Eternal lessons from the Bhagavad-Gita

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I have an old copy of the Bhagavad-Gita that sits near my desk. I cherish the “Gita,” and refer back to it’s eternal truths anytime I need inspiration, strength or clarity.

The Bhagavad-Gita is India’s most sacred scripture and considered by many western and eastern scholars to be among the greatest spiritual books ever known. I think of it as a beautiful poem that offers analysis on life, emotions and ambitions.

The Gita tells the story of the distraught warrior Arjuna and the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna. Krishna counsels Arjuna during a time of despair and though he is speaking to Arjuna, he is really giving eternal messages and truth to us.

In terms of pure spiritual knowledge the Gita is incomparable. It’s intrinsic beauty is that it’s knowledge applies to all human beings, and does not assume that one ideology is superior to another.

The Gita is genuinely approachable as it reveals eternal principles that are fundamental and essential for a spiritual life from all perspectives. Some of the greatest thinkers of all times have studied the Gita including Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Goodall, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Madame Curie and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Today I’m inviting you to reflect on the Bhagavad-Gita’s teachings on how there is always a bigger power.

In this case we’ll view this teaching through the lens of yoga practice, in the most holistic way.

Teaching yoga is second nature to me.  When I teach I learn. There isn’t a day that passes without me appreciating what a gift this has been in my life.

In my own practice I’ve had to honestly examine what my intentions are, and how they inform my life. Eventually I encourage all of my yoga students to reflect on these two questions.

Why are you practicing yoga?

What do you hope the practice will help you know?

Sometimes people are drawn to yoga because our culture says it’s a good idea. Many students believe yoga is the path that leads them to greater self-awareness and a way of getting to know who they really are. Other students believe the physical aspects will benefit their bodies and aren’t sure there is a spiritual aspect of yoga.

In truth, yoga asanas were created to help students sit for long periods of time in meditation, and develop a strong and stable spine. Therefore, yoga really is a path of self-study. As anyone whom has meditated on regular basis knows, this is no simple task.

All students of yoga will encounter some form of struggle in their practice,  and it’s often difficult to define what the struggle is. It’s quite fascinating. I’ve learned to read the cues, try to engage the heart of each student, help them feel safe in the practice. Sometimes that doesn’t happen right away or at all.

There might be too many tender places yoga opens. The mind is tight, it doesn’t like to go there. The mind body connection is so powerful. Yoga might bring up anything from laughter to tears,  aversion to utter joy, boredom to elation.

For many students there are long held tensions in the body, a result of deeply held emotional traumas, loss, and anxiety. Practicing poses is said to be like “waking up a sleeping lion.” It stirs up what lies beneath, brings up physical pain, emotional imbalance and creates feelings of wanting to escape.

I’ve had students announce to me, “I’ve decided I don’t like yoga after all.”  This is usually a pretty sure sign that resistance has shown up big time somewhere in the mind, body or emotions.

Many yoga students get really attached to practicing in a very specific way, and if they are invited to practice another way, the experience can be quite negative for them. Sometimes that is about feeling deep fear, loss of control, physical discomfort,  or not wanting to try something new.

The teachings of yoga help us to see how sitting with a feeling, being curious about it, allowing it is quite refreshing. We can loosen our tight grip.

I’ve definitely had my struggles in my own practice. At this point it’s evolved for me as a feeling of being grateful to move in my body, relax into my breathing and come home to self. That didn’t happen overnight. Happily I’ve witnessed students who report that yoga helps them feel completely at home in their body, peaceful, at ease, inspired.

Yoga practice teaches us how to make friends with our bodies, our shortcomings. It’s a way we can get to know ourselves, our patterns, how we live in our bodies and world.

The teaching here is that we have to allow for all of that. We have to get out of the way and lay down our resistance. It’s an act of kindness, a bit of a surrender, a invitation to live more gently.

Just as Krishna told Arjuna, “we must part the clouds of ignorance with self-knowledge, sever the ignorant doubt in your heart with the sword of self-knowledge Arjuna!”

Feel welcome to open the door and enter. See what is beyond your usual way of thinking and being.

Are you willing to be open? Is it possible for you to try something that you might not be “good at?”

Be encouraged to take a new approach. Whether you need to freshen up your existing practice, begin anew or try for the first time. Yoga is here for you. You get to decide what you want it to be for you.

If you are interested in learning more about the Bhagavad-Gita and it’s timeless lessons, I highly recommend reading Barbara Stoler Miller’s translation.

Stay open, be strong, carry on.

Much Love,

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