What is it you really want?

babaji-1999What is it you want? If you got the thing you want, what would that give you? How would you feel – relaxed? peaceful? happy? Maybe that’s what you really want, and the thing you’re hoping for is just a means to that end. If what you want is to be relaxed, peaceful and happy, what’s keeping you from being that way now?

It’s pretty easy for most people to come up with an answer (or several answers) to that question:
– I can’t relax because I have so many responsibilities. I have too much to do.
– Maybe I could relax and be happy if my back didn’t hurt so much.
– I’d love to take it easy, but I have to work. I can’t quit my job because I have to earn money.
There are many variations on that theme. Sound familiar?

Is money, work, physical pain what’s keeping you from being happy, relaxed, at peace or is it your response to your situation?

If a person thinks the burden of the world is on their shoulders, they feel the weight of the world and in a few years they become hunchbacked.

Maybe if we could have the things we want, it would help, at least for a while. If you can take a vacation from work, you might find some relaxation and ease. Money can buy you some things that could bring some fun into your life. The problem is it doesn’t last. It’s great when we get what we want, but generally at some point dissatisfaction arises again. The question is: Can you be happy and in peace right now, in this moment?

You have your duties and responsibilities to the world and you can do them with a smile on your face or you can have a sad heart and tears in your eyes. It doesn’t make any difference to the world but it makes a difference in the way you feel.

How can we switch our response to what we see as a burden? If we pay attention we can develop awareness of our thoughts and begin to notice when we’re going down a path that has never led us to peace and happiness before. For example, if our usual habit when we’re upset about something is to get angry and blame someone else (or the world), we might avoid seeing that the problem is in our minds, not ‘out there’, with distractions like overeating or indulging in ‘shopping therapy’. To change our response to suffering, we have to look within.

Switch the mind or learn by burning the fingers that fire is hot.

You cannot control the world (much as you may want to). What you can do is learn from your own experience that the responsibility for your view of life lies with you. You can choose a response that can lead you to peace right now.

You can take a step in that direction by doing something that leads you out of your habitual thinking: go for a walk, do asana, play music, write or draw, help someone else – anything that takes you out of your preoccupation with what you don’t have and takes you out of your stuck place. Getting out of a stuck place involves shifting from negativity to the openness of the present moment. To support this shift, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests asking, “What’s not wrong?”

Life is not a burden. We make it a burden by not accepting life as it is. We desire everything. If we don’t get what we desire, we feel anger, depression and pain. If we do get it, then we get attached, jealous and discontented, which again causes pain. So the root cause is desire. If we put a limit on our desires, there will be a limit to our pain. Gradually we can reduce the limit, and one day the desires will be decreased so much that we will not even think about them. That state of mind is peace.

Wish you happy.

contributed by Sharada
text in italics is from writings by Babaji

Soup, Beautiful Soup – Recipes for Fall

soup-joana-mendez-flickr-cc
Ayurveda has always stressed the importance of serving freshly cooked meals, using fresh ingredients, and cooking with a sense that we are feeding the divine within ourselves. To have the means and the skills to feed ourselves is such a blessing! And to be blessed with the abundance of a home garden from which to draw the ingredients, is a double treat. Even if your ingredients come from the local farmer’s market (or a nearby Costco!), do make sure they’re labeled ‘organic’. Better for you, better for the planet, and so much tastier!

The cool, windy qualities of fall may call us back to the kitchen, with visions of a hearty bowl of warming soup to share with our family during the darkening hours of evening. The soups below (when prepared with ghee) will also help bolster our digestive agni to help maintain the ojas, or vital immunity, during the coming days of winter.

Enjoy either of these soups with your favorite grain dish and an assortment of steamed greens! Nourishing and satisfying as you prepare for an evening relaxing with friends!

Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

One of our favorite blended soups, this sweet and creamy dish is vata reducing, pitta balancing and, depending on how much you eat, can be kapha increasing! Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 2 T ghee or olive oil
  • 1-cup leek or onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 4 cups soup stock (or water)
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash (skin removed)
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon (or cube) of vegetarian bouillon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Steam or bake the butternut squash and mash it a bit.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped leeks (and garlic if used), and cook until leeks are translucent.
  3. Add soup stock (or water), squash, grated carrots, bouillon, and turmeric.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots and ginger are tender.
  5. When cool, transfer to a blender; blend briefly to desired consistency. Soup is intended to be thick and creamy, so add water only if necessary.
  6. Return soup to pan and heat to just below boiling. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon to taste.
  7. Serve with a swirl of cream on top, or a sprinkle of parsley. And if you still like to indulge in wheat, some crusty French bread!

Thanksgiving Beans

This festive soup is from Dan Jason’s “The Whole Organic Food Book”. A sublime centerpiece for your Thanksgiving celebration, this dish is especially delicious if the main ingredients are fresh from the garden. Prepared with love, this soup is balancing for all three doshas. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 1-cup beans (lentil, adzuki, pinto, black-eyed peas are suggested)
  • 4 T olive oil or ghee
  • 4 medium onions (or 2 leeks), coarsely chopped
  • 2 T chopped garlic (optional)
  • 4-6 cups plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium sized winter squash, cooked
  • 1 T green, red, or jalapeno chili, finely chopped
  • 2 T orange rind, chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled, cored and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight or at least 4 hours. Heat to boiling in a large pot and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Sauté the onions (or leeks, and garlic if used) in oil in a large skilled until golden. Stir in tomatoes, squash, peppers, orange rind, raisins and spices.
  3. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the drained beans and apples. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with oven-roasted potatoes.

May your appetite be hearty, your pantry full to overflowing, and your heart attuned to sharing the abundance of this life.

– Pratibha

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que[at]gmail[dot]com.

Soup photo by Joana Mendes.

Asana of the Month : Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance)

Pincha Mayurasana (pin-cha my-your-AHS-anna)
aka Feathered Peacock or Forearm Balance
pincha=feather mayura=peacock

Kenzie demonstrating full Peacock pose.

Kenzie demonstrating full Feathered Peacock pose.

Yogi/blogger J. Brown recently wrote a brave piece dethroning the King and Queen of yoga – Salamba Sisasana (headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). Though he discussed the very real potential for injury, especially in group classes, his greater emphasis was in regards to sticking to an ideal ‘pose’ in teaching and practicing when in reality it does not serve our body or reflect our body of wisdom. We need to teach what we know, and our knowledge must evolve with our practice over time.

I relate to this because these two poses have never served my body. Maybe it’s my long neck/short arms/long torso combo but I have intuitively refrained from practicing these poses. Since having kids my home practice has migrated to evenings and my full inversions have been traded for partial ones. Now that my children have begun full time school I have again claimed morning (and full inversions) for my practice. In doing so I have found my royal couple! I crown Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) and Pincha Mayurasana (fore arm balance) my new ‘King and Queen of the Asanas’!

Let me tell you about my Queen. She is less intimidating than her husband as she has a firmer base with the head not as far from the floor.

Pincha mayurasana is technically a symmetrical inverted balancing arm support pose. While the lower body is designed for carrying weight and balancing, the upper body is less well designed to do the same. This pose is not only perfect for strengthening the entire body, but having the hands, arms, shoulders and upper back co-ordinating support for the lower body counteracts the negative postural effects of the ubiquitous forward slumping default pose of our digital age.

As I begin the journey towards my fullest expression of feathered peacock pose I see myself working through three kramas (stages) to get there. The kramas are meant to be practiced very slowly and deliberately over time to build up the physical strength and proper alignment in order to eventually perform the full pose safely. Start by staying in the first krama for 15 seconds and working up to one minute. Finding ease in one pose is an invitation to move on to the next one.

Krama 1

Krama 1

Modified Adho Mukha Svanasana

Modify Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog) by placing palms and forearms on the floor shoulder distance apart. This ‘dolphin’ pose allows you to become familiar with the composition of the upper body while only in a partial inversion. You can begin improving your ability to hold the arms parallel and shoulder distance apart by hugging the shoulder blades against your back and pulling them towards your tailbone. Hug your forearms inward as you rotate your upper arms outward to keep your shoulder blades wide, then spread fingers, engage hands and press your wrists into the floor. Try ‘dolphin push ups’ by bringing your nose to the floor between the hands and then back and between the elbows while maintaining the integrity of the 90 degree angle between torso and thighs. This will help build up the strength needed to perform the next krama.

Krama 2

Krama 2

Ardha Pincha Mayurasana at the wall

Ardha (are-dah = half) Pincha Mayurasana at the wall will build up even more strength and confidence for the full pose. While sitting in dandasana (staff pose) with your feet against the wall make an imaginary mark on the floor at your hip. Kneel with your back to the wall and place your elbows on this mark and lift up into dolphin pose. Step one foot high up the wall, then the other, walking both feet down until they are parallel to the floor and your torso is upright. Press upper thighs and tailbone towards the ceiling as the feet press firmly against the wall. Play with shifting the weight between elbows and hands, perhaps finding the sweet spot for balancing just ahead of the elbows and towards your forearms. Allow your head to hang down between your shoulder blades and find your drishti (focal point) across the room from you.

Krama 3

Krama 3 - using the wall for support

Full pose using the wall for balance

The final karma is to practice the full pose using the wall for balance. Kneel and bring your fingertips to the base of the wall and press into dolphin pose. Step one foot toward you while pressing through your opposite heel and take a few practice hops while exhaling fully. Once the legs make contact with the wall press through your heels to straighten your legs and hug your inner thighs together. If the low back is arched due to tight armpits and groin hug your front ribs into your torso, reach your tailbone towards the heels and press the heels higher up the wall. Keep shoulders lifted and broad as you come down one foot at a time on an exhalation. Practice moving yourself further and further away from the wall, using it only to guide you into balancing on your own.

Extra tip

To encourage proper shoulder action, especially if your elbows keep sliding away from each other, press your hands onto the opposite ends of a foam block with wrists perpendicular to the floor. Alternately have palms face up and press pinkies into the ends of block. If this isn’t enough, buckle a strap over your upper arms just above the elbows at shoulder width.

Contraindications

back, shoulder or neck injury; headache; heart condition; high blood pressure; menstruation, third trimester of pregnancy or if not a part of your regular practice.

About the Instructor

Kenzie-headshot

Kenzie Pattillo completed her 200 hour YTT at Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in 2002. She is a householder yogi/mama living in North Vancouver, B.C. and presently teaches yin, hatha and flow yoga in her community. En route to completing her 500 hour YTT designation she has recently begun practicing one on one restorative therapeutics.