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Simplicity In A Complex World

By Donna Amrita Davidge

"We must understand life is very simple - because the breath of life, by which we live, is given by God. Our life is actually a testimony to the fact that somebody gives us life." Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Yoga Master 11/19/2000

As we move on a yogic path with a goal of more balance and understanding of what life is, what our life represents and how life has meaning, we can become overwhelmed with choices. The path can seem complicated. Yoga, which means the union of mind, body and breath, or spirit, is currently approached in many ways.

Some come to yoga as a physical practice. Others come for other reasons. In a class I teach to actors I always start the semester by asking the students why they have decided to do yoga , what they hope to get out of it. One fellow's reason was simple- because Madonna does it. For whatever reason one first comes to yoga, if you stay with the practice the techniques ultimately lead us to a better relationship with the Self, also known as Self-Realization.

Going further into the practice, from the physical into the mental aspects, the process may appear to become more complicated. We are introduced to the principles of non-violence, non-desire and non-attachment. This could be interpreted as removal from relationships, others and the material world. That sounds simple but is complicated and nonessential to implement.

What yoga is meant to be is a tool to make our life simpler in the end by strengthening the body, the nerves, the mind and altering the consciousness in a way that life becomes something we can accept, appreciate and flow with. This tool helps us live as "householders" in society and in the world at large, not escaping to an ashram or monastery but serving the family and community in a "yogic" way.

Stuart Wilde, in his little book "Life Was Never Meant To Be A Struggle" says "Plot your battle plan and stay centered on it but let the winds and currents of life allow you to flow to other areas. Designing your life is a matter of discipline. You need certain things and you desire them. But how do you get them with minimum effort? By cutting out things that are superfluous. Toss the extra baggage and HOLD ONTO A LIFE OF SIMPLICITY. Constantly evaluate your circumstances to see if things are worth the effort. Often you will find they are not."

Yoga as a physical practice alone can give us the strength and discipline to find and maintain our center, which helps us learn focus and stay focused. The addition of a more deliberate mental practice, meditation, can vastly help us eliminate the baggage in our lives and in our minds,that baggae often being subconscious(samskaras). Regular meditators experience life in a simpler, clearer way. Though some people have the discipline of physical practice, the challenge of a mental practice may not be as easy for some or the results so readily observed. Meditators can shift their minds to a different consciousness, or awareness level, that allows them to flow with the currents of life, experiencing less drama and more calm. Life feels simpler for having the discipline to take the time to clear the physical cobwebs with asana (poses) and the mental cobwebs with mantra and breath. This can result in non-attachment and acceptance in a way that is healthier than removing ourselves from the world, being in the world but not of it.

Many people go to a yoga class to keep up their regular physical practice. They learn to concentrate on the poses and, if the instructor elaborates, on the importance of the breath. Not all yoga classes or videos/DVDs teach how to meditate or even to focus on the breath. The discipline of meditation may not be presented because it is considered by some to be an advanced practice. Meditation is actually quite simple and, when practiced on a regular basis, life can be experienced more simply, though not necessarily more easily. In meditation we take the time to sort our thoughts, assess our feelings, contemplate things that have happened or visualize things that are going to happen. If we learn specific techniques we can apply them to specific situations. Meditation techniques can balance the brain and ease anxiety. This in itself simplifies life.

Alternate nostril breath is one such technique, a classic yoga practice to balance the two hemispheres of the brain:
Curl the index and middle finger of the right hand, block off the right nostril with the right thumb, inhale through the left nostril. Block the left nostril, exhale through the right nostril. Inhale right nostril, exhale left, inhale left and continue this alternate nostril breath. You may keep this pattern going for as long as you like, finishing with an exhale through the left nostril.

Kindness and compassion, seeing all others as an equal manifestation of life, are simple and helpful concepts in yoga. In this way we see each other as mirrors of each other, mirrors which help us in our self growth. Yogi Bhajan says : If you don't see God in all, you don't see God at all (God being the energy that generates, organizes and delivers all!). When conflicts arise in our relationships, to simplify our interaction with someone when we feel the encounter may be emotionally charged, Kundalini Yoga offers a simple 3 to 5 minute Meditation for a Calm Heart.

Place the left hand on the middle of the sternum, facing the fingers to the right. Bend the right elbow as if taking a vow and press the index finger to the thumb, palm facing forward. Close the eyes, inhale through the nose, hold the breath in for a comfortable length of time, then exhale through the nose and hold the breath out long enough to be challenged but not to gasp for air. Inhale and hold, exhale and hold and continue this cycle of breathing for 3 to 5 minutes before going into a challenging meeting with friends or associates.

Recently a few people have suggested to me that Kundalini Yoga is most suitable to senior citizens. This is not an appreciation for the tools of meditation that are immediately introduced as part of Kundalini and for the fact that a physical practice can be challenging without being an atheletic workout. These non-athletic practices can be subtle and challenging in their own right.

Here is an example of how meditation techniques can help simplify our life, taken from a correspondence:
I am a pre-med student. I took Kundalini Yoga for athletic credit in high school. I also suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. I did not realize until after graduating how much of an effect the active nature of Kundalini Yoga had on my condition. The chanting, rhythm and energetic exercises engaged my mind and body allowing me to remain focused during the Yoga. I had problems with other forms of Yoga. Kundalini often left me with a mental clarity that I have not experienced anywhere else, not even when I take my medication! Kundalini Yoha has been so special to me!

After all, is not a life of simplicity ultimately a life of contentment. So if it is walking, which massages the internal organs, or something else that gives you that peace, give it to your Self on a regular basis.

From Wallace Stegner's All the Little Living Things : It will hardly do to confess out loud, in this century, what it took to content us. We walked, gardened, read. We simplified feeling.

Awareness of what helps us simplify and then doing it is all it takes!!
 


Amrita (Donna) has been teaching Kundalini Yoga in NY city since 1985 and in a retreat setting in northern Maine since 1997. She has produced video and audiocassettes and continues her practice with studying various forms of yoga besides Kundalini. She is certified by 3HO and Yoga Alliance. Amrita also teaches workshops on the East coast and has taught in Costa Rica and various spas. For more information: www.sewallhouse.com


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