being in charge.  and your heart, it has a rhythm and it wants to be free to love, to dance, to smile, to experience joy in its beautifully wild, impermanent, fullness.

 

dedicated to 2013 December 18, 2013

the soft whispers of 2013 started sometime around last year at this time, in the lead up to the winter equinox of 2012, the end of the Mayan Calendar, directing me towards a new understanding of an oft chewed up word:  unity.   I danced barefoot deep in the jungle of Sri Lanka with people I barely knew on the 31st evening.  A fire broke out on the first day of the new year, and then i stepped into a year of transformation, purification.  except, at first, it didn’t feel so different.

I had a blazing early part of the year, caught up in the same hamster wheel of my bottomless self loathing and I ended up in an opportunity of my lifetime.  leading a yoga retreat in the beautiful hindu kush mountains.  After 12 days of juggling myself from teacher to friend,  I returned to a Karachi that was quiet in its summer solstice.  i prepared for what has become my most favorite time of the year, a month of fasting, and solitude with loved ones, and absolute clarity of what is Real.  And i tip-toed my way out of the wheel, and on to the edge of the circle.  whole.  and unified in myself (briefly yet so powerfully).  i started to drop my self for longer periods of time, and embraced the comfort and protection of some simple ground rules.

and as the earth finishes its orbit around the sun, in my 32nd year, a new simple sense of being opens itself, a gift of gratitude towards all that is, and all that is not.

so for all that can’t be put into words, and for all the moments that can never be captured, i dedicate this year to the spirit that moves forward, through obstacle after obstacle, with faith and love.  with generosity towards others, and towards oneself.  i dedicate it to my friends, spread across this beautiful living earth, whose hearts give me nourishment.  to the spaces, so rich in themselves, where I dissolve as a speck against its magnificent landscape, realizing how small and yet how expansive life is. to the ethereal breath that has dissolved and resolved my darkness over and over again.

and here’s to another year, in submission and surrender, to what is and what is not.  may we all carry forward our truth as best as we can.

For those who have come to know God, the whole world is a prayer mat.
— Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

 

rilke in the mountains September 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 8:01 pm

in the weeks leading up to the second yoga holiday at hindu kush heights in mastuj, northern pakistan, things started to reach their usual frantic pitch of city life.  deadlines, meetings, classes, driving, moving from one breathless moment to the next, free time seemed like a dreamy mystery.

and yet somehow with God’s grace we all arrived in Islamabad, on time, and then again the following morning, to catch our flight to Chitral.

Maha Chitral 2013 180

The trip still fresh in the mind, I want to detail all the events, the days, the special moments, but it would be impossible and also the words would feel hollow…empty of themselves, unable to fill the vast spaces we encountered.

and while i lay my body to rest every night, the letters rainer maria rilke wrote over a century ago to a young poet, whispered through to me as I mixed with the mountains and valleys of upper chitral.

 

“Why don’t you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? What keeps you from projecting his birth into the ages that are coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of the great pregnancy?  Don’t you see how everything that happens is again and again a beginning and couldn’t it be His beginning, since, in itself, starting is always so beautiful? If he is the most perfect one, must not what is less perfect precede him, so that he can choose himself out of fullness and superabundance? — Must not he be the last one, so that he can include everything in himself, and what meaning would we have if he whom we are longing for has already existed?”
Maha Chitral 2013 104copy

Living in the presence of incredible beauty, in the most perfect painting you’ve ever seen, the grand mountains of Hindu Kush, reflect the incredible diversity of creation within us.  And life is quite simple, without its usual rush, we walked without destination, and returned to hot tea, fresh food, and sang to the open valley on the edge of a bonfire.  How blessed we were, as the full moon, bathed us in her glory, rising up beyond the highest point into the midnight sky.

 

“As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build Him. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes afterward, with a silence or with a small solitary joy, with everything that we do alone, without anyone to join us, help us, we start Him who we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us.  And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.” 

Maha Chitral 2013 228

In the quiet footsteps of the sun setting behind Tirich Mir, somehow the ancient longings deep in the spirit, received a direct fulfillment of Light.  And as the clouds turned from golden, to orange, to gray, a silent poetry filled my heart.  And it spread towards every direction, so that each escaping ray was full of Love, and Awe.

“Is there anything that can deprive you of the hope that in this way you will someday exist in Him, who is the farthest, the outermost limit?”

And now that I’ve made my way back to this laptop, Maha Chitral 2013 066copy copy and my tired body yet rested spirit, comes back to its familiar space, I breathe in a sigh of relief at the center of my being.  In one hand I hold the experience of cold mornings, sunlit days, and rolling laughter and in the other hand I hold the experience of letting go, of saying yes to what is now, knowing that the vast space that I was in has settled somewhere deep in me and you.  


 

 

 

Website Launch :) July 10, 2013

Filed under: And the Journey begins...,Yoga Class — yogini786 @ 8:53 pm

Hi everyone,

I know that many of you have been reading and following my blogs for a long while, and your support has meant the world to me.  I have recently launched my own website which I really want to share with my readers on this site.

www.aishachapra.com

 

with peace & love,

aisha

 

renewal July 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 4:25 pm

July in Karachi is a misty cloudy breeze that leaves your body sweating and your eyes soft. full of mercy the gray.white clouds painted over the sun allow us to return to days that are full of anticipated release.

In this past month, I have actually done close to nothing in terms of my usual external responsibilities.  Back in May I had longed for this time, and I had no idea what I would do but the solitude and the practice of being with myself has led to a deep sense of renewal. as if i’m starting again on a new journey from the inside out.

everyday for months my body has ached.  the lower back, the hips, pelvic pain, and I have struggled and struggled to find the medicine to cure this pain.  I knew it was part body, part mind, part feeling, and part spirit.  And all these dislocated parts of me were coming up, everyday, as uninvited guests into my body.  Asking to be heard, asking for attention.

View from Hubble Telescope

With sleepless summer nights, late mornings reminding me of my early 20’s, I have had a month of re learning how to move. and this morning I realized, that I am relearning how to move from the inside.out.  That moment of recognition came from a simple yet profound insight shared with me last night by Shaykh Ebrahim about attention.  Our attention, which has the capacity to have the space to hold the entire universe (or multi-verse) inside. And when our attention is in the here, than we are faced with the what we truly are, and the veil of our separation from the rest of creation just turns to dust.

As my spine transforms, as my body moves and learns new languages within ancient ones, pain has again been my greatest teacher and an unbelievable blessing.   to be exposed within, to be vulnerable as we move from one foot to another, and yet to know we are guided by a deeply rooted core of love.  One that is physical, emotional, mental and most incredibly divine.

What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
Your eyes
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?

First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears

And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can ever keep.

But still God is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.

What happens when your soul
Begins to awake in this world

To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?

O the Beloved
Will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions ~
Like Hafiz.