Karachi Yogini

Yoga for Life!

hello autumn September 25, 2010

Filed under: And the Journey begins...,spirituality,Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 9:24 pm

when I was 9 my best friend was an African american girl named Autumn (I wonder where she is now) whose father worked for an American company in Karachi.   so whenever I think of the word autumn, I always think of her first:). the next memory appears…years a go i remember looking out the window while sitting in the Redpath library in Montreal (where the change of season was so much more dramatic than in Karachi) and watching a young man and little boy play with the hundreds of orange yellow leaves that had gathered on the field.

taken by my friend nina naqvi photographer extraordinaire! http://www.wix.com/mycreativeexpression/nnaqvi

there is a beauty in the change of season that is indescribable.  the days turn shorter, and the grace with which the cycle of life and death amongst nature is so inspiring.  Nothing ever stays the same and watching leaves reminds me of that everyday.  as I closed my yoga class this evening, I hoped that everyone could find that even in the most difficult of transitions there is beauty, there is grace, only if we allow it in our hearts the universe will deliver it.

so i read about the autumn equinox – and this year after having honored the summer solstice at Yandara I felt the need to mark this new season with a little ceremony as well.  I quickly just followed my instinct and lit 2 chakra activating incense sticks i had that i’ve never used, took out my white sage, got a few leaves that were dead from a plant outside and put all of it on a small plate with a candle. I picked a fresh new flower, my favorite, the champa and tucked it behind my ear.

I sat in sukhasana – easy pose – sitting comfortably and listening to a song by Snatam Kaur, “Ong Namo” I began to breath with attention to my heart. The song opens with some incredible lyrics

 

 

“the rain is pouring down, like all the souls you send here,

coming to this earth to find healing.

mother earth takes in the rain, like your heart takes my voice.

let us free each other, with our prayers, with our voice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had kept my pen and paper close and began to write.  Before i knew it I had to reach for another piece of paper.  the wishes were so different than what I had been intellectualizing about all day.  and after emptying my hearts desires i returned to my meditation.

a few minutes pass and the same song is about to come to a close. I opened my eyes, and slowly slipped my wishes into the flame.  as the papers turned to ash, so did the wishes,  merely a reflection of my intention to grow, to seek truth, and to find God over and over again.

may you all be blessed with a season full of beautiful intentions, enjoying the longer nights, the soon to be arriving cooler weather and for those of us in Karachi, the blooming flowers of this season.

 

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Loving like Bilal (unconditionally that is!) September 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 7:56 pm

I started meditating this morning hoping to quiet the racing thoughts that had been moving through my mind all through my yoga practice.  As my mind refused to still I remembered the subject of an email from Yoga Journal that was delivered yesterday to my inbox:  “Wisdom – Forgiveness Heals”.  I moved my hands into what at Yandara we learned as the forgiveness meditation (left palm facing up resting on the left knee and right hand palm facing out up by your shoulder, arm bent.)

I started to say to myself, “I love, forgive and accept myself and others unconditionally.”  As I repeated the words I felt even more lost.  I didn’t feel connected to that statement in my heart.  And so I stopped and tried to just breathe. My mind kept on getting caught up in making stories and suddenly the image of Bilal, my 1 1/2 yr old nephew, flashed into my mind.

Bilal lives in my house with me, and is everyone’s favorite.  The youngest of his generation (like me in mine!) he gets the most love and affection from all of us and if you ever meet him you will fall in love with him too.  He’s the sunniest, happiest baby i’ve ever known, and i’m lucky that in many ways he is my closest friend.   I don’t think it is an accident that he came into our lives right when everything seemed to be crashing around us.  And because of him even on my worst days I smile and laugh like a baby myself:)  Nothing teaches you better about being in the moment than a baby – and Bilal constantly grounds me into the present.

So what does Bilal love like?  He loves all of us without any conditions.  He gets angry at me when I stop him from something and hits me as hard as possible, with an angry scrunched up little face, and then moments later when I spin him around or tickle him he’s back to smiling and laughing.  I realized today that we should love like we are still babies.  When Bilal comes into my room and messes it up, or breaks something, or even accidentally hurts me I don’t get mad.  I just let it be and hug and kiss him to make sure he’s ok.  When I do something that makes Bilal angry, he forgives me in a moment and moves on.

Loving unconditionally is about constantly forgiving.  Not just the other person but yourself too.  When I thought of Bilal my mind immediately calmed – it could centre in on a feeling of pure love.  Love that didn’t need to interest me, or impress me.  Love that I didn’t need to interest or impress.  A love for the sake of loving.  And if anything love to see a smile, hear a laugh and even suffer the temper tantrums!  So if you read this I challenge you all to love like Bilal, without expectations, without any conditions.  Just pure simple love that doesn’t diminish if the other person changes or if you change.  Be a baby, open your heart, and find that unconditional love inside of you.

 

connections September 16, 2010

Filed under: Islam/Sufism,poetry,spirituality,Uncategorized,Yoga In Karachi — yogini786 @ 10:40 pm

I wrote a small little poem today while sitting in the car on the way home.

I feel like a swirling molecule of sand

drifting

swept by the wind at times

at times immersed in the wet ground

can both states be the same?

The feeling of being grounded yet lifted is so consistent in the practice of yoga.  whenever we’re sitting or standing the prompt is there – ground your feet/sitting bones and lengthen through your spine to the crown centre of your head.

Almost two years a go I sat in a therapists office, crying, raging, and she said: I can understand why you’re upset but where is your centre? connect to your centre.  baffled by her response I raged some more: what does she mean?? what more of a centre can I have – I work, I have friends, I do things I enjoy, I make time for myself.   I had no idea what she was talking about until almost a year later when I realized that I (like anyone else) has a centre that is timeless, boundless, spacious, and connected to a divine source of energy within and outside of us.  and this centre has nothing to do with our so called reality (our job, our family, our friends, etc). This centre is a space of peace, expansive and calming like the ocean view, which connects us to ourselves and to all of life in this universe.   The last time I had encountered this sense of peace & connection was when I was a child playing in the garden with my digging set. Imagine we know something so important so early on, only to forget it.  Until we are reminded by life that the only way to survive the inevitable suffering we all face or will face is through remaining connected to this centre.

what led me to read countless books on yoga & buddhism I don’t know, and soon I was reading books on sufism, and very organically began to accept these ideals and implement them in my day to day life.  I’m still surprised by my personal transformation & I can’t imagine how others who have known me feel! I remember this “personality” I used to have.  Addicted, indulging, lethargic, critical, agnostic/athiest, and angry with short bursts of happiness.  Now i’m awake at 6 am, practicing yoga, full of energy, devoted, and content.  I know some would attribute it to personal strength, but I know where the credit lies:  the grace of God gave me the answers, allowed me to find my heart, my centre, and make my connection to it stronger.

But I digress.  This molecule of sand.  This feeling of being weightless and heavy all at once.   A feeling of being one with this earth, this day to day life, living it fully in awe of all the beauty and contradiction, while staying connected with divine presence in every moment.  And the answer is simple – just do what you love – once you reconnect it will be so clear. I remember distinctly the feeling of mud on my bare feet in the garden when I was a baby, getting mud in between the toes, in my fingers. And now I come full circle – re connecting with that part of my soul that just wants to be outside messing in the mud:)

 

Let’s start from Tadasana (Mountain pose) September 13, 2010

Filed under: Islam/Sufism,spirituality,Uncategorized,Yoga Class — yogini786 @ 3:07 pm

It seems simple enough.  Standing.  Most of us do it all the time.

But for over a year I have been trying to understand the simplest of poses: Tadasana.  And the more I do it the more I seem to discover about my body, my yoga practice, and my strengths and weaknesses.  At my teachers training my practice was transformed by the simplest of observations – whatever we do in Tadasana we do in every yoga pose we attempt.  So for example, if my left foot points a bit out in Tadasana then in every pose I do my left foot is going to point a little out.

Standing in namaz (prayer), I find that I can focus on my breath and my prayer more if I am aware of how i’m standing in Tadasana. The feet, hip width apart or close together, ground into the earth, the toes spread, the calves and thighs engage, the pelvis becomes neutral as your tailbone quietly tucks in, your navel centre engages, spine lengthens, shoulders relax down your back and your head and neck stay neutral with your eyes softly gazing ahead.  This month, more often than in yoga practice I spent five times a day repeatedly moving in and out of Tadasana because of praying, and now I feel even more intimately connected to the beauty and complexity of simply “standing”.  And yet, no matter how often I do it consciously no Tadasana I do is the same.  Each time the pose changes, subtly evolving.

While you prepare your body in Tadasana, the final touch is to spread relaxation throughout your body – finding that incredibly fine line between relaxation and effort before beginning to move into any posture.  That’s why all standing poses start from Tadasana, ofcourse! It makes sense that we first get grounded in our body before we move one of our legs back 2-3 feet to begin any of our favorite standing poses.

Yoga is a movement like dance, if it is done from the heart, with grace and intuition, no pose, no matter how one does it, will look “wrong”.  When we see someone move with grace and confidence, anything they do reflects that beauty.  Craig (teacher at Yandara) asked each of us to get into our downward dog in front of everyone.  And most of us on our first try would try to “be perfect”. But instinctively he would know when we weren’t truly “in” the pose because in over thinking it we would forget to experience the pose.  And the truth is we can all see that, because when someone is in their body performing (like an athlete, a dancer, or an actor/actress) we can instantly recognize if that person is being authentic or genuine — if that person is “present” or not in their body and movement.  We can all read body language so well but for some reason we disconnect and stop applying this amazing skill of perception in our lives.  This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts yoga can give anyone:  more awareness and attention to our body translates to more awareness and attention in other parts of our lives.

So the first principle in any posture should be: feel the sensations.  They are subtle and magnificent all at once.  If you start from what seems easiest, like standing, it may lead you to understand that the challenge is not in the shape we can accomplish but in finding our “edge” – which only your inner voice can guide you towards.  So trust yourself, don’t worry about what someone is doing next to you, or what the teacher can do, bring your attention to that feeling you want to cultivate – the perfect combination of effort and relaxation.

I just read this wonderful post by another yogi, and it fits so perfectly with this post of mine.  please enjoy!

http://blogs.yogajournal.com/corevalues/2010/09/every-moment-an-opportunity-1.html

 

Teaching Yoga to my Parents September 8, 2010

Filed under: Islam/Sufism,spirituality,Uncategorized,Yoga Class,Yoga In Karachi — yogini786 @ 10:04 pm

It’s funny how many years it has been since I felt I did something truly for my parents.  They have been there for me and given me so much love that it actually amazes me every time i think about it.  I am so truly blessed to have them in my life, even with all their faults and all the mistakes they have made I wouldn’t exchange a moment of the madness that is my family or specifically that is my parents.

Some days I feel like i’ve become their relationship counselor:)  It’s strange being an adult and living with your parents after not having lived with them for most of your adult life.  But when I moved back home this year the last thing I expected, especially with all the fireworks the first 6 months of living together brought up in our relationship, that my parents would become my most consistent and focused yoga students.

In this past month, I have offered free classes to my family and friends before officially beginning my yoga “business” and now this month is coming to an end.  With only 5-6 students in each class I have had the luxury to give them all this beautiful Shavasana (dead pose) assist, where I gently massage their head and forehead.  Every time I’ve come to massage my parents, especially my almost 69 year old father, I feel such a rush of joy and love in my heart.  I realized that in those few seconds that I am finally returning the care that he has so diligently given me and the rest of us almost all of his life.  and all that without any expectation of anything in return.

sometimes people say that heaven is on earth and so is hell.  When i reflect on my life, and I breathe in the beautiful sounds of the birds of Karachi, I can only think that for now I’ve definitely been blessed with a little piece of heaven.

 

Some more Kabir:) September 7, 2010

Filed under: inspiring books,Islam/Sufism,spirituality,Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 9:52 pm

Yes, now that i’m half way through his second book I feel like we can be on a first name basis.

But just to make sure credit goes where it should – Kabir Helminski, from The Knowing Heart pg 110

“The compulsive self is like ice – hard, separate, and alone. The balanced self is more like water, fluid, able to merge with others and flow, able to dissolve and even purify the negativity of life.  The higher states are more like the molecular state of a fragrance – very subtle, penetrating, not nearly as limited in space or time. We can visualize the self as something that can become even more subtle, refined, spacious, penetrating.  The more we spiritualize our animal qualities and bring them into service, the more we tame “the beast” with love, the more we attain wholeness, and the more that natural self can be the instrument of real values, which are transpersonal or spiritual in nature.”

For a while I’ve believed that nothing is an accident. no conversation, no meeting, no moment we experience is just random. Today again after not reading this book for a few days when I do read it this exact section helps me let go of my ego in a difficult moment.  A student in my class particularly gets under my skin.  This is ofcourse completely natural I know as a teacher but that realization doesn’t really help me.  What helps me is to breathe patience, understand that the student irritates me because I see something of myself reflected in her that i don’t like.  I remember Alison said that when it comes to implementing mindfulness in our day to day life the first place to start is to understand what we like and what we dislike.  This is how the self is attached to so many ideas and every time we transform we re attach ourselves to certain qualities and attributes…but it is that attachment that again becomes the obstacle to dissolving the ice into water…so I tried to push my reaction aside, and respond instead.  The student came up to me later and I felt the friction in our energies, building week to week, and I realized I wanted something from her and that’s why she has power over me.  In that moment I let go of wanting her to be any way except how she is.

Let’s see how next week goes!

 

It’s the last week of Ramzan Challenge:) September 4, 2010

Filed under: And the Journey begins...,Islam/Sufism,spirituality,Uncategorized — yogini786 @ 11:22 pm

So last night I heard a story that basically made this point that it can be easier to attain spiritual goals in a remote place (like the mountains) but how difficult it is to maintain that state once we return to the city and are faced with all the temptations of our worldly life.

similarly, just this past June I spent 3 weeks sleeping in a tent on the beach, in a yoga school, eating vegetarian food, almost no sugar (except on sunday’s when we’d get 2 hours to explore a small town I’d eat a cookie!) and no cigarettes, tea, caffeine. nor was there any sleeping in late or any difficulty in getting all the meditating & yoga one could possibly imagine done in a day.

yet once i returned to Karachi, my city, my home, and also perhaps my most challenging teacher, the old habits started to creep back in.   I didn’t feel alienation like I did sleeping alone in a hotel in New York, nor did I feel “am i the only one who thinks about brown rice and brown bread?” when trying to find healthy eating options in airports across the world!

Instead, I felt so happy to be home, so connected to my sense of purpose and the desire to continue to live with my heart open.  Yet, as the days creeped on, well maybe I should say hours, I started to feel the temptations and frustrations of city life.  Stuck in traffic on a random evening I arrived home upset and angry about something – I can’t even remember what it was now.  And there was my mom’s best friend over and smoking a cigarette.

What I would do to have one of those I thought!  And then I thought of my teachers at Yandara, saying just sit with the craving, and know that it will go away in time. I tried.  I survived for about 30 minutes before I said just give me one drag.

And as someone who has quit smoking so many times, I knew in that instant that one drag would mean i’m back to smoking.

Soon the one cup of tea a day started to turn into 2 and the 1 cigarette a day to 3.  As the days have moved forward I started to eat meat again almost everyday.  And the truth is that there is nothing really wrong with any of things that I’m talking about – its just that when I don’t do them I feel infinitely closer to my soul and to God.  Not to mention I don’t get mad, sensitive or belligerent as often 🙂

So anyways, last night, at this meeting of kindred souls, I realized that this is the test that is the harder one to pass – to resist temptation in the city.  I know when I leave Karachi and go to a remote place its actually really easy for me to not think about the cigarette even when I have them on me, and its easy to eat the delicious food someone is preparing for me that is healthy, as it is easy to be positive because all i’m doing are positive things:) It’s easy to avoid snacking on oily chips and chocolate in the middle of the night and to not give into my cravings – actually in Mexico it was funny I didn’t even crave anything until we went to town on Sundays and I would start thinking of that big chocolate chip cookie in the coffee shop!

So i know i’m human, I don’t need to be reminded of that wonderful yet challenging reality – but I also want to know can I do this?  Can I spend a week (in a month that is meant to be among other things a time we learn how to give up) truly giving up all the things that I crave?  I’m not sure – its the first night and i’m already feeling the urge to break a rule.

But putting this post out there makes me feel if nothing else I’ll be accountable to my virtual audience:)  and one thing that I can’t do is lie – so if I don’t survive this week of no smokes, no chai, no chips and other junk (fried foods = PAKORAS) I will be truthful and kind to myself.

Wish me luck!!!!

xxoo