Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Swami Rama's stories

Dear summer 2011 Yogis and Yoginis!

Another way we can enrich our summer now that we are drifting away from work and practice is to pack a nice inspirational book in our bag. It is one way to bring great teachers and their powerful teaching to our hearts.

Swami Rama’s “Living with the Himalayan Masters” has been a great discovery for me this July. Swami Rama was one of the greatest yoga teachers in modern times. In this book he cites short stories from the years he spent next to his guru, Bengali Baba, who had raised Rama in the Himalayas from an early age. Through these short, engaging stories, one reads about the most profound matters in such a simple and straight forward way that the yogic path appears as the most natural way to life. Swami Rama speaks of growing up as a rambunctious child, loving his master but also teasing him and constantly nagging him for food.

In one of the stories Rama titled “Half Here, Half There” Swami Rama says that his master who always lived in a state of inner joy, got up one rainy night and said to Rama, “Let’s go now.” Rama thought, “If I say no, he will start walking anyway…. So I put my blanket over him, and started to walk with him.” Rama kind of tricked his teacher, bringing him around in a circle back to their original place. Next morning the teacher opened his eyes and started giggling. Rama says about his teacher, “He used to enjoy such experiences. In that high state of ecstasy he was often oblivious to the mundane things of the world—but when he became aware of them he would enjoy them like a joyous child.”

But the teacher also teased the student. One day Rama brought two photographers to take photos of his beloved master, even though Babaji had told him he did not want to be photographed… he told Rama: “You are a bad boy. Why must you be so obstinate? They will have nothing!” When the rolls of film were developed from both of the cameras, the surroundings were all there, but the master’s image was gone.

Swami Rama talks about his teacher with the deepest sense of respect. His guru had sent him to many monasteries and to other renunciates not just Yogis but also Buddhists, Sufists, Tantrics, and even Yogic monks who were Christians. Thus Swami Rama spent a lifetime meditating and studying close to the greatest sources of wisdom. He was always an impatient young man. In his twenties he told his master, “Either you give me Samadhi or I will commit suicide!” His teacher calmly said, “My dear boy, go right ahead.” Thus Rama tied stones around his neck and got ready to jump in the river. At which point his teacher touched him on the forehead and Rama sank in a timeless ecstasy for 9 hours.

He cites in page 383 of his book…

“The first thing that I lost was touch with fear, and I also found that I was no longer selfish. My life was transformed. After that, I started understanding life properly. Later I questioned my master. I asked, “Was it my effort, or your effort?” He replied, “Grace.” What does grace mean? People think that by the grace of God alone they will be enlightened. That is not the case. My master said, “A human being should make all possible sincere efforts. When he has become exhausted, and then cries out in despair in the highest state of devotional emotion, he will attain ecstasy. That is the grace of God. Grace is the fruit that you receive from your faithful and sincere efforts.”

And since we happen to be thinking and talking about “healing” with some of you these days, allow me to include a powerful quote from his chapter on “The power of Healing” which Rama considers to be natural in man. In page 339 he says, “ Such a one-pointed mind also creates a dynamic will which can be used for healing others. All such healing powers flow through the human being from the one source of consciousness.” The book accounts for some incredible stories of healing that happened to Rama and to other people who had come to his path. Later on the book Swami Rama explains that one key ingredient for healing is willpower, remarking that modern doctors and physicians lack this… In page 353, he points out: “There is another, higher, way of helping people through the use of willpower. Willpower here means that dynamic will which is created by a one-pointed mind, meditation, and spiritual discipline. In today’s medicine this cultivation of willpower is totally missing.”

Page after page this book fills you with renewed inspiration, and I could spend the rest of the summer recounting you Swami Rama’s most inspiring stories, but let me leave you with his comments on music. He had gone to a concert and was enraptured by a particular musician who’s music helped him to believe that music could also be a means of peace and joy. “Music is not composed of songs, melodies, or words only, but of the most subtle sound—nada—the vibration that spontaneously inspires all the cells and makes them dance. There could be no dance without the vibrations of nada. Because of this nada the stream of life sings with a particular rhythm and flows through various curves of life, giving its environment a new experience every time. The most ancient traveler of this universe is this stream of life that sings and dances in its joy from eternity to eternity.” Page 355.

Thank you for allowing me to share Swami Rama’s life and stories with you. Life brings us reminders when we are ready to receive them. I hope that something you have read here may have been relevant to your life at this moment. In this fathomless dance, nothing stands independent or irrelevant. It is all part of a divinely choreographed dance. Let us be open and let us enjoy with great gratitude.

I bow to you with love and respect,

July 27, 2011

ps. By the way, can you let me know if you have borrowed my book, "The Light of Consciousness" by Swami Muktananda...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Blessings from NYSY

On a hot July day I found myself in paradise, lying on a perfect beach in Elounda, Crete, gazing at the incredibly beautiful blue sea. I was in a state of sweet surrender after our intense yoga practice with Rusty. It was just hot enough, and in one perfect moment a cool breeze wafted from the sea and delivered me to heaven!

You know the moment, I am sure you experienced it too-an unexpected moment of bliss when time simply stands still; everything is perfect and there is not one thing in the world that you want or miss. I call it a moment of happiness...
Happiness hits us at unexpected times and most of us don't know what to do with it. Sadness and despair we are mostly familiar with, but contentment and joy can feel strange to our ordinary overloaded minds.

 And because I foresee great moments of happiness for all of you this summer, please, allow me, dear friends, to share some advice with you...
What to do when a moment of happiness unexpectedly hits you:
  • Count your blessings...
  • Consider the people, instances, and circumstances that have made it possible for you to be here. Remember them, recognize them, really, count them as your blessings...
  • Be grateful... Express your gratitude to everyone you can think of as a teacher, friend, family member, who has ever helped you.
  • Trace the path... Start connecting the dots... infinite points and moments of happenstance brought you here.
  • Do you see the interconnectedness of everything? Do you see that there are no true coincidences, and that there is a divine order amidst life's infinite possibilities?
  • Offer all this happiness to the welfare of others...
  • And, finally, if you have a hard time deciding who those others may be, remember the sweet words of our friend and teacher, Rusty Wells...
  • "Whom would you do it all for?" Dedicate your moment of happiness to that particular being and wish for their happiness and well-being.
 At NYSY Studios we had many difficulties with the demonstrations in Syntagma, the tear gas we breathed for days, and the economic crisis in Greece, but we also received equally huge blessings this summer. Allow us to share some of them with you...

June Zen Retreat with Reb Anderson
At Felsentor, Switzerland

In a place of fathomless beauty... in the deep quietude of Zen practice... Under the guidance of our compassionate teacher Reb Anderson I received the 16 Buddhist precepts ... for living a compassionate, ethical life! My dharma name is Ki Gyo Shin Sei meaning Joyful Practice -Deep Silence.
A big thanks to all of you and to my teacher for all your great support.

Rusty Wells in Greece

Once again, Rusty Wells, our beloved teacher and friend came to lead us through an indescribable journey of Bhakti Flow. Through his masterful choreography of asanas, chanting, uplifting music, and compassionate, empowering words he became the pipe-piper we followed to the outskirts of our anxious minds to a heavenly place of love, openness, friendliness, joy and sweet connection.

Rusty taught two great Bhakti Flow workshops in Athens! He completed our 200 Hour NYSY Teacher Training on the highest note! And offered us a most paradisiacal experience in his Porto Elounda retreat in Crete!

Thank you, Rusty, for guiding us to the most delightful journeys!

3rd Athens Pilates Symposium
It was June 29, 2011 and our Pilates guest teachers were calling from abroad to see if they could still land in Greece. We urged them to come. They showed up at Syntagma square and had to walk to their hotel amidst police, demonstrators, and tear gas. We were asked by many... "why did not cancel the Symposium?"
"The Symposium program was one of the most fantastic and complete Pilates educational experiences Greece has every seen" said one of the students who attended. "It gave us loads of positive energy in a time when we all needed it!" You see, this was good enough reason for not canceling it.

John Friend
Anusara workshop in Athens

In his first visit ever to Greece, John taught in a full auditorium, and urged Greek yoga practitioners to retrace the beauty and the brave spirit that once thrived in Athens, and still abides in the rocks of Acropolis. John felt the magic walking through Acropolis and he urged us to connect with this greatness in our practice. By opening to each other's beauty, and to the great spirit of goodness, we really open to our own magnificence and to the Universal spirit of life, he said. He infused us with enthusiasm and ignited a spark of transformation in our hearts. We all feel ready for sweeping positive changes after John's workshops.

Many blessings of love, peace, and joy to you!

Every class, every moment of meaningful contact with you has been a true blessing and a special joy. Thank you, dear students, and wonderful NYSY teachers and office team
---- Please don't forget: Pick up your mats before July 30 as we clean the Mat closet in August, and you may not find your mat if you leave it behind.

Thank you, may you be blessed and happy this summer!

Vivi and your NYSY team.

what a year, what a summer!

Πολυαγαπημένοι μου μαθητές!

Περάσαμε μια ιστορική χρονιά φέτος και το καλοκαίρι ήταν γεμάτο συγκινήσεις από τις διαδηλώσεις και το μακελειό μέχρι τις συγκινητικές στιγμές πρακτικής με τους αγαπημένους εμπνευσμένους δασκάλους μας, τον Rusty, τον John Friend, και εσάς όλους τους παλιούς μαθητές και φίλους.

Χαίρομαι ιδιαίτερα όταν σας βλέπω, κάθε φορά που σας βλέπω. Μαθαίνω τα νέα σας και βλέπω την πρόοδο σας στην ζωή και στο μονοπάτι σας. Πάντα, ακόμη και όταν δεν ειναι εμφανές, συνεχίζουμε να αλλάζουμε και να εξελισσόμαστε.

Στο τελευταίο newsletter που σας στέλνουμε σήμερα-αύριο, έγραψα ένα μυστικό, κάποια σκέψη που μου ερχόταν αυτόν τον Ιούλιο ξανά και ξανά αλλά δεν έγραψα την απάντηση. Θα την εκμυστηρευτώ σε σας. Η σκέψη ήταν μια γνωστή έκφραση του Rusty: Whom would you do it all for? Το σκεφτόμουν γιατί συχνά αναρωτιέμαι για την πορεία μου στη ζωή και στο πνευματικό μονοπάτι. Και για το ποιος είναι τελικά αυτός ο Γκούρου που μας καθοδηγεί, και τί είναι αυτό που με εμπνέει πάνω απ' όλα...

Μια μέρα η απάντηση μου ήρθε απλά και καθαρά: Για όλους τους μαθητές μου και για την ομάδα μας.

Είμαι βαθειά συγκινημένη από τον τρόπο που έρχεστε στο στούντιο γεμάτοι ελπίδες, όνειρα, και ιδεαλισμό. Με ειλικρίνεια και έναν έντιμο πόνο. Όλοι μας διαισθανόμαστε ότι δεν είμαστε τέλειοι αλλά ότι θέλουμε να επενδύσουμε τα πάντα για να βρούμε την πορεία μας και τον καλύτερο μας εαυτό. Και λίγο λίγο αυτό ακριβώς πετυχαίνετε με το κάθε σας βήμα, με όλες τις αλλαγές που σας βρίσκουν ή που επιδιώκετε. Το μόνο που μπορώ να πω έιναι ένα μπράβο για την πορεία σας. Καλή συνέχεια και καλή δύναμη. Είστε πραγματικά υπέροχοι!
Σας ευχαριστώ που κάνατε το NYSY ένα μεγάλο σταθμό στην πορεία σας και θα ήθελα να ξέρετε ότι η σάνγκα που μαζί δημιούργησαμε θα έιναι πάντα εδώ για να σας καμαρώνει και να σας στηρίζει. Να θυμάστε την πρακτική σας και να συνεχίζετε να στηρίζετε ο ένας τον άλλο. Για το μέλλον σκέφτομαι διάφορους τρόπους για να συνεχίσουμε την πρακτική και τις σπουδές μας. Τα προγράμματα στο NYSY αλλά και στην Αρμονία και σε όλους τους χώρους με τους οποίους συνεργαζόμαστε θα συνεχιστούν με πολύ θετική ενέργεια και δύναμη.

Στο NYSY μέχρι τώρα είχατε την ευκαιρία να ασκηθείτε με δασκάλους πραγματικά μοναδικούς. Οι καλύτεροι δάσκαλοι του κόσμου έχουν έρθει και θα συνεχίζουν να έρχονται κοντά σας. Πιστεύω ότι η ίδια η πρακτική μας είναι το μεδούλι της σημερινής γνήσιας πρακτικής στον κόσμο. Χαίρομαι που πήραμε αυτό το μονοπάτι της εξέλιξης μαζί. Να είστε σίγουροι ότι οι μεγάλες εκπλήξεις και οι αλλαγές θα συνεχιστούν όσο συνεχίζουμε με την ίδια αφοσίωση και επιμονή.

Αυτό το καλοκαίρι ήταν γεμάτο από το φως των γκουρού για μένα, αλλά και για σας που σταθήκατε κοντά σε όλα τα γεγονότα. Ο αγαπημένος μου δάσκαλος του διαλογισμού Reb Anderson μου μετέδωσε την καρδιά της διδασκαλίας του Βούδα με μια τελετή που ονομάζεται Jukai ή Taking the Precepts, τους 16 ηθικούς κανόνες για μια ζωή βασισμένη στην ειλικρίνεια, τη μη βία, την αγνότητα και τη συμπόνια.

Ο Rusty Wells που ήταν σοβαρά άρρωστος στο κρεβάτι για πάνω από 2 μήνες σηκώθηκε και ήρθε στην Ελλάδα που έβλεπε ως μέρος απαγορευτικό στις ειδήσεις για να μας στηρίξει με την αγάπη του. Πίσω από τις ευχάριστες και απολαυστικές τάξεις του Bhakti Flow κρύβεται ένας πολύ βαθύς δεσμός που αισθάνεται με την Ελλάδα και την σάνγκα μας. Καταφέραμε να φιλοξενήσουμε και τον John Friend που έβαλε όλη του την δύναμη για να μας θυμήσει ότι υπάρχει κάτι πολύ δυνατό εδώ στην Ελλάδα στην ιστορία και τους βράχους μας, και κυρίως βαθειά μέσα μας, στο DNA μας.

Τι άλλο θα μπορούσαμε να ελπίσουμε πια? Θα ήθελα να γνωρίσετε απο κοντά και τον Reb. H αφάνταστη αταραξία και συμπόνια του θα σας έκαναν να αναρωτηθείτε...

Αλλά μιας και αυτό είναι αδύνατο αυτή τη στιγμή και μια και το μαγικό χαλί που μου έταξε ενας Πέρσης πρίγκιπας δεν ειναι ακόμη έτοιμο, θα αρκεστούμε σε ένα απλό retreat στη Μάνη. Με δυο νεότερους αλλα πολύ σοφούς δασκάλους από το κέντρο Ζεν του San Francisco τον Greg και τη σύζυγο του Linda. Και δεύτερο μυστικό: η επιθυμία μου για το retreat της Μάνης να είναι μια βαθειά εμπειρία που να συνδυάζει την πρακτική της γιόγκα και του διαλογισμού Ζεν, με την θεραπευτική δύναμη της φύσης, της θάλασσας, της ανθρώπινης συντροφικότητας. Είμαι έτοιμη για ένα ιδιαίτερο ταξίδι, ελπίζω κι εσείς. Θα ήθελα αυτά τα καλοκαιρινά retreat να είναι σαν reunion για όλους εμάς ειδικά από τις εκπαιδευτικές ομάδες, για αυτό αν μπορείτε να έρθετε θα σας περιμένω ολόκαρδα.

Θα έρθουν και άλλες έκπληξεις το φθινόπωρο και περιμένω να ακούσω και από σας τι επιθυμείτε να δείτε στο NYSY.

Σας εύχομαι με αγάπη το πιο απίθανο καλοκαίρι. Τελευταίο μυστικό: οι επιφωτισμένοι δάσκαλοι του Ζεν και της Γιόγκα μας διαβεβαιώνουν οτι η απελευθερωμένη ψυχή βρίσκεται σε κατάσταση υπέρτατης χαράς όπου κι αν σταθεί. Στην πραγματικότητα χορεύουμε στα κύματα, πετάμε στα σύννεφα, σμίγουμε πανηγυρικά με τη γη στο κάθε μας βήμα, στην κάθε στιγμή της ζωής μας.

Φως, φως, φως, και αγάπη,