“Working Out My Karma: Struggling to Find My Dharma On and Off the Yoga Mat”

Here is another guest post by writer, friend, and yoga student Sarah Militz-Frielink.  You can read the first post she wrote for LYJ entitled The Illusion of When.

Sarah was inspired to write this post after becoming disillusioned with the corporatized yoga that is currently playing in the modern American yoga scene.

If you like Sarah’s style, contact her at sarah (at) leavingdark (dot) com if you need a writer.  Sarah said that she is finally getting back into spiritual writing and is thinking of starting her own online non-profit magazine.

Enjoy, and comments welcome!

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It seems like just yesterday, I signed up for my first yoga class at the local park district down the street from my house.  That was eight years ago, and I have been practicing pretty much regularly to this day.  At the time, I had no idea what I signed up for or what a genuine yoga practice should look like.  I never anticipated all the challenges I would encounter along the way.  Probably motivated by the wrong reasons to try yoga, my underlying goal was to shed 30 pounds of baby weight that still clung to my body.  I had just given birth to my third child.  I was definitely lacking the spiritual discipline a true practice actually involved.  I just wanted results.  I did not know that a beautiful path lie before me where I would have to confront my own karma and struggle to find my dharma.

I guess I bought into the corporatized version of yoga: hot, sweaty, skinny, bodies on a mat glowing with a renewed sense of beauty, a calmer demeanor, and a compulsion to eat vegan.  When I use the term “corporatized yoga”, I am referencing the images that dominate all things yoga in magazines, commercials, DVDs, props, mats, and books.  Media and pop culture bombards us with a plethora of images—pictures of hot, upper-middle class blond females, doing handstands with ease.  And then there are the magazine photos boasting post-practice smiles plastered on flawless porcelain faces as the “model” promotes a new sport drink or yoga pants line. These images do not reflect a genuine yoga practice, one that seeks to unite the “human with the divine—all within the self” as the ancient yogis instruct us to do.

During my journey, I realized that these images conveyed a false sense of hope, one based in consumerism, vanity, and prejudice.  As if all bodies on yoga mats should look the same, as if all people who do yoga are skinny, blond, vegan, and Zen-like.  What’s worse is that these images brainwash Americans into thinking what yogis should look like or act like. If someone does not fit the norm, they are questioned along the way.  This is what I call a “yogaism” a belief that those who practice yoga should conform to the norms of the corporatized yogi image and a discrimination against those who do not.

For example, I was once asked why I didn’t act enlightened all the time.  My coworker thought people who do yoga and meditate were like Buddha every second of the day.  “How come you aren’t calm all the time? I don’t get why you do yoga and are not in a continuous state of serenity.”

“That’s one of the reasons why I do yoga now,” I told him. “Because I have recognized over the years how much anxiety I had that I wasn’t even aware of; I know I’m not calm all the time.  Enlightenment is a process; it ebbs and flows.”

My coworker then responded that he disagreed with my statement about enlightenment. The people he knew who had a true yoga practice were always that way.  They were never anxious and always enlightened.  My practice then must be a sham.

I laugh now looking back on this. Who were these yogis he knew who were in a constant state of enlightenment?  Maybe he confused the ones in yoga magazine for real people in the flesh.  Maybe he knew yoga masters who practice in a monastery on a mountaintop because last time I checked we were all human and subject to moments of fallibility.

Yet on and off the mat, I am still working out my karma, struggling to find my dharma as I continue to question what a genuine practice should look like.  I now know a bit about what a genuine practice does not look like.   A genuine practice is not limited to hot, skinny, blond females, who are in a semi-drugged state of yoga bliss.   A genuine practice does not come easily.  It isn’t about increased flexibility or weight-loss.  There are times when you confront your own demons on the mat.  You realize that you have unforgiveness stored in your heart chakra.  You learn to love yourself and in the process love others as you slowly release pain from this life and (at times) the pain from previous lives.

A genuine practice does not boost your self-esteem.  You are humbled at the limitations of the human condition as you practice your poses.  You become aware of how you sell yourself out every day as a consumer in cultural capitalism.  How small acts of kindness (i.e. donating a pair of shoes to an impoverished child in Guatemala) do not change the system (i.e. the child still lives in hideous poverty).

You develop an increased sense of social responsibility as you come to grips with the excesses of the American lifestyle. The eco-friendly mat and water bottle no longer seems to compensate for the size your carbon footprint.

This is what I have learned about a genuine yoga practice.  It should not be based in a “yogaism”—one that excludes overweight individuals, persons of color, or working class individuals. Yoga should embrace all kinds of people who are different shapes, sizes, and colors.  Yoga is about making peace with self and others and embracing who we are—both on and off the mat.

babies teaching babies

John Friend and Anusara Yoga have never been my cup of chai but to each their own.  If you get high on the love and lite and kula, knock yourself out.  But I do have to say that I agree with what Friend says in this video.

In my area of far west suburban Chicago, yoga teachers are a dime a dozen.  When I was certified as a teacher almost ten years ago there were basically four studios in Chicago that had TT programs.   Now almost every yoga studio that I know of in the suburbs and Chicago have their own TT program.   The most searched for phrase here is “how much does a yoga teacher make” or something similar (the second most searched for term, which used to be #1, is “naked yoga” but that’s another post.)   My teacher training was not Yoga Alliance registered and neither was my teacher, but he eventually chose to grandfather into the YA because that’s what people looking for TT programs wanted, whether he was a “Yoga Alliance Registered” school.  However, he still thinks the YA is meaningless and so do I.  I let my membership lapse.

To make any money a studio must continually offer workshops or have TT programs.  A studio owner can’t make a living (i.e., support yourself) on only offering group classes (this is in my geographic area, your mileage may vary.)

If I had a dollar for every time someone over the years has told me I should do my own teacher training, I could buy a ticket to India.   I go back and forth on that question and I will admit that one of my reasons for considering it is money.  I made $250 in May teaching privately, not exactly what I call a living.  But ultimately using  money as the primary reason to conduct my own TT never feels right to me.

So with all the TT programs out there, I have to ask: what are the intentions?  Is offering a TT program a studio owner’s dharma?  Friend mentions the word “dharma” more than a few times in this interview and I think that needs to be considered by student, teacher, and teacher trainer.

Like John Friend, I also was a student for 7 years before I did my first teacher training.  Now people who’ve practiced for less than 6 months want to be a teacher.  Why?  Because it seems cool and hip and fun?  And what type of practice do you have?  Do you even meditate?  And yes, I believe every yoga teacher should have a sitting practice of some type.  In fact, if I had my own TT program every participant would be required to do a 3 day silent retreat with me before getting the piece of paper.  That would separate the wheat from the chaff real quick.

When I finished my first 200 hours of training, I felt like I knew nothing.  I felt like an ant at the bottom of the yoga hill.  Even after 15+ years of yoga, 5 trips to India to study with Desikachar and his senior teachers, and 1000+ hours of training (and next year with AG Mohan), I have crawled only slightly up that yoga hill.  I am student first, teacher second.  Yet, there are people half my age conducting yoga teacher trainings in my area whom I know for a fact do not have the training I have.   It confuses me.   The teacher with whom I trained has encouraged me to do my own teacher training, telling me “there are people doing it who don’t know half of what you know.  do it.”

Back in the day in the old school way, you went out to teach when your teacher said you were ready to teach.   That is how the teacher who certified me started teaching — he studied and lived with his guru for 8 years and then was told “go teach.”   I am not saying it has to be like that now, it would not be realistic here.   But now anyone who has had a weekend training or even just an online teacher training (believe it or not) can get hired as a “yoga teacher.”

Does this scare anyone else or is it just me?

I can understand someone wanting to do a teacher training to deepen their practice.  Not everyone who does a TT wants to teach.  Or should.   Friend says that not everyone is right to teach.  What is the person’s aptitude for teaching?  Is there a deeper calling to teach yoga, is it  your dharma?  Or is just something that sounds nice to do because you lost your job?  As for me, I was encouraged to teach by the teacher of my beginner’s yoga class that I took for a few years.  I also truly feel that teaching is my dharma — but that would require a lengthy discussion of my astrological natal chart so I won’t go there. ;)

A 200 hour training is merely the beginning and frankly, I have to ask what is being taught in all these trainings.  I ask this question because I was shocked at the quality of questions coming from people in my last training in India (all westerners.)   After the first days, I felt that the training was “dumbed down” because of these questions.  Many of the participants said they were teachers, but I know that my own students would not ask the types of questions that people were asking.   Their questions made me grateful (again) for my original trainings but then, that was almost 10 years ago and times have changed.

So are recent (i.e., within the last 10 years) yoga teacher trainings now merely diploma mills in the rush to get yoga teachers on the market?  Quantity over quality?

“The reason why yoga is presently skewed towards ekanga (or ardhanga without the breathing component) and not ashtanga is because by and large teachers do not teach the other angas.  When I was in school I heard a quotation which runs something like this: “If a pupil has not learnt, the teacher has not taught”.   Yoga is a rich subject.  Considering its popularity there is no reason why practitioners should not endeavor to go beyond asana practice while still having a very firm asana base. “  — Srivatsa Ramaswami, writing about what he has learned from teaching his 200 hour TT programs        

what is your yoga truth?

Hanumanasana is Overrated

“From a standpoint where the purpose of Hatha yoga is to facilitate and maintain a healthy functioning body, there is no reason why a person would ever need to be able to do Hanumanasana. However unattached we may be in working towards it, the goal belies our better purpose.

Touting images of flashy classical asana demonstrations as examples of “mastery” has led to a gross exaggeration of physical practice, beyond the point of practicality, and has fueled a physical fitness industry that is more concerned with aesthetics than health. I realize that I may be taking a hard view of things but seeing past the cultural sensationalizing of just about everything can be a daunting task given the deeply ingrained mores stacked against it. Some amount of push back seems necessary.”

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher — and as quoted by Paul Grilley about certain “truths” of modern-day yoga.

His philosophy controversial, Schopenhauer “claimed that the world is fundamentally what we recognize in ourselves as our will.  His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fulfilled.  Consequently, he eloquently described a lifestyle of negating desires, similar to the ascetic teachings of Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism and the Church Fathers of early Christianity.” (from Wikipedia.)

Why do we engage in certain practices at a certain time, why do we think they were important at the time? When do we begin to move beyond our conditioning and attachments? What is the impetus that throws us headlong into a different direction when we thought for so long that we were always headed in the right direction?

Has your yoga truth changed since you started your practice?

Rod Stryker: “YOGA IS A QUEST FOR THE TRUTH”

the dharma of doo-doo

It always does my heart good when I hear a student talk about how yoga has helped them in their life. Most of the realizations I’ve heard are more about the non-physical than the physical, things on a deeper level than achieving an arm balance or handstand. I sit back and say to myself (or sometimes out loud), yes, they get it, someone has been paying attention!

I’ve always said that yoga is about life so what better teaching than a pile of dog doo-doo in the middle of a bike path.

A few weeks ago I had told my students that at Will Kabat-Zinn’s retreat he had talked about how one little thought can create our reality in a second. For example, we’re walking down the street and we pass someone, we assign the word “creepy”, and our mind instantly creates an entire story about that person, we create an entire world around that person. Will said, “you never know what someone else’s story is.” In other words, just as the Buddha taught, be on the lookout as to how your thoughts create your reality.

Then on Saturday morning during the yin part of our practice I read excerpts from Sarah Powers’ chapter in Freeing the Body, Freeing the Mind: Writings on the Connections Between Yoga & Buddhism.

Sarah wrote about how embroiled she became in her emotions as she laid in bed bathed in sweat from the heat. She said she became “utterly intolerant of my experience and before I knew it, I was defiantly standing, almost expecting I would encounter an enemy lurking.” Sarah said that as she simply watched her intense emotions she became aware of how her angst effortlessly slipped away and how she began to feel calm and present. She was astonished at how a strong emotion can decompose as she mindfully turned her attention inward to her direct experience in the moment. Her next moment was no less fiery, but her inner attitude had shifted. Her experience of the sweltering heat had changed simply because her attention had shifted from resistance to mindful observation.

As my students were in sphinx post one of them told the story of how she was walking her favorite path and she experienced what Sarah experienced: the shift from rage to mindful observation of her fiery emotions:

“On my first lap I just missed stepping in some dog poop in the middle of the paved walking path that circled my neighborhood park. I was enraged that someone would let their dog defecate on the walkway without cleaning it up and assumed it came from the large dog being walked by a woman I had just passed going in the opposite direction a few minutes earlier. I spent the rest of my first lap feeling irritated and blaming this woman for not cleaning up after her dog.

When I got to that same spot during my second lap, I still felt irritated and decided dogs should not be allowed in the park.

On my third lap I began to wonder whether or not the poop had perhaps been there for several hours, which would then exonerate the dog currently in the park as well as his owner. My irritation began to dissipate.

On the fourth lap I realized I had no way of knowing if it was this woman’s dog that had made the mess, so I really couldn’t blame her. I didn’t think anymore about it as I finished the lap.

On the fifth lap, I reminded myself there was poop on the walk but it no longer upset me. An oncoming jogger and I smiled at each other was we both sidestepped the mess.”

After my student told her story I clapped and thanked her for sharing this marvelous teaching. “You get it!,” I told her, “You’ve no idea how this does my heart good, thank you for listening all these years!” I asked if she felt these emotions in her body — Buddha’s First Foundation of Mindfulness. Yes, she said. I told her that ultimately on the fifth lap she experienced Buddha’s Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, mindfulness of the dharma, i.e., the nature of reality which is impermanence — all things change. Her feelings of rage at the dog poop in the middle of the bike path during the first lap had changed to feelings of neutrality by the fifth lap. My student’s thoughts on first seeing the dog poop and then a woman and her dog had created her reality and her own suffering. If we are paying attention we notice how all things are temporary. That’s awakening, and it comes slowly but surely.

I said, “See how our thoughts create our reality? You created your own suffering all because of a pile in the middle of the path.” I asked whether she would have noticed these subtle shifts of consciousness if this had happened before she started a yoga and mindfulness practice. Her answer was no.

Yoga is Life. All things are a training. Even a hot steaming mess in the middle of your Path.

Mark Whitwell, part 2: enlightenment, head yoga, and all that other stuff

“There is nothing to attain! There is no such thing as enlightenment, only Life in you as you. No need to realize God when God has realized you. It is intimacy we want and it is freely given. It is the search that is the problem. Looking for something presumes its absence. As long as we strive for a higher reality, the looking implies this life is a lower reality.”

Those words are from Mark Whitwell’s Facebook page, but he talks about this in his workshops.

Last year I heard a few gasps when Mark told us “stop meditating!”  I smiled when he said that because I knew exactly what he meant: that meditation should be part of your life 24/7.  Not the formal sitting on a cushion but if meditation comes as a siddhi as Mark claims, then this intuitive inwardness is always with you.   As I tell my students, ultimately you don’t turn it off and on like a switch.   Just like the space between asanas is still asana, you don’t turn it off and on when you move from one pose to another.   Itneeds to always be there, this mindfulness practiced as asana, this formless quietude between the shapes that we take.

Our sadhana is yoga + pranayama.  As I also tell my students, you don’t always have to sit and do a formal pranayama practice as I have seen in yoga classes so many times.  That is, structured segments of this, then you do this, then you do this.  Frankly, in all my years of yoga, I have never heard any teacher say that your conscious breathing IS pranayama, that your embodied breathing IS pranayama, that you should embrace your breath instead of being a witness to it.  The guru to the asana is breath, that is what Krishnamacharya taught.  The breath is always first, not the asana.  You don’t start the asana and then think about the breath.

Of course all the techniques such as nadi shodana, surya bhedana, chandra bhedana etc. are formal pranayama practices (kapalabhati is not considered pranayama in my lineage, it is considered a kriya), but I have never heard a teacher in a typical class at a yoga studio refer to the breathing that I was taught at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and the breath work that Mark teaches (and that Svasti described here) as pranayama.   Sometimes I think my students get sick of me talking so much about the breath.  During class I ask them, “how’s the breath? and where is your mind?” Most times I get back, “I’m holding it, and I’m thinking about lunch.”   There ya go.   Switch on, switch off.

As for enlightenment, people are so anxious to get somewhere else other than where they are right now.  I am always amused to hear what people think “enlightenment” is.   After he sat under the bodhi tree, the Buddha merely said he was “awake.”   Awake to what?   Awake to the truth of living, the nature of reality, awake to the causes of suffering but also awake to the end of suffering.   Not running, but embracing reality AS IT IS.

Mark says it’s not enlightenment we want but “intimacy with life in every aspect; stop looking and start living.”

So how do we truly live when we’re trying to get away from life, from our minds?   People think meditation is stopping the mind, stopping thoughts — that’s just another way of trying to stop life.

When I was in teaching in Africa one of the students asked me during the dharma talk how to stop her thoughts when she sits.   I told her, “stop trying.”   She looked as if I had slapped her and I saw a flash of insight that looked like relief.   After the talk she was the only student who engaged me in a deep conversation about meditation and she said she felt like a rock was lifted off her shoulders.   I said, “You see? Your flash of insight was one step closer to liberation.   It is so exceedingly simple, but not easy.”   When the weekend was over she told me how much deeper her practice was because she stopped fighting.   As Mark says, it was her search that was the problem.   You can’t get it by trying to get it.

Mark said that we must have a connection to our embodiment of body + breath before mindfulness (and he calls it mindFULLness, which I love) can begin.   He said if there is no embodiment, if there is no asana + pranayama, dharma teachings remain abstract.

I found his comment interesting because I’m reading The Great Oom, the book about how an early 20th century yogi named Perry Baker (aka Pierre Bernard) brought body/breath based tantric yoga to his communities in the Gilded Age, something that was quite shocking at the time.

The author states how Vivekananda brought his meditation-based yoga to America as the “safe and practical way” for Westerners to dial into infinite.  Vivekananda, who started the Vedanta Society, expounded at great length on the three paths of devotion mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita — karma, bhakti, and jnana yoga — yoga from the neck up as the author of the Great Oom calls it.

“Vedanists and Theosophists shared the view that hatha yoga’s body-centered practices were queer and dangerous. Blavatsky [founder of the Theosophical Society] warned that pranayama was ‘injurious to health’ and useless to those seeking spiritual liberation. Vivekananda dismissed hatha yoga’s asanas as ‘nothing but a kind of gymnastics,’ and later put a finer point on it for curious followers. ‘We have nothing to do with it…because its practices are very difficult, and cannot be learned in a day, and after all, do not lead to much spiritual growth.’…

‘Body and soul are co-existent.’ Bernard insisted. ‘One is but a manifestation of the other. The best way to perfect the soul is through the body and the senses.’

The Great Oom, pp. 72-73

Mark referred to the swamis who came to the West as doing “Hindu missionary work” instead of bringing yoga.   The author of The Great Oom writes:

“In India, hatha yogis were forced to the margins of society, as they had been for centuries, not only by the British colonizers and their Indian sympathizers but also by Christian missionaries from the West, who saw such practices as the embodiment of heathenism. As a result, the generation of educated monks who came to America around the turn of the century were essentially a coterie of Theosophical-leaning Tantric-deniers and hatha haters.”

The Great Oom, p. 73

Hatha yoga IS tantric yoga, according to Mark, because tantra is the direct participation in life. HA = the masculine, THA = the feminine, and if breath is the reason for asana as Mark believes and we become directly intimate with life via asana + pranayama, then hatha yoga is the pathway to the Universe that is in us.   No more discussions needed on “what is tantric yoga.”

Without our embodiment of asana and pranayama, the teachings, the dharma, are abstractions that are not realized. “Yoga from the neck up” is DISembodiment.

In my opinion, the embodiment that Mark talks about is similar to what Buddha taught in his Four Foundations of Mindfulness — unless we are fully embodied in breath and body, how can we know the dharma of the nature of reality which is impermanence?  And fully knowing this truth, via the body/breath/mind, will we run from it or allow it to liberate us to become fully intimate with life?

Does this full knowing of the dharma of reality, the truth of impermanence, then allow us to fully embrace the juiciness of life from day to day, the intimacy with life that Mark speaks about?

I choose to be a rasa devi.

Love your body’s embrace of reality and truth.

sh*t a crazy old yogini says

You’ve heard about the twitter and Facebook phenom “Sh*t My Dad Says” (which I love by the way)?

Then welcome to the newest feature of this blog: Sh*t a Crazy Old Yogini Says.

“Practice itself is the vehicle of enlightenment. There are those rare among us who instantly become self-realized, but for the rest, it takes work.

I’ve heard the Dalai Lama say that westerners think too much, we are always lost in thought. A daily diet of words stirs up the mind, which in and of itself is not necessarily bad. But there is the risk that students will practice with their brains instead of their guts and thereby become enmeshed in the dharma instead of liberated by it.”

I like Susie Essman playing me in the TV pilot.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510′;

life is a vinyasa

1. I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

The forever changing images that I see in the mirror each morning remind me of the first of Buddha’s Five Remembrances. Today this soul’s present incarnation has been on this planet for over 50 years.

My photographs are also constant reminders of my mortality. Every birthday reminds me that I now have less time ahead of me than I have behind me. That knowledge makes each day more precious than the last. I will not die an unlived life.

“eat mangoes naked
lick the juice off your arms
discover your own goodness
smile when you feel like it
be delicious
be rare eccentric original
smile when you feel like it
paint your soul”
—SARK

What happened to the 16 year old? What happened to the 20 year old? They are still here but the package has changed, the ribbons are torn and frayed and the wrapping paper yellowed and weakened in spots.

I see these old photos and am reminded that I almost died at my own hand when I was 16. I never thought I would live to be at the party where my friend grabbed me with gusto around the waist. I could have left this earth a long time ago in more ways than one. I tried my damnedest for years to do just that. But I am still here, those girls are still around somewhere inside my head.

Those photos are also a reminder of the me I lost but found again once I got back on the yoga path. Life is a circle.


“The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished.”

The photos bring home the truth of the Five Remembrances and the truth of impermanence and they remind me to THINK. Birthdays are contemplations on what I would like to plant in this final season of my life.

What will it be?

What do I plan to do with this one wild and precious life?

2. I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

Every day I wake up with pain. My freaky femurs that Paul Grilley uses as examples of extreme internal hip rotation are beginning to ache. My hair is thinning and I can see my scalp. My eyes have the beginnings of cataracts. But I thank the Universe for my physical yoga practice because without it I probably could barely move.

I thank the Universe for my yoga and meditation practice that allows me to know the truth of Buddha’s Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness: mindfulness of the dharma, of the true nature of reality that nothing is permanent, that each moment is constantly changing. Asana practice offers a great window into impermanence because our practice changes every time we step on the mat, from day to day, moment to moment. Is your practice changing as you change? And if not, why not? Get real.

3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

These remembrances are the hardest lessons to learn. Thoughts of death of those near and dear to us and of our own death strike the most fear in our hearts. It is said that our only fear is the fear of death, all our other fears arise from that primal one.

We know things change but we put so much effort and energy into trying to live life as if that were not so. This is what Patanjali wrote about in chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutra-s: he described the qualities necessary to change the mind effectively and gradually from a state of distraction to one of attention, one of the qualities being avidya which is literally “not seeing.” This willful denial of reality, this willful not seeing the truth of impermanence perpetuates our suffering and misery. We so want things to never change – our hair, our skin, our supple spines, the people in our lives – that clinging to things that are by their very nature impermanent causes our suffering.

The suffering of change is what gives us the most gut wrenching pain in our lives. It is not our physical pain, but the pain of pain.

But when this truth of reality sunk deep into my bones it was liberation. I am not responsible for anyone’s happiness, I am only responsible for my own. No one is responsible for my happiness, I am only responsible for my own.

It’s a law of physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. We are energy bodies, filled with chi, prana, Life Force, whatever you want to call it. This body is merely the vessel that will eventually crack open and fall apart like an old terracotta pot. But the essence of me will live on. What is born dies but what is never born can never die. We truly are billion year old carbon.

We shall not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliot

5. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Like everyone else, my life is composed of losses and gains. My losses have been due to neglect, poor judgment, ego, recklessness, selfishness. My gains have been through hard work, grit, determination, and intuition. Other gains have simply come through the blessings of the Universe. Karma. I’ve been graced with a fortunate birth despite going through things back in the day that would have killed a weaker person. I should never have become this old. The cards were stacked against me. Or were they? I truly am a survivor.

The Five Remembrances keep me awake to the human condition. My spirituality has brought me closer to Spirit, have helped open a heart that was closed for so long, and has taught me to have gratitude for whatever comes my way. My dharma wheel is turning and it tells me to embrace the inevitability of life’s changes.

Life is a constant series of movements that change from one form to another — just like asanas. I have reached a deep sentient awareness that nothing is truly lost in the end. We meet who we are meant to meet in this life and people come and go and return again in a constant dance and flow — like a vinyasa. We meet ourselves and each other over and over again in this spanda until we find our way home.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?