Karachi Yogini

Yoga for Life!

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

 

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

 

monsoon in june June 13, 2013

Filed under: And the Journey begins...,poetry,spirituality — yogini786 @ 5:21 pm

it’s been a long time since I wrote anything and actually posted it.  A melancholy sifts through my day today.  With clouds hanging low, the sudden release of rain, hoping, waiting and then just letting it all go so that the earth can absorb me again.

I watched as two birds sat on the highest little branch of my grandfather’s tree watching and listening, just as I, the sky change color, the wind mixed with rolling thunder.

As things continue, my fourth June back in Karachi, the movement of my solitary life has reached a new destination, completely lost in translation.

cliff-diving

my words are stuck, a theme for 2013, where I long and yearn for something to truly change.  a lost heart, broken with wings, flies from mountain top to mountain top to find that the view has not changed at all.  And neither have I.

 

I feel incomplete, longing for a wholeness, that tempts me with glimpses. and all i can do is return to the lostness of the vast sensations my heart sends through and through.  as my mind races from the past to the future, I pray for the depth to carry myself over another edge.  of never knowing and yet always trusting.

 

“Are you going to leap into the abyss or are you going to stick to the safe, the known …In other words, if you do not leap off the cliff, you will be tossed off it.”  Shaykh Ebrahim (Etsko Schuitema Millenium Discourses)

 

 

burning heart November 23, 2012

Nov 16, 2012

the fire
burns
quicker
than I
can catch the words.

So here I am again. Three years later and Truth has truly become like Krisnamurti has said… “a pathless land.”

Life has humbled me this year. I thought what was the worst had passed, but now I’m beginning to understand that better or worse are old remnants of a conditioned mind.

A mind that has nothing but complaints and desires. And then the polishing of the heart. The constant and deliberate process. I am feeling its burning, burning away the ideals of the past only to desire again truly the deepest love one can.

I travel today with other seekers to a place of spiritual calling. A longing in my heart, so deeply fulfilled, by the entire sequence of events that will unfold over the next few days and yet I know it is just one more experience in the pathless-ness of Truth. That what I need I am always getting. That when I cry I am always held. That when I reach out I am always protected.

Nov 23, 2012

Returned.  Arriving home from home.  What does it mean when every place becomes home?  Where love embraces me as if I am no stranger, as if i’m not the seeker but the seeked?

Ganje Shakar.  The Sweet One.  There are no words for this week.  The beads of my tasbih lay witness to what my soul experienced with the deepest of gratitude.

 

why… October 9, 2012

Filed under: And the Journey begins...,Islam/Sufism,poetry,spirituality — yogini786 @ 9:37 pm

that word seems to have a certain negative quality to it now.  and yet it returns again and again.  others ask me, but why?  I ask myself, why? and when most lost, I look to the Divine, and I ask it, why?

And the answers are never clear-cut.  and yet they are.  It is a complete and utter paradox.  But when prompted to put the answer into words, into human form, I am at a loss only anchored with one truth:

“it feels right” (translates to I have surrendered).

no more pretense of being nicer than I am, happier than I am.  I have been completely and entirely undone again and again so many times that there is no safety in pretending that somehow I am in control of the events that unfold which loosely connect to what I call “my life”.

But there is something I am more aware of increasingly, that in each moment, my choice is to either be with me as I am, or to cling/desire/avert/escape the moment.  and even this choice is actually choice-less when it is done through truth.

I haven’t been able to write for a while.  The block is deep, because the change is vast, and the expression seems stunted, almost comically absurd even now as I start to recollect why?

But, yes, the answers have been coming as beautiful strong feelings of clarity and trust.  I know not to trust my desire to know why, but I also know now not to take it so seriously.  to lighten up a bit, breathe some space into the thickness of my emotions, and embrace starting from where I am (Pema Chodron thank you).

and now i’m seeing that perhaps the best answer to all these why’s is why not?

 

samskara August 12, 2012

I turned a new year, younger as my teacher says, as we return closer to the source of Life, the source of all that is.

A few years a go I had my first memorable solo vacation.  While staying at a yoga retreat a group of us decided to visit Anuradapura, the ancient city in Sri Lanka, for the day.  And it was there I first saw the impressions of a moonstone embedded into the ground at these old beautiful sites.

I asked our unforgettable 75 + year old tour guide, E.D (shortened for us foreigners), who called me Ms. Pakistan and told cricket jokes to me all day long, what did all this stuff mean?  He explained the cycles by which the Buddha says we transform on the spiritual path, and how the layers drawn on this moonstone represented this progression.

He said a word: samskara.  Funny, I thought, I had bought a beautiful purple leather purse in Toronto just months before with the company name seared into my mind: samskara.

The impressions left on our subconscious, unconscious, from our past lives Hindus and Buddhists would say, or as modern psychologists would call it:  the collection of mysterious connections we have to our pasts which creates our “conditioning”.

I have heard some describe samskara as grooves, visually seen in our naked brain, lines that have been carved and created.  The synapses that have connected through unconscious impressions so often that they have become embedded into our nature.

All this stuff reminded me of my training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and what Yoga was also teaching me to slowly unravel.  To discover that space, be aware of it, like the pause between our inhale and exhale, where our thought leads to emotion or behavior.  So that the process stops being automatic, and instead we begin to create this elusive space around it.

My mind.  The insanity with which it expresses itself.  The samskaras that are deeply rooted in self-defeating narratives, are not simply overcome by “positive” thinking.   But instead, today I realized, as I prayed while my mind continued its madness 22 days and nights into fasting my body, that the only route to be done with this samskara, is surrender, submit, wholly to a higher power by accepting the present moment in which I am just the way I am.  To accept fully that this heart of mine is full of un-anchored desires, and shrapnel wounds of love lost in an endless passage of events.

The burning sensation fills my chest, as I bring my attention over and over again to my heart, while moving rhythmically.  The pain travels to other parts of my body, like a sliding string of light and heat.  And I’m so easily there again, in my head, thinking, calculating, talking to imagined scenarios, creating, fixating, and leaving behind what is.  what is? what is right now.

I share with you the prayer I received today, as my heart repeated words that I did not understand.  I submit and surrender to you, please bring me wholeness, soundness, internally and externally.    Please bring sanity to my mind.  All that is, is of Allah’s decree.

I am awake.  and the more I wake, the less I can slumber in my spiraling samskaras.

 

Ramzan in Karachi August 3, 2012

As I look upon the view, from the balcony in an apartment I have spent the last 12 nights praying with a particular group of souls. the flat lines of Karachi, from Phase VII, with its long clean roads, and sparse palm trees, move with a dusty beat of life.

Karachi.  I have written about it forever it feels.  I discuss it endlessly on dinner tables and late night conversations.  Sometimes with old friends who have long gone but come back ever so often to share a beautiful only in Karachi type of night.

Sometimes with myself, as I gaze upon the beautiful mystery of its monsoon clouds, and the many shapes of the palm tree trunks and leaves.  It is my endless metaphor for seeking truth and understanding spirit.

Sometimes I am at a loss with its massiveness.  Its incredible capacity to cover and hide.  How we all live here amazes me, astounds my being and over and over again Karachi becomes my teacher.  Sometimes a cruel absent one.  Sometimes a loving, kind one.  Sometimes, most graciously, a forgiving one that has blessed me with treasures that millions in this city cannot afford, or dream to afford.

I don’t know how many Ramzan’s I’ve spent in this city.  How many years that the load shedding has started to get worse as the month goes by.  Somehow I missed all those years in between when Ramzan was in the winter, living far away in the snowbanks of Canada.  I arrived again as it journeys with the moon through the summer wind of Karachi.  Memories of my hot, dusty childhood.  Of barely any traffic on Tipu Sultan, and riding in a car with my parents, buying that special can of Vimto, secretly drinking it before the fast opens.

Years later, I’m officially in my 30’s, with growing nephews in the house, a puppy who is what words cannot describe to me, and aging parents.  I’m not a child anymore, yet somehow Ramzan always makes me feel like I’m meeting Karachi for the first time, with that same innocence and wonder.  Or maybe its that my soul gets washed and scrubbed by the process of fasting, with each year the water getting hotter and colder, stripping illusion away to make space for truth to arise.

And I wish, I pray for the peace of each soul that churns and burns in this city of no real description, while the dark, dusty, endless view of its scape dots my horizon.

 

Surrender to Om June 14, 2012

Filed under: And the Journey begins...,spirituality,Yoga Class — yogini786 @ 10:27 am

That title has been in my head for weeks it seems.  The first day at the ashram I felt the strongest desire to run away.  My mind gave me a host of reasons why it would be fine, and how I didn’t “need” to be there.  Funny how after waiting years to get to Sivananda Kutir I was so hasty to want to leave.

The 4 weeks unfolded at the pace of letting grace in.

The first week, I felt overwhelmed by negative self talk.  My mind rushing churning memories, mean thoughts, cruel judgments, and imagined scenarios.  I sighed into it.  Will this ever change I thought?  I was sleepy, tired, cranky and critical of everything.

I looked forward throughout the weeks most to our silent walks.  And on our second one we walked through a village on a perfect morning through the mountains up a hill to a small temple devoted to the Divine Mother.

I experienced a glimpse of my true Self, and that of those who were around me, including the birds, trees, grass, mountains.  My soul spoke very clearly to me.  Don’t waste this opportunity being stuck in your baggage.  Wake up earlier, be excited, fresh, and experience this for what it really is:  A gift, or as my teachers would call it, the fruit from my past actions in this or a previous lifetime.

That simple intention unfolded into a new kind of mindfulness while going about my busy schedule at the Ashram.  It started to polish my eyes with a new sparkle and I felt like I was understanding why I had finally been given the chance to experience my most challenging spiritual test.

While there were tiny little things like chewing slowly (which I already have forgotten), there are some things that have settled in like glue:

– stuck in illusion, it is impossible to concentrate on the real or know the real.  and what is real?  It is Brahman, or Allah, or the Absolute, the eternal unchanging source from which the universe exists.

– I kept on returning to this strange conclusion:  so if I was ignorant, then whatever happened to me (pain, joy, etc) while I was ignorant was not real.  And once I am awake to the real, then only can I discern between the real and unreal, or  through the illusions of my life.

– this one loop kept circling and when at the end of our second week Mataji (Swami who took care of us and the ashram) gave me my spiritual name Sathya, tears came to acknowledge what I have known for some time:  the real is polishing illusion away from my heart & mind so I can know what is real.  God is that truth, and truth is inside me.

(Satya or Sathya is a Sanskrit word that loosely translates into English as “truth” or “correct”. Sathya is also defined in Sanskrit as “sate hitam satyam” which translates to “The path to ultimate truth or Sat is sathya (i.e. the real truth)”. Hence all the deeds, words, and wisdom that bring us closer to the Ultimate Truth are the truth.)

– and by the third week I felt like I was in the midst of absolute chaos erupting.  This time it was external, people getting sick, drama everywhere and my biggest test: to not complain about people who couldn’t stop complaining.  To not get caught up in their drama, their realities, and stay fixed on my purpose for this journey – to get closer to Truth, to purify and purge, and to accept & let go of the mind’s need to get “caught up” in Maya.

– the fourth week ended in a blur.  I’m not sure what happened on which day but I found myself in another temple, this time a Siva temple, with friends.  Graduates now of the Sivananda Teachers Training, we had been through the tests that this month presented each of us.  Siva, the dissolver and the destroyer of negative energies, brought us through the last week of accepting the impermanence of our experiences.  Like everything else, this month dissolved into time & space, has become a memory already, and a few days later I’m back on my red couch typing on my laptop, watching my sweet puppy chew on her bone.

The four weeks followed a spiritual logic.  We began with honoring Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, and suffering, and then we honored Lord Vishnu, the preserver of our manifested universe.  In the third week, with the full moon lunar eclipse close by, we offered flower, kum kum, and rice to the Divine Mother.  And in our last week we asked Lord Siva, the King of Dance, to pull us through the last of our blocks.

Even the purity, or as us TTC grads call it, Sattva, is impermanent.  Before we knew it the balance between the 3 energies that rule our manifested universe through Maya (a mysterious veiling and projecting power, sattva (purity), rajas (activity) and tamas (inertia)) swiftly changed as we journeyed back to Delhi.

There are so many things that cannot be explained through words or pictures.  So many paths and so many interpretations yet always it seems like the same Truth is being given for us to see.  Some remain blind, some wake up, and others have never been asleep.  I take long naps, but moments of clarity are becoming more frequent.  With trust and faith in the Grace that has led me so far the intellectual concepts of the spiritual aspirant are becoming tangible & real.

With love and blessings to all of you, the journeys you are on and the ones you will undertake, may you be blessed with the realization of your True Selves.

 

s.p.r.i.n.g March 22, 2012

it’s been a challenge to blog for the last two months. a part of me wants to share and another doesn’t.  and whenever there is a split, its time to notice and wonder, what’s going on?

spring.  the third week of march has been etched into my museum of memories.  3 years a go it was the beginning of a separation, which led to breaking, then moving, and finally coming somewhere where the past did not define everything.  then

and then. life never stops.  its just something one has to accept. accepting the first noble truth – that life is full of suffering – does not make life and living any less worthwhile or beautiful moment to moment.

I’m having a rough time tying sentences together.  my mother has been in treatment.  my family has been experiencing a reality that none of us ever thought was possible.  a future of health, responsible actions, and yes most likely relapse and then recovery.  but at least this new hope. this new feeling of having a mother, who not just looks like an adult but is capable of being one, is letting me grow into being the adult that I am.

the days leading up to spring, a strong intention moved into my heart. 365 days. I want to know what it would be like to do yoga every.day – no days off.  no days off because its not work. its my doorway to singing a new tune and knowing that the song was inside of me all along.

ps – i am still writing, but lots more poetry. welcome to it: yogini786.tumblr.com

 

what’s the rush? February 24, 2012

“You are not just a meaningless fragment in an alien universe, briefly suspended between life and death, allowed a few short-lived pleasures followed by pain and ultimate annihilation. Underneath your outer form, you are connected with something so vast, so immeasurable and sacred, that it cannot be spoken of – yet I am speaking of it now. I am speaking of it now not to give you something to believe in but to show you how you can know it for yourself.” – Eckhart Tolle

When I sat today in meditation, I kept on thinking, swirling around in a swarm of thoughts about my work, my students, my life.

what’s new?

nothing in fact.  my mind continues to unravel its patterns everyday.  and everyday I remind myself. go into your heart aisha, go into your body.

***

What’s the rush? What and where am I trying to get to so fast?  Why should it be fast? Why would I be given an easy ticket to enlightenment and peace when I know that without this process, of being laundered and dried out of my deepest grooves, my soul will never find freedom.

Today’s message from my Sufi book of life, reminded me to be in awe of the subtle mysteries of life: Al-Latif.  When there is nothing to be made sense of, the best thing one can do is add wonder and awe into the situation.

I’m not able to express or put in words the state that I’ve been in this past week. But i’ll try.  Part of it is an even further opening of my heart.  the other is being in awe of the gifts and duties I’ve been given in this particular moment.  another is knowing, so surely, and so deeply that there is no rush to get anywhere and that in fact where I am now is so poetic: deep, ironic, and in perfect rhythm and rhyme.

so today I ask you, and you, what is the rush to being more than what you are right now, in this moment that you read what I’ve written on a Friday morning, on my red couch, on a 2009 Macbook Pro, in yoga clothes, with glasses & electric blue nailpolish on, listening to the birds that come and go in the garden outside.

we have all the time in the world. just rest and relax in that knowing.  time that is not limited to the human form, or human desires. but time that is carved by the soul’s journey. step by step, moment to moment.

 

 

“Death is not the opposite of life.  Life has no opposite.  The opposite of death is birth.  Life is eternal.” – Eckhart Tolle