Monday, April 23, 2012

ways of the yogic warrior

Drona, the great archer and acharya to the Kauravas and Pandavas:

The master turned to his other pupils. "How could you bring the bird down unless you saw it properly first? That is what you must learn: to see the target and nothing else. Archery is no less than dhyana. Only he who treats it as such, only he who is reposed in his archery and gives himself to it utterly, can be a master…Never think of yourselves as shooting at targets that do not shoot back. That isn’t the way of the warrior."

--Ramesh Menon’s The Mahabharata

It’s a recurring theme recently: this warrior-ship. It first really came up for me when I was taking James' course on the Bhagavad Gita in Mysore 2010. Since then, I've come to realize, that I've partly been at war, war with old karmic patterns, war with my very own self.

Now, it’s just everywhere. Before I left Manila, I manically finished the two seasons of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which had a few key characters that exhibit the characteristics of the yogic warrior, peace-loving by nature but steady in their strength and their dharma and when pushed are ready to fight.

Recently, Paolo Coehlo’s “Warrior of Light” has landed on my bedside table and I’ve taken to reading his bright pearls of wisdom from time to time. When James and I recently taught in Bahay Kalipay, a former kick-boxer-slash-economist Tom was running an on-going spiritual warriorship training in its sister-conscious community Maia.

And now I am reading—quite zealously, I might add—a modern retelling of The Mahabharata by Ramesh Menon, whose version of the Ramayana I also enjoyed last summer. The entire epic tale illustrates a great fight between the forces of good and evil, and the warriors that have been given the task of bringing balance to the force. Perhaps I should watch “Star Wars” next…

It seems like an oxymoron, putting the concepts of “yoga” and the “warrior” together. But the analogy really fits. The struggle that exists in the day to day is real. The battle between our egos and our true natures is raging—all the bloody time!

I think the more we embrace this truth, that we are all embroiled in some internal battle, while most of the time fighting off several external demons simultaneously, the more prepared we are to fight the good fight. We can discern the enemies. We can sharpen our tools of war and our arsenal of defenses. We can be calm in adversity. Cool under pressure. Wise in our warrior-ship.

Monday, April 9, 2012

love, light & transformation, bahay kalipay-style

Bahay Kalipay

Rebirth at the House of Happiness.
I am dancing, the goddess
recreating the universe, spilling
over into this new realm of being.
Unafraid and emboldened by LOVE.
I am spinning a new web with
which to catch my dreams,
my silvery thread woven with
the newly discovered sense of
strength, courage, steadiness,
commitment. Commitment to living.
Living with intention, with light.
The full moon shines, then the
Sun rises. A new day.
A new opportunity to offer and pray.
To give thanks, to give love.
To be love.

Mmmm. What to say... So grateful to Bahay Kalipay, to Pi and Daniw especially for offering us the House of Happiness for this last weekend's retreat. So grateful for the open-hearted participants and the wonderful friends (Elaine, Kai, Audi, Alexandra, Claudia, Aya, Daniw...) who joined us in song, movement and satsang. Also, feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to share with and be guided by two real stars/bright lights/teachers that I really respect and love.

It's the retreat that nearly didn't happen--several times. And yet, it was abundantly clear as soon as things got started that the Easter-themed yoga offering, which was first conceived over a year ago during my first trip to Bahay Kalipay, was also always meant to happen. As usual, the Universe conspires against us mere mortals for our own betterment.

With only a one-month lead time before the date, we announced Love, Light & Transformation, a collaboration between myself, my dear friend and visiting philosophy teacher James Boag and inner dance healer Pi Villaraza, which was held this last Easter weekend, April 5 to April 8.

However, almost immediately, everything clicked into place. We dove into the themes of Easter: love, forgiveness, sacrifice and rebirth through a variety of modalities. James shared through rich talks based on practical ways of embodying yoga philosophy while I shared poetry that touched on the themes that we were discussing. We both led asana class with the group. And nightly, James led kirtan, elevating the frequency of the retreat, if not the entire property. Pi facilitated one group inner dance and a partner inner dance the following day, both beautifully feeding into the flow of the retreat. And throughout, Daniw, the embodiment of mother divine herself, gave her love through the deliciously prepared raw food, which nourished us every meal.

There was an abundance of love. There was a lot of light being shone in all sorts of dark corners. And in the end, a lot of lightness because of it. I could feel the shifts and transformations happening within the group. It was lovely to see and amazing to be a part of.

I'd like to write more about the experience, but I find that I am still quite in the process of processing it. Instead, I offer two pieces of writing that I wrote and then shared in the last morning of the retreat. They offer the most sincere insight of how special this weekend has been for me. The first is "Bahay Kalipay" above. The second is the untitled piece below:

What is this feeling? Newness? Space?
I feel the mystery of it. And I am a little afraid.
Afraid of its expansiveness. Of how much
it occupies my being. But beyond fear,
I feel curiosity. I cannot overlook its magic.
How shiny and bright and alluring it is.
And beyond curiosity there is awe. Awe
at its sheer simplicity. How great it is.
How whole and full and incredible it is.
What is this feeling?
It is love. Not your ordinary love.
Not your extraordinary love. Love. LOVE.
All encompassing, beating, the pulsating
vibrancy of the universe located in my heart of hearts...

coming home: thank you, manila

Sunset, Manila Bay & city traffic.

I prescribe to the saying: "home is where the heart is."

Well, this little heart of mine has been on the move. Literally and figuratively. So the term "home" has been relative for the last year now. It has been a rented space in Boracay; my sister's couch in Brooklyn, NY; a yoga mat in Seattle; an attic in Bellingham, Washington; an old couch in my mother's new apartment in Los Angeles; a rooftop studio in Mysore, India; and several beds that new and old friends lovingly fluffed up for me between California and Hong Kong.

For the last two months, home has been where I parked most of my stuff before I went on this journey-with-no-end-in-sight nearly a year ago, my family house in the southern suburbs of Manila. In my twenties, I lived in this house from time to time, sometimes for months at a time, maybe even a year once or twice. After returning to the Philippines as an adult, I lived in Manila for 7 years in all, before moving to Boracay 5 years ago.

So, it's been an interesting time. With the quality of "coming home" that you don't get when you're couch surfing. I'm in my old room, surrounded by things I hardly remember owning and a closet of clothes that seem to harken back to different lives, different incarnations of me. And all around me, an entire household is pulsating at a different rate that I'm used to. It is in their heart that my own temporarily takes refuge as I navigate a city that I used to know so well.

The truth is everything changes. People change. The city has changed too, though it's spirit continues to be a combination of the sweet easy-going life and total and absolute chaos all rolled into one hot urban heap of a traffic jam.

I have changed too. Though coming home has really helped me realize how much.

Perhaps, that is what home--as in our places of origin--is: the yardstick of our lives, in which we can measure out how much we've grown and what things really matter to us. Where we can compare our present height against our old selves. Where we can test our abilities to helm through old patterns that might seem very natural in that place. Or where we can be tested by old friends and family who are used to seeing us a certain way.

I have a lot to be grateful for during this last homecoming: my father's swift recovery from dengue, the opportunities to share with the city's blossoming yoga community, and the chance to reconnect with family and friends. Still, one of the greatest gifts of coming home is perspective. Thank you, Manila, I see.

Next stop, Boracay...