Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: I set before you today a blessing and a curse (Deut 11:26)
Soul Solution: Freedom from pain through non-attachment.
It is almost impossible to know who wins the lottery. The person who has the correct numbers and receives the prize money is not always the winner. Dr Steven J Danish is a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and has spent the last 12 years counseling lottery winners who face huge problems after receiving their sudden windfall. Stories abound of how the sudden abundance of money can magnify existing problems and families descend into jealousy, arguments and self-destruction. So, we may think that we have lost by not winning, but we may well have won by ‘losing’.
There are ominous words that form our Kosher Sutra, as Moses relates the words of God: “I set before you today a blessing and a curse”. A list of blessings and curses follows, but Hasidic tradition reveals an underlying switcheroo. Likutei Torah teaches that the inner side of every expression is a blessing*.
The yogis were keen to stress the importance of non-attachment, vairagya, because it allows us ‘mastery over the mind and realization of the true self’ (Yoga Sutra 1:16). As we get into a yoga posture we focus on the actions rather than the result. It matters not if we can get into a handstand or drop into a backbend. What is important is that we commit to the action. We do not have to complete the full pose but neither are we free from refraining to start it.
Underlying everything is a sense of ultimate trust (Hebrew: Emunah) and this can be attained through non-attachment. Another way of thinking about this is the idea of process vs results. If we focus on the process, the results will take care of themselves. An actor cannot force an audience to feel something, but if they fully commit to playing the scene then the effect on the audience will take care of itself.
Think for a moment of an occasion when you’ve faced a huge disappointment but later realized that it was an unbelievable source of blessing. I was disappointed when I got waitlisted and then rejected from the universities of Cambridge AND Harvard (now that’s yichus!) but in retrospect I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m even grateful for sustaining a couple of injuries through a somewhat reckless yoga practice because it has led me to learn new forms of meditation and alignment-based asana that have totally transformed my understanding of yoga.
We cannot always see the bigger picture, but then again, our job isn’t to run the world. We just have to commit our best to each passing moment, to enjoy each breath and let the result take care of itself.
**: 28th August 2011 - JConnectLA & the Jewish Yoga Network present Ultimate Yoga Day: An experience for the body & soul. Featuring classes with Marcus, Zack Lodmer (Om Shalom Yoga) and much more!!! Click here to book online. Advance tickets: $40. On the day: $50. Only 4 places left!!!!***
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August 19, 2011 | 11:36 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: EAT LOVE PRAY
Kosher Sutra: ‘Eat, be satisfied and bless…’ (Deut 8:10)
Posture: Gormukhasna/Cow-face pose
Body Benefit: Open your heart space
Soul Solution: Lift up your heart
To almost everyone’s surprise, praying has come back into fashion. It’s called different things because praying is no longer a phrase in vogue, but whether you call it ‘manifesting the universe’, ‘setting an intention’, ‘submitting to a Higher Power’, it’s all pretty much the same thing.
A key element of yoga practice is gratitude, and that is the essence of our kosher sutra. To appreciate the food we have had and to say thank you for it. But that is not enough. The key element is that we enjoy it. ‘V’savata’ says Deuteronomy. ‘And you shall be satisfied’. We actually have to be happy. What a total drag.
The yoga teacher Aadhil Palkhivala, one of Iyengar’s senior teachers and the founder of Purna Yoga, focuses on the attitude of bliss in his book Fire of Love, where he focuses on the ‘inner smile’:
“.. illness is a function of the loss of the inner smile… hidden deep within the veiled recesses of the Heart Center is a smile that emerges from a sense of connectedness with all things. This unifying feeling is true love, far removed from the physical…Bliss is the connection with the heart, and is not to be confused with excitement. Most of us equate bliss with a thrill, and that is part of the problem. Bliss is a calm inner state, the manifestation of inner connectedness, while excitement is merely a passing fever” (Fire of Love p201-202).
When we find this satisfaction, we automatically lift ourselves to a higher place. A few lines on from our Kosher Sutra is a caution lest we miss out the vital element of saying thank you: ‘then your heart will be lifted up and you will forget God….’(Deut 8:14), and we find ourselves in a place of arrogance. There is a difference between opening our heart centre, our heart chakra, the place the Kabbalists called Tiferet, and becoming arrogant. In most yoga asanas (postures) we are aiming to open and lift our heart, but to do so in a spirit of gratitude and humility.
There is a famous Talmud imploring us to enjoy the world around us, and saying that if we get to heaven and we haven’t enjoyed our world, we will be asked why.
So what are you waiting for? Go and have a good weekend already. Just don’t forget to say thank you.
i. Sit in Staff Pose with your feet straight out in front of you.
ii. Bring your right leg over your left and aim to have both feet pointing backwards, with your ankles in line with your hips.
iii. Inhaling, bring your right arm over your back, your left arm under, and hold both hands together.
iv. With every inhale, lift your head even further and maintain the energy.
Variation: Sit on a bolster or evenly-folded blanket to make the knee bend easier, take hold of a strap between your hands.
Marcus J Freed is president of the Jewish Yoga Network and creator of Bibliyoga. He is teaching next week in Los Angeles for the Ultimate Yoga Day - An Experience for the Body & Soul on Sunday 28th August. Check out the line-up and booking details here: