Shakti Rising: Explorations through feminine power and experience.

Shakti Rising: Explorations through feminine power and experience.

I have spent a good number of years mulling over what is authentically feminine/ authentically masculine, and whether there is such a thing beyond what we've cultural constructed. I believe that because gender is fluid, we each create our own version of what feels 'authentic', consciously or unconsciously. But if we're not careful we may find we have internalized someone else's idea of how we should be performing/presenting our gender in the world and so begins the inquiry in to what is true and real.

Now, I’m not a gender theorist or even a qualified tantra teacher, I’m just a woman sharing a few humble thoughts, with the hope that they may inspire dialogue and reflection for others to contemplate their woman-ness and bring to light how they experience their own divine feminine nature.

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Why striving for satisfaction is a spiritual dead end.

(It’s contentment I'm looking for.)

I like to close my eyes and locate a feeling in my body because by working out where it lives, I can get a sense of it’s anatomy- what it’s really made of -- and then begin to unpack it.

In asking myself where satisfaction lives, I’ve discovered it resides within my mind, driven by ego and the reward centre of the brain. On the flip-side, contentment lives in my heart-  it's a more pure state of being out of which true happiness arises.

I’m giving time and blog space to this matter because I’ve heard satisfaction being used synonymously to meant contentment/ santosha and yet I find them hugely different.

Santosha is the second Niyama of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. It follows Saucha/ Cleanliness, because we've gottaclear out the muck and cobwebs- attachement (raga) and aversion (dvesha)- for contentment to arise.

Yoga is skill in action, on the mat or in your daily life, one of yoga's highest goals is to cultivate Abhyasa (dedication, effort and consistency), while also having Vairagya (the ability to surrender and let it all go). This idea is also expressed in "Sthira Suhka Asanam": an instruction from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, inviting us to cultivate steadiness and ease in all things.

To have true contentment, we need to show up and do our best, but then let go of investment in outcomes. If we just give up effort from the get-go and accept an average outcome, this is more like consolation rather than contentment; it may breed resentment later because we did not try. We still need to have effort, however make sure we are unswayed by outcome.

Contentment dances a slow entrancing waltz with equanimity. Arising from within, it can exist regardless of circumstance and this is powerful ! No need to rely on external factors, striving or waiting for others. With santosha you'll be free from blaming, judgement and self-pity. Cultivate santosha and you have a garden in which true happiness can blossom.

In the Indian Epic Mahabharata, (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) the virtue of Santosha is discussed in many books. For example, in Shanti Parva (the Book of Peace),

"Santosha (contentment) is the highest heaven, santosha is the highest bliss. There is no higher experience than santosha. When one draws away all his craving desires like a tortoise drawing in all it limbs, then the natural resplendence of his soul soon manifests itself. When one does not fear any creature, nor any creature is frightened by him, when one conquers one's cravings and aversion, then is one said to behold one's soul. When one, indeed, in word and thought, seeks to injure nobody and cherishes no desire, one is said to attain Brahman (consciousness-bliss)."

—Shanti Parva, Chapter 2

 

Discover santosha by accepting how things are. No wishing for better, or more, or different in order to gain a feeling of content. Choose contentment now: choose to let go of attachment and aversion, you have the power to cultivate santosha!

Mantras for Santosha:

I am grateful for what I have and for what I do not have.

I learn from the joys and challenges life brings me.

I choose to honor the good in myself and others.

I choose to refrain from criticism of myself and others.

 

Meditation for Santosha:

Find a comfortable position (sitting or lying).

Notice how you feel – physically, mentally, emotionally.

Locate where in your body/mind you feel a sense of wellness and ease.

Nourish this sense of well-being.

Your single pointed focus is on: Nourishing Your Sense of Well-being.

Resistance, Yoga and Steven Pressfield

My partner T and I are, coincidently, both reading Stephen Pressfield at the moment. He is reading Do the Work and I am reading The War of Art. Our little brown packages from Book Depository arrived just days apart, and we laughed when we realized we had both stumbled upon the same author in our quest for a good motivational arse-kicking.

Ultimately, Pressfield is waging a war against Resistance (procrastination, self-sabotage and indecision, among other things). In both books, he urges his readers to knock down the walls between them and their most productive, awesome, creative self. His language is strong; he uses battle metaphors and talks of Resistance’s MO to crush, conquer and kill us. I love it. It gets me fired up to fight back against my own sabotaging demons.

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Battleground yoga mat: Self-improvement vs Self-acceptance.

Thanks Gurmukh-- I like where you are going with this one. It got me thinking and I realised I'm all about outcomes and self improvement, actually. I love change and working towards more of what I want and getting rid of what I don't. But I'm also big into making space for self-acceptance, letting go and having things be, as they are, in the right circumstances.

For those of you who take my classes, you know I’m of the mind that even if we come to yoga to get flexible, toned and lose weight it’s really important not to get too caught up in external outcomes so we can be present, breathe, soften the heart and move with deep love and respect for where we are at.

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