INTRODUCTION TO KUNDALINI YOGA CLASSES

INTRODUCTION TO KUNDALINI YOGA

Thelma Gruss. Instructor
For Informaton: appliedyogasolutions.com
To register: e-mail info@appliedyogasolutions.com

4 WEEK SERIES FOR BEGINNERS

TUESDAY EVENINGS –MARCH 5, 12, 19, 26 FROM 6:30 TO 8:00 PM

ST MATHIAS EPISCOPAL CHURCH @ 6400 Belair Rd. Baltimore, MD 21206

Fee is By Donation

• Experience some easy Kundalini yoga exercises that will help you to gently loosen joints and gradually strengthen muscles.

• Learn how to breathe in ways that can help you detoxify the mind, body, and emotions, and facilitate the body’s highly developed healing powers.

• Experiment with some very effective meditation techniques that help one to still the mind, experience the mind for what it is, and develop a relationship with it that enables the mind to work actively and deliberately for your well being.

ABOUT THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION

Yoga and Meditation are powerful ancient human practices. Before civilization and before institutionalized knowledge, humanity had no way to get answers to any of its questions, except to create the answers itself, so whatever knowledge we hoped to gain had to come directly from individuals. At this time, when there was no writing, and language was only partly verbal, meditation was considered the highest form of acquiring knowledge. It was considered far superior to thinking or speaking because it dealt with the source of our knowing. Meditation was an inner search for the truth and our ability to meditate was highly regarded and everyone had something valuable to offer. New thoughts or new ideas or new revelations were met with great celebration and joy, and this is true even to today.

The ability to deeply meditate is innate in all of us, and is possibly our greatest talent. The practice allows us to be fully human and fulfill our greatest potential. It is true today, as it has been in the past that each person makes their own enriching discoveries.

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Tips For Yoga Beginners

TIPS FOR YOGA BEGINNERS

Getting ready to start your first class of yoga and meditation? Here are some tips to make your first experience more enjoyable.

 Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.

 If you have to eat before class, keep it light. An empty stomach is best.

 Be free of alcohol, drugs, or energy drinks in your system while you are actually doing the yoga and meditation.

 Make a conscious decision to do less rather than more with the postures and exercises. You don’t want to startle your muscles. It’s better to awaken them gently and give them some advance notice of what they must do. And we all have a lot of sleeping body parts! When is the last time you did something as simple as head rolls or shoulder shrugs or even overhead stretches? With yoga you will be saying hello to a lot of bodily awakenings. It’s best to go easy and be patient.

 Bring a pillow or cushion to sit on. “Easy Pose” is not at all easy to sit in if your muscles have not been doing it regularly. A cushion helps to relax the groin, thighs and knees so they can gradually settle into the correct posture.

 Bring a blanket. You can lie on it, cover with it, or roll it up as a bolster. Our basal metabolic rate drops when we go into a deep meditation so covering our heads or shoulders with a blanket or a shawl is traditionally recommended.

 In order to keep your focus directly inward, expect to keep your eyes closed through most of the exercises and meditations.

 Bring water. You don’t necessarily have to drink water while doing the yoga but lots of water before and after the session helps facilitate detoxification.

 And finally, don’t do just one yoga class and decide to give it up. In the beginning you may feel just how toxic and out of shape you have become, and you may think that the yoga is too hard for you. Your mind may be so out of control that you think the meditation is also too hard for you to do, but make yourself do the whole beginner’s series, usually just 4 weeks or 4 classes, and do what you can. Then watch how far, little by little, this brief commitment takes you, and then make your decision.

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We Can’t Let All of Our Energy Escape

We Can’t Let All of Our Energy Escape

Do we ever think about what a precious commodity our own vital energy is? Energy accomplishes. It makes things happen. It builds, destroys, repairs. What can happen without energy? Not much. Yet we give ours away almost indiscriminately and let it flow always in an outward direction away from our own central being. We may play sports, build bridges, go to the moon, surf the net, wash the car, or maybe just watch TV or read a book, but no matter how vigorous or serene our activity, the energy we expend is almost always outwardly focused. We need to keep some of it for ourselves and turn it inward toward our own interests and self preservation. It can make amazing things happen within just as it does when we direct it outward.

We live in an age when our energy is constantly being drawn outside of us. Perhaps this is because the universe is expanding and our own planet and everything on it, including us, is affected by centrifugal forces that are rapidly accelerating us toward new limits. That’s the times, of course, and we have to ride the wave of the future, but in the meantime, we ourselves need to remain intact. We need to learn how to hold onto some of the vital essence that is constantly going out and away from us, because if we don’t do this, we will feel drained. The only time our energy is exclusively available for internal use is when we’re sleeping. This is when all of our energy goes toward renewing, cleansing, healing, and invigorating us. Sleep is all about us and a good night’s sleep feels wonderful. How could we possibly live without what it does for us?

But we don’t have to be asleep in order to wrap our arms around ourselves and hold on to our own precious vitality. Meditation offers many of the same benefits that we enjoy with a good night’s sleep and more: a feeling of peace, restoration and renewal, yes, but meditation is a fully conscious and purposeful activity with attention to intention. One of the ways it works is by creating a kind of shield that captures our own energy and reflects it back in toward our center of consciousness. Just as with sleep, our own energy (or prana) becomes available for internal use, but it is conscious internal use. We can develop greater awareness, shed more light on problems, better cope, and find the strength to adjust and the vitality to transform. With practice, we become more aware of just how vital our energy is to us: to our awareness, comprehension, development, identity and fulfillment. Meditation gives a huge return on our investment of energy.

Meditation, however, is not a simple matter of closing the eyes. We have to keep our energy and our attention inside ourselves and we need some kind of handle or anchor that prevents us from being pulled back out, especially if outside forces are strong. The mind itself is an energy drain so meditation requires real steadiness. To stay ‘in’ we need to find things that will hold our attention while we are “in” there. And we need to still the mind. Closing the eyes is a tool because it sends us in the right direction. With our eyes closed, we ‘do’ things while inside ourselves in order to remain there. (Eventually meditation becomes a state of mind whether the eyes are open or closed). We do japa as a way to stay focused inwardly, we do mantras, we do deep breathing, and we do the third eye. Adepts and thousands of years of practice have yielded countless techniques to help draw us in and hold us there, because if we let go, out goes our focus and the energy with it. But when our meditation is successful, we feel renewed and more at peace, and with a greater sense of well being. This is because our own vital essence is allowed to work for us. That’s why we can’t give all of it away. It’s too important that we allot a certain amount to our own welfare.

So in the early stages of meditation we usual struggle just to focus inward and resist the outward pull. It takes time and practice for the shield and the pathways to be established so we’re encouraged to hang in there and just do the techniques without expectation. We pretty much start out working in the dark and only notice how good we feel afterward. But the energy within builds and over time gives us a feeling of strength and confidence. It gets easier and better. We begin to understand; acquire self possession; our consciousness expands. Meditation is an acquired skill.

Meditation is also a powerful endeavor. When we direct our energy outward, we see what we can accomplish: vast cities, scientific achievements, medical miracles, journeys into outer space. When we direct our energy inward we accomplish equally astonishing things. We break through frontier upon frontier of consciousness and we penetrate mystery. We unlock human potential, break codes, imagine, create… know. Yogic and Siddhi powers are very real if not easily understood. Because meditation is such an experiential and deeply personal endeavor, we seem to verify in another only what we have experienced ourselves, so the only satisfying way toward discovery is the practice itself. Ultimately, it is our own consciousness that is manifest and transformed, but work requires energy and we can’t give all of our energy to external accomplishment if we want the inner work to be done.

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How To Be a Tree

Have You Tried To Be a Tree?

If you have, did you discover anything profound? Many Yogis are fond of advising pupils to experience what it is to be a tree. “Go out, find a tree, and then discover what it’s like to be that tree.” Lessons from yogis usually involve some form of personal awakening so I wondered what I might gain by trying this exercise myself. Personally I love trees and notice them all of the time but I never thought to be one. Trees are, well, such a meaningful part of life. They are beautiful, of course, and appear everywhere in our symbolism. On some level they seem to represent what we aspire to be, a mirror, like the Tree of Life. Then too, the Buddha sat beneath a tree. Adam and Eve ate from one. Siegfried’s sword was imbedded in the trunk of a tree.

So, how to be a tree?

I like to take a daily walk in a nearby park and over the years I have developed a relationship of sorts with one of the older trees along one of the park paths. I first noticed this tree because of a smooth curve in its lower trunk that leans into the path like a sexy hip. This made me think ‘female’ although I have no idea if trees have gonads. She is tall and slim, with that pronounced little curve. All of her branches point straight upward and produce a short crop of vibrant leaves. She is completely free of dead wood. There is none sticking out from her sides or anywhere along her body, but she does have large round scars from fallen branches and there are healed gashes on her bark from who knows what. Still, this aged tree has such a neat appearance that I long to be just like her when I am old: nothing dead or non essential hanging on to her… all dispensed with. I do admire this. But that is me looking at a tree from the outside.

How does one go about being a tree?

I begin my exercise by talking with the tree about it. She does not talk back and I do not feel the least bit lonely. Her company is enough for me and I anyway take it upon myself to translate to myself whatever I can glean from her. I do have some insight into her nature because of what I learned in school. I know she has roots that sink into the earth and suck water from it. She draws this water up through her fibers that are composed of tissues and cells. She teases carbon dioxide from the air and draws it into a process of photosynthesis. Her vital interior is protected by a tough outer bark. Well, I pour water directly down my gullet. I inhale oxygen and burn calories. I have a vital interior too and skin to protect it.

But this is not about me. I must try to be a tree.

First and foremost, I find myself stuck in place. No restless walk-about for me. I’m not going anywhere ever, and I can’t even move my limbs. What is this to stand here practically paralyzed? I have great…no… I am infinitely passive. Birds, snakes, ponderous mammals, and climbing ivy have their way with me. Lovers carve their initials into me as deeply as they can cut. Screws, nails, axes are thrust into me for swings, hammocks, and sundry unimportant things. I don’t strike out. I have nothing to do with fairness or justice or doing or willing. I stand unmoved while the logger comes, or the rushing floodwaters. I am battered by the wind, eaten by insects. Raging forest fires advance on me and I stand tall and wide open, my branches in full bloom. Every living thing with feet or wing is racing from the flames while I stand and burn. No fight or flight in me at all.

I ask myself, what idle, vibrant entity, with no inner and no outer conflict have I become? Is it possible to be this laid back? I step aside and look at this tree and I tell it what it is. I say, ‘you are a tree’. It pays me no mind. I tell it, “I can see your structure and function and call you names and definitions. Do you think I don’t know you?”

Like a handful of pebbles thrown into a still pond, my words translate her undisturbed truth into my own reality: “I am not at all what you think”.

Of course you are not my thoughts.

I don’t know what it is to experience water climbing through me from inside the earth, or what it’s like to have a nest of baby birds nestled in some crook, to be stabbed and heal without injury. You eat the sunshine. What is that like? I can’t even taste it. I don’t know leaves the way you experience them and I eat fruit and nuts which you manifest as bursts of your own beauty. You are not what I think you are. You are not a tree at all. You just are.

I guessed that was the end of my exercise.

And I don’t know if I got the lesson the yogis intended but how can any of us be that tree? Surely this was not the point. What we may “get” from the exercise is a look at how we relate to something as familiar as a tree and how little we really know of, or appreciate, what it is to be that tree. Or of what it is to be anything.

Before I left the park I looked out at all of the trees, especially one very old great oak that stood massively alone in an open meadow, and I said to myself to them,

“Perhaps I do know you in this way: it’s not your spindly, barely threaded, inadequate roots that hold your huge trunk and massive teetering limbs upright against howling winds. My physics and calculations tell me that. It’s the strength with which you grip the earth. And how much I know about that!”

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Meditation: Trusting One’s Self

Trusting One’s Self

Sometimes I teach a meditation where I ask us to go deeply into what we perceive as our heart center and to feel ourselves breathing there. And once we are well established and breathing comfortably (about 3+ minutes or so) in that deep and centered place, I ask us to try to feel where the breath originates within and stay focused on exactly where it seems to start. It’s like catching pure air, but we try. Then I suggest that we go just beyond the border of where the breath actually happens and seek to feel where it may be coming from. It’s just a feeling, an experience we seek. I suggest we reach as far as we can to the source of the breath, hold, and then trust… completely trust ourselves right there.

For people who are used to working with the breath and focusing in this way, the meditation technique itself is not so hard, but when I suggest they completely trust themselves, many are taken aback and later say that trusting the self is really hard to do, and they would more easily trust something else. Easier to trust the source itself, they think. But the self expresses itself as the transition, the bridge, the window between two apparent worlds. The self is the expression itself. I suggest they learn how to revisit that place and trust the integrity that resides deep within the breath.

Trust is a wonderful experience that I can offer to myself and I don’t need to search outside for it. When I meditate on what underlies the breath and occupy that ineffable area within, I am able to rest. I feel safe and at peace with the transience of life. That space within is a dimension of myself that allows me to feel unburdened, free of worries and cares. With practice I am able to occupy that space more frequently and to incorporate it into my very presence.

Is it imagination that allows me to establish such a useful relationship? Perhaps, but it is also a tangible experience for me and allows me to conduct myself with peace and transparency. Other forms of life may be able to imagine things into existence but it’s very obvious that we excel at this. We have built, not spider webs, beaver dams or ant hills, but Gods of Olympus and Holy Spirits. We’re good. And we enter into the illusions we create as if they are houses of refuge from a universe far too awesome to bear. How can the minds of ones so infinitesimal be aware of something so infinite and inconceivable?

It’s hard to discover, and then completely trust in our own identity, especially if we think we own the self. Instead of experiencing life as a river that runs through us, we think our breath belongs to us and we contain it. But it only flows in then out as life and death. We have lots of beliefs about our self but we seldom seek the actual experience of self. To do so we have to go within and be willing to learn.

If we took only 31 minutes a day to link the ineffable to the concrete world, we would transform ourselves into totally living entities. We may find ourselves saying, more often than not, that we don’t know the meaning of our revelations, but not knowing would not prevent us from giving them expression, or more importantly, rob us of the experience they offer.

Think of our private dream world. We may dream that we fly around a room. Some people experience flying to other places. Of course we cannot “do” that in tangible life right now, but we nonetheless “experience” it in the dream. And these experiences are real. The nightmares, the falling, the running, the human interactions and sexual feelings are actual in our dream experience, even if they are only internal events.

Our visions, intuitions, psychic abilities, sudden insights, premonitions, imaginations, and our eureka moments…these are real. We are windows into other realms and we experience these worlds naturally, not as strange or weird, but as home. These insights are our birthright so why diminish their relevance? They are a huge untapped resource building up to the Age of Aquarius: a world full of inner worlds that create a virtual reality we can live with, in case, out of blindness, we destroy our present world.

And why not a new world based on awakened collective consciousness? This would be up to each individual and that’s no secret. All of the great religious teachers directed us to go within where the truth resides… within. It may be easier for some of us to flail about without and pretend there is no inner truth to be discovered, but some of us can truly and deeply trust ourselves and be able to take our own inner journey to knowledge. Those who do take the inner journey may discover how strong and multi-dimensional we really are, and this may lead to a new world that is beyond our present imagination. As always, the answers have to come from us.

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What do WE know?

What do WE know? We are big toe dipping into the Age of Aquarius when every presence will be as a byte in the collective consciousness. We certainly need to know what WE virtually know, and with more access to each other and more freedom of expression we may tap into a huge internal reservoir that generates new ideas and fresh insights. We may discover new truths that lie within our own psyche and be able to resolve difficult dilemmas about what to do with earth and us. But we have to understand what we mean by the profound question “what do WE know?” It’s a challenge that presents itself in everyday life.

For instance, I once had a miniature black poodle named Tex. He didn’t look impressive but he was 100% pure poodle. His legs were too short, his mustache was crooked, and he was always scruffy looking even after grooming and a bath, but in his own world he was highly regarded…a sort of champion. And friends who knew him said he was a born psychiatrist. There are lots of Tex stories, but I have a few favorites to share as a way to illustrate my own journey about the question of knowing.

My friend Cynthia tells a good Tex the Champion story about how he “saved” her and her own little poodle named Rosie. One early afternoon Cyn took Tex and Rosie for a walk in the park. It was an odd time of day for people to be in the park and they were the only ones walking a path through the trees. Suddenly a strange, wild looking un-collared dog rushed to about 15 feet in front of them. The dog, large and larger still with hackles up, stared menacingly at them, his lips drawn back in a snarl, teeth bared. His back was arched and he was growling strong enough to create vibrations in Cynthia. She was struck with fear for the poodles, and for herself, and was frozen to the spot, not knowing what to do when Tex slowly walked away from her and toward the growling dog. Cyn felt certain that Tex was trying to protect both her and Rosie but the stray dog was so big and dangerous. She was afraid for Tex and called him back but he continued to approach the other dog and when he got in front of him, Tex stood up on his hind legs and licked the snarling dog’s exposed canines. The towering dog stood still and tolerated Tex’s licking then he lowered his hackles and sniffed nose to nose with Tex. Somehow satisfied, the dog went limp and quickly sauntered off. Cynthia was amazed with Tex and exclaimed, “That dog is not a dog!”

Tex was a great soother. Rescuing dogs or people from their own troublesome feelings seems to have been innate in Tex. He once jumped from my lap and out the open window of my moving van in order to reach some crying baby in a nearby parked car.

He had his successes and he had his failures, but he never failed to have an effect.
For instance, there was Rusty who could not be soothed. I had a summer cabin in the woods and down the road a ways my neighbor Pat had a Pomeranian named Rusty. Her cabin sat back a safe distance from the dirt road but when Tex & I walked past, Rusty barked frantically. This went on for years. Tex usually looked at Rusty as if studying him and then walked on, but sometimes Pat waved us up to visit, in which case Rusty was beside himself with staccato-like barks every step we took while Pat laughed in great amusement. I think Tex tried everything to put Rusty at ease. Each visit he patiently used a careful approach. He walked slowly and paused frequently between advances. One time Tex even tried tucking his tail (something he never did, even in his sleep) and lowering his head, only glancing sideways as he moved forward. He stopped and laid down facing Rusty, he lay down not facing Rusty. He stretched out on his side one way, he turned the other way. Tex developed such a concerned look when he faced Rusty that he seemed to be pleading. Nothing worked. Rusty just barked all the more frantically, if that was possible, and never had a close encounter with Tex, but the effort was not completely without results. One year when we all came together for another summer season, Pat called to me and said,
“Look at Rusty. He has a limp. He’s been doing that all winter.”

Because of an operation, Tex had a distinguished limp himself. He would very briefly lift his hind leg just a bit every other step or so.

“Oh no” I said, “What happened? Did Rusty have an injury?”

“There’s nothing wrong with that leg!” she whooped. Can you see? He’s walking exactly like Tex. Ha! Imitation is the highest form of flattery. He thinks he’s Tex!”
So Rusty found a way to be strong after all.

Sometimes ‘what do WE know” has to arrive in just the right context for us to understand its meaning. Then it has its impact.

A year or so after Tex died, I did my usual morning meditation and was in a deep state. My mind, my senses, and my visual field were in a dark and silent empty space when suddenly out of the void a vision of Orion appeared, one leg bent at the knee, the other stretched straight back, sword and shield at the ready, and off he went in that static pose, as if propelled by some internal cannon, and he disappeared far into the vast space. It was so sudden and quick. The image rose and disappeared in a second but it carried a profound and wordless message: this was Tex. He was a great spirit. It literally struck me. Tex was a very great spirit. Not a “spirited” dog or a dog with spirit, but a great spirit as dog. I was profoundly moved. It was as if I had just learned that the Clark Kent I lived with was really superman. I had spent a little over 18 years with Tex, adored and admired him, but who really shared those years with me and with others? Call me crazy. Sure.

One day, soon after my vision, I ran into my friend Terry in the same park where Tex and I once walked every day. Terry was walking her own dogs and we talked as we went around the trail. She brought up Tex’s name because she missed him too, so I told her about my meditation and how I was stunned to learn that he was a great spirit, but then I hedged, became apologetic and dismissive.

“Well, I mean it was just something that came up in my meditation. It doesn’t mean anything really.” And she angrily retorted,

“What do you mean it’s nothing? What do WE know? You don’t know if it means anything or not. We don’t know anything about a lot of things. Tex was special.”
Wow. What DO we know? Or WHAT do we know? What do we KNOW? And what do WE know? What a great response from Terry, and how helpful. It made me think more openly about our own unshared inner revelations and of what a loss they may be to all of us.

Somehow we seem embarrassed by our own private knowing, as if it subjects us to even more scrutiny than our naked bodies. Or will turn people away. We’re embarrassed by other’s naked illusions too, and quickly react, saying “This is too much information. This has nothing to do with me.”, like the reaction to a religious belief. Someone says “God watches over me. I feel it.” and someone else says “Let me out of here. I don’t believe that stuff.”

My sudden impression of Tex as a great spirit took me by surprise. With time it has proven indelible. Because what does it mean to impress? It means to imprint, to stamp. Some things we just think. Thousands of fleeting thoughts come and go every second, while some thoughts make an impression and mark us. But what does this striking mean? Pay attention? I’m highlighting this?

Humanity used to put its greatest value on personal vision and revelation, the source of all creativity and knowledge. Christ, Moses, Muhammad, the Buddha… all men, each undeniably a human being. How seriously we consider what came up to and out of them! What has come out of all the Shamans and Yogis and Medicine men and women worldwide in villages and huts, on back streets and corner churches? What comes from an artist, a poet, a musician? What comes up to and out of me or any of us? It may be only I who knows what I know. Each individual has his or her own little storehouse but collectively our inner knowledge could open a wonder of wonders and give us answers undreamed of. Perhaps the time has come to trust our individual selves.

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No Place Like Home Meditation

You’re tired but strung out. You feel like a car that has been driven 60 miles per hour in second gear. Your RPM’s are screaming. You just want to be home. Even if there are children, pets and a spouse to make demands on you, when you open the door of your own abode, you feel a kind of relief that only home allows. There is also a home inside of us and when we enter into that chakra, we are able to deeply relax and let go for awhile. As with many meditations, the breath is our vehicle for travels within. If you would like, try this meditation and see how it makes you feel.
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Heart Meditation

A Heart Meditation

When is the last time you checked in with your heart? They work for us every minute of every day and carry all of our burdens and joys. Do we ever check in on them? Continue reading

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Meditation…spend quality time with you.

Did you look into the mirror this morning and say hello to yourself? Did you ask you how you are doing? Continue reading

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Feeling “Not Right” can be a good thing.

Feeling “Not Right” is a good thing.

With Meditation there’s a lot of hype and suggestions of “just do this”, (which I’m guilty of myself) but the truth is that we don’t just sit down and go into Nirvana. If we practice the end stages of meditation in order to be empty and in the moment without first liberating ourselves, then we will be sitting, eyes closed, bound within our conflicted selves, even as we momentarily relieve our stress.
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