Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Happy World Water Day

Image Source
We know, water is life.  And yet water is often taken for granted and worse, polluted and endangered.

Today let's join together in solidarity with those who are working hard to protect our planet's life blood.  

Honor, bless, and thank the water.

How? Here are just a few ways you can participate:

Register to watch the free UPLIFT film Water is Life on

Make a donation to to help protect the Great Lakes.

Practice Pronoia Therapy with Rob Brezsny who asks,

What is the holiest river in the world? Some might say the Ganges in India. Others would propose the Jordan River or the River Nile. But I say the holiest river is the one that's closest to where you are right now.
Go to that river and commune with it. Throw a small treasure into it as an offering. Next, find a holy sidewalk to walk on, praise the holiness in a bus driver, kiss a holy tree, and shop at a holy store.

Awaken your second chakra, the swadisthana chakra through chanting the bija mantra Vam, embracing the juiciness of your own creativity and sense of play, and asanas for the pelvis and hips like Baddha Konasana (the Butterfly) and Bhujangasana (the Cobra).

And watch this video by my lovely friend Cindy Foley

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Stories of King Janaka: Saving Attention

Narada bows to Vishnu, Image Source
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the goal and practice of Yoga both have to do with Chitta Vritti Nirodh, or stopping the waves of the mind.

This is accomplished through an eight-fold set of practices known as Ashtanga Yoga.

In Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara) facilitates concentration (dharana) which leads to meditation (dhyana) which in turn leads to oneness (samadhi).

Narada Muni is a joyful, mischievous storyteller who wanders the worlds sharing news and wisdom.

Here is a story of King Janaka's visit from Narada Muni:

“You know King Janaka was called ‘Vidheha’ (means also ‘dead’ or ‘liberated from the body’)

Great sage Narada asked him one day, 
‘ Revered Sir, how are you called as Vidheha, you live in this world, how can you be a Vidheha?’ 
Raja Janaka said,’this is very simple. I will tell you about it in the evening. 
Now, please do this little job for me. There is milk in this bowl. You take this bowl & come along with me. Please see that not a single drop of milk is spilled on the Earth. 
Then only I will tell you why I am called Vidheha’. 

Narada took the bowl & followed Janaka everywhere. He had to be very careful because the bowl was such that by the slightest movement the milk might have spilled. He got very tired. 
When they returned in the evening, Narada asked ‘Please tell me now, 
I am quite fed up with carrying this bowl & following you everywhere at the same time.`

Raja Janaka said, `First of all tell me what you have seen?’
Narada, `Nothing except this bowl of milk so that it won’t spill.`
Raja Janaka, “Didn’t you see, there was a big procession in my honour, then there was a court wherein, there was programme of dancing? Didn’t you see anything?
Narada said, “No sir, I have not seen anything”.

Raja Janaka, `My child, likewise with Me, I also see nothing. 
All the time, I just watch my attention. Where is it going? 
Making sure that it won’t spill away like the milk.`

“This sort of attention one has to develop: chitta nirod’.  
Nirod means the saving of your attention, so your attention should not be on saving money & worldly things and all that, but attention itself must be saved. 
As you watch your money, as you watch your road when you drive, as you watch your child, when it is growing, as you watch the beauty of your wife, or the care of your husband, 
all put together you watch your Self – your attention. 
(Shri Mataji)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

What is a Yogini?

Image Source
Happy International Women's Day!

As I think about what this day means to me, part of what I find myself asking is, 

"What is a Yogini?"

More than just the Sanskrit gender designation for a female practitioner of yoga, the term Yogini has been used for centuries as a respectful title for accomplished spiritual teachers in the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions.

Yogini refers to an enlightened woman, whom some regard as possessing magical powers.

A true Yogini is an enlightened woman with exuberant passion, spiritual powers and deep insight. Yoginis communicate a sense of freedom, a sheer mastery in whatever they do. With their compelling gazes, they can hypnotize even a great yogi and are capable of changing their shapes at will. Tantric scholars have written about Yoginis as independent, outspoken, forthright women with a gracefulness of spirit. Without them, yoga can fail in its purpose and remain sterile.

The path of yoga, or union, encourages us to inquire into the nature of the Self.  

So today I am contemplating:

Who am I?  Am I a Yogini?
What am I so passionate about that it appears masterful, even magical?
Where do I feel a potent sense of community, freedom and respect for women?
When do I communicate my insights most openly and clearly?
How do I see myself as a manifestation of grace and divinity?
Why do I practice yoga?

Yogis and Yoginis, I invite you also to reflect, how are you honoring the sacred feminine in your life, in our world and in yoga today?

Interested in Yoga Her-Story?  Here are a few juicy articles to explore:

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Deepak Chopra at the Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas (Part 2)

Woohoo!  I've been waiting for this!  You are the Universe, Deepak Chopra

Stories of King Janaka: Ashtavakra, the Guru with Eight Bends

Ashtavakra: Image Source, Wikipedia
King Janaka was the student of a young man with a dreadful physical condition.

It is said that in the womb, Ashtavakra listened to his learned father reciting Sanskrit slokas.

Once, his father made a mistake.

The fetus made a sound to indicate that a correction should be made.  Insulted, the man cursed his unborn child to be born with crippling deformities of eight kinds.

King Janaka and Ashtavakra, Image Source: Wikipedia
As a young boy, Ashtavakra entered the court of King Janaka, and despite his youth expounded with great wisdom, knowledge of the Self.

This conversation is recorded in the Ashtavakra Gita which presents the Self as Witness, pure, radiant and majestic consciousness.

It also discusses the nature of reality, freedom and bondage from the point of view of Advaita Vedanta, the classical school of Indian philosophy which emphasizes Jivanmukti, the idea that moksha (freedom, liberation) is achievable in this life.

It states:

If you wish to be free,
Know you are the Self,
The witness of all these,
The heart of awareness.
Set your body aside.
Sit in your own awareness.
You will at once be happy,
Forever still, Forever free.
You are everywhere,
Forever free.
If you think you are free, You are free.
If you think you are bound, You are bound.
Meditate on the Self.
One without two,
Exalted awareness.
— Ashtavakra Gita 1.4–14, Translator: Thomas Byrom[6][7]

There is an interesting rendition of this story on the Isha Blog.  In it, Sadhguru concludes,

"One’s progress within oneself has nothing to do with what a person does on the outside, what is most important is, what a person is doing within him or herself. What you are doing with the outside world is just social; you conduct yourself as it is suitable for the situation in which you exist. It has social relevance but no existential or spiritual relevance. How you are within yourself is all that matters."

Monday, 27 February 2017

Saint Soldier: Namaste

Namaste, Yogis and Yoginis!  Have you heard of Saint Soldier, Canada's own Sikh rapper taking on gang violence and other weighty social issues here and in India?

"Do you feel it? Love's the realest..." Saint Soldier, Namaste

Stories of King Janaka: Yajnavalkya and the Light of Man

Yajnavalkya, Image Source: Wikipedia
Yajnavalkya is one of the earliest philosophers in recorded history.

He is famous for coining the word "Advaita" and for debating the nature of existence using the method of neti neti ("not this, not this") to discover the universal Self and Ātman.

He is also applauded as one of the rare Vedic scholars in history who encouraged and included women in the study of scriptures and debate, as seen here in a comment addressed to Maitreyi:

One should indeed see, hear, understand and meditate over the Self, O Maitreyi;
indeed, he who has seen, heard, reflected and understood the Self – by him alone the whole world comes to be known.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

This story of Yajnavalkya and King Janaka, also from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, points to the Self as the source of illumination when all other lights have gone out.

Here is a longer narrated version of the same text for you to enjoy:

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya speaks with King Janaka

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

What do the Yogis Say About Success?

Rama and King Janaka, Image Source, V&A Archives
Recently I was asked, "What do the Yogis say about success?"

Not feeling particularly "successful" myself at that moment, my response was, "I think I should ask a Swami!"

The reply I received from Swami Kashi said to read the stories of King Janaka, the wise Philosopher-King and father of Janaki, also known as Sita, wife of God-King Rama.**

Swamiji said,

"King Janaka is an example of a very rich, very successful person, who was a Brahma Jnani.  There's no contradiction between the two.  It is about your approach to your possessions and how you deal with it (such as generosity etc.) and not the numbers that make the difference."

Hahaha!  How characteristic that Swamiji's answer would require a little "homework"!

Authentic teachers always prompt us to investigate for ourselves.  Besides, those of you who know me as Swamiji does, know how much I loooooooove geeky yoga homework!

I suspect that such educational and entertaining research might benefit others as well, so I'm offering a sampling here, in a series of posts over the next several days titled, "Stories of King Janaka".

I hope you find them as amusing and inspiring as I do.

Thank you Sharon for your excellent question, and thank you Swamiji for your fitting reply!

**Important Update** Swami Kashi has informed me that actually, King Janaka, the father of Sita is NOT the same King Janaka mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (3.20) and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.  Looks like I have some additional homework to do to make sure I'm sharing stories of the correct King Janaka.  Lol, otherwise, I'll have to change the title of the series to "Stories of King JanakaS"!

You Can Learn to Read Sanskrit

The Rig Veda in Devanagari Script
I just came across this extremely helpful series of videos on YouTube for all of you who are interested in learning to read Sanskrit!

You may be wondering, "Um, Tara... why would I do that?  Isn't Sanskrit a difficult language?  Who has time for that?  Can't I just stick with translations?"

If you would like to experience the full benefits of yoga I encourage you to make a little effort in this matter.  It's not as difficult or as time consuming as you think to learn the sounds and read simple words and mantras.

Translations inevitably reflect the bias of the translator.  Yoga encourages us to use our intellects to study, and also to verify and integrate those learnings through our own experience.

Therefore, I think it is well worth the effort to compare translations and better yet, form your own interpretations of foundational texts based on knowledge of the original language, the wise counsel of your most trusted teachers and your own reflection and life.

The sounds of Sanskrit, which is described as a "perfect" language, have a resonance which may be diluted when mispronounced or when heard only in translation.  Even if you have no intention of becoming a Sanskrit scholar, you can benefit from the "good vibrations" of the sounds and the energies they invoke.

So go for it!

Learn to Read Sanskrit, Lesson One

Learn to Read Sanskrit, Lesson Two

Learn to Read Sanskrit, Lesson Three

Learn to Read Sanskrit, Lesson Four

Learn to Read Sanskrit, Lesson Five

Learn to Read Sanskrit, Lesson Six

Just in case you're still dubious about your ability to grasp this, check out these British schoolchildren reading, writing and chanting in Sanskrit!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Swami Kashi is Opening an Ashram!

Chaitanya Tapovan Ashram in India
Wow!  I'm so excited to share the news! Swami Kashi is opening an ashram in India!

He's already been leading yatras and retreats there for a few years now, but after 16 years of living in India, it will be fantastic for him to have his own centre!

Take a look at his 2017 schedule of events taking place around the world.

Fonte Avellana Monastery in Italy

This Vicharana Retreat in Italy looks spectacular!  It will be held at a beautiful 1000 year old Christian monastery three hours from Florence.  If you sign up before March 1, 2017 you can save $100 off the registration.

You can also watch his free lectures on YouTube.

I encourage you to attend whatever live teachings are taking place in your neighborhood or call to you from across the globe.

Swamiji's teachings are well grounded in countless hours of sincere self enquiry, study and service. By the way, he's also one of the best storytellers I know!

Swamiji's new puppies!
And guess what?  These cute fluffy little pups, a boy and a girl, are the new residents of the ashram!

They don't have names yet, so if you have any suggestions you can send them to:

Swami Kashi Muktananda Sarasvati Ki - Jai!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Love Love Love

My heart-felt Valentine for YOU!

Happy Valentine's Day, Yogis and Yoginis!

Wishing everyone a day overflowing with love of all descriptions, for the world, for those you care about, and for you, my dear friends and teachers!

Thank you!  I love you!

May the long time sun shine upon you!

All LOVE surround you!

And the pure light within you,
guide your way on!

Snatam Kaur at the Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas