Archive for June, 2012

The Katha Upanishads

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Karuna hosts a free discussion group every Thursday from 5-5:30. For the past month the group has been reading and discussing the Katha Upanishads, also known as “Death as Teacher”. The Katha Upanishads is a series of verses in the ancient Vedic scripture on Death and the Hereafter. The verses are a conversation between Nachiketa, son of the sage Vajasravasa, and Yama, the Hindu lord of death. In the story Vajasravasa has performed a sacrifice to the Gods in which he is required to give away all his worldly possessions. Among these possessions is his son Nachiketa.

Susan Yard Harris, a teacher and student at Karuna, wrote this summary of the verses:

When Vajasravasa gave away his cows to gain religious merit, his son Nachiketa
questioned the wisdom of his father’s actions. Repeatedly, he asked his father, “To whom do you
offer me?”

Naciketa’s father got angry with his son’s insubordination and banished him to Yama,
the Lord of Death.

Nachiketa went to Yama’s abode and waited three days until Yama returned. Because
it was inhospitable to keep a spiritual guest waiting for so long, Yama granted Nachiketa three
boons, or wishes, one for each night he was kept waiting.

Nachiketa’s first request was reconciliation with his father, and Yama granted that easily.

His second wish was to learn how to perform the fire sacrifice. Yama explained that the
fire sacrifice leads to heaven and sustains the world, and that this knowledge is concealed in the
heart. Yama explained how to perform the fire sacrifice and how to erect the altar for
worshipping the fire, from which the universe evolves. Nachiketa learned this lesson well,
and Yama was pleased, and named the fire sacrifice after Nachiketa.

For his third boon, Nachiketa asked Yama to answer his question: What happens to a
person after he dies– does he perish or live on?

Yama did not want to answer this question and said, “The secret of death is hard to
know.” Instead, he offered Nachiketa long life, long-lived sons, power to rule a kingdom,
capacity to enjoy the pleasures of women and riding chariots, and skill in music.

Nachiketa refused Yama’s offer. He answered the Lord of Death that the pleasures of this
world are transitory, as is life on earth. He asked, how can a mortal desire wealth when he knows
he will die? Nachiketa told the Lord of Death that the the only boon he wanted was to understand
the mystery of life after death.

Yama decided that Nachiketa was worthy of his instruction.Yama explained that when
people think that the body is all there is to life, they are subject to repeated reincarnations. Only a
few people, he said, dedicate their lives to realization of the eternal, non-dying Self. You are
wise, Yama told Nachiketa, because you seek the eternal Self, which is hidden in the cave of the

heart and is the divine principle of existence and source of all joy.

Teach me, Nachiketa said.

And so Yama taught Nachiketa that OM is the symbol of God. When OM reverberates
unceasingly in the heart, one is blessed and deeply loved, Yama said. “The all-knowing Self was
never born, nor will it die…[it] is eternal and immutable.” A seeker can behold the “glory of the
Self through the grace of the Lord of Love.” “When the wise realize the Self, formless in the
midst of forms, changeless in the midst of change, omnipresent and supreme, they go beyond all

Yama told Nachiketa that only one who controls the senses, stills the mind, and practices
meditation can know Brahman, the hidden Self that is present in everyone. But the Self can be
attained only by those whom the Self chooses. Those who have discrimination (Viveka), a still
mind, and pure heart “are forever free from the jaws of death.”

Yama explained further that Brahma is in the heart of all creatures, that thumb-sized
being enshrined in the heart. The Self exists in the multiplicity of life–the sun, the wind, fish,
plants, water. “…the one multiplies…oneness into many” and “cannot be tainted by the evils of
the world.” Those who see the Self in their hearts have eternal joy and eternal peace.

Nachiketa asked, “How can I know that blissful Self?”

Yama replied, “The Self is the light reflected by all” and that “ Brahman can be seen as
in a mirror in a pure heart.”

Yama explained that when the senses, mind, and intellect are stilled in yoga, one enters
the state of unity, never to be separate again. If one is not established in the state of unity, the
sense of oneness will come and go. When all desires and “the knots that strangle the heart are
loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.”

As Nachiketa learned the discipline of meditation from the Lord of Death, freed himself
from separateness, and achieved immortal life, so can everyone who knows the Self.

Susan teaches the Wise Yoga, a class specially designed for practitioners age 50 and up on Mondays from 4-5pm  at Karuna.

Karuna Lecture: The Bhagavad Gita with Satyanarayana Das

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

The Bhagavad Gita (July 28-29)

with Satyanarayana Das

The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu scripture. It is considered among the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy. Spoken by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, who is undergoing a moment of existential crisis, the text deals with the nature of the self, the world, ultimate reality, the purpose of human existence, and the spiritual paths.
Satya Narayana Dasa PhD is the founder and director of Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies.  He has a doctorate in Sanskrit along with a degree in law from Agra University.  His deep respect for the wisdom of the ancients motivated him to translate five important works from Sanskrit into English.  Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa founded Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies to promote Vedic Culture, philosophy, and Ayurveda through education.  He regularly gives classes on Sanskrit language and Gaudiya Vaisnava literature; and has authored many books on the subject.  He has contributed to the 25 volume work brought out by the project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy, and Culture.  The Research and Advisory Board of the International Biographical Center of Cambridge, England has selected Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa as one of a very limited number of individuals to receive the international accolade “International Educator of the Year 2004.”  Dr. Satyanarayana Dasa’s message to humankind is to be in the flow of things with simplicity, but without becoming an impediment to the ways of nature.  He emphasizes attaining knowledge of the absolute reality by pursuing ways that lead to the harmonious development of the collective human consciousness.

Karuna will be hosting a two day lecture on the with Bhagavad Gita with Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa On July 28th and 29th, 2012. Click here to: Sign Up!

Yoga For the Long Drive

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

It is summertime already which, for many, means family vacations and weekend trips. While the vacation itself will hopefully provide rest and relaxation, getting there can be uncomfortable for our bodies.  The following sequence is for those long drives that often make us sluggish and sore. Find a patch of grass at a rest stop and take a little time to do these stretches, it will revitalize you and hopefully make the drive a lot less stressful on your mind and body. Sequence by Eileen Muir, illustrations by Erin McNally.

1. Car Dog– adjust the height of your hands from the bumper, trunk or the hood. Push away from the car.

2. Parvatasana in Tadasana– Open your armpits, straighten your elbows, press up towards the sky with your palms while rooting down through your feet

3. Gomukhasana Arms in Tadasana– clasp your hands or hold on to your shirt behind your back, switch sides.

4. Reverse Namaste– press your palms together behind your back, roll your shoulders back and soften your lower ribs into your torso.

5. Car Dog

6. Guardrail Baby Backbend– find a sturdy structure (guardrail, fence, bench, boulder etc)  and carefully use it to support a gentle backbend

7. 3 Sun salutations– choose your favorite variation

8. Car Dog– use your car again or explore the many structures available to you at the typical truck stop


Appreciating Our Teachers: Susan Yard Harris

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Susan teaches the Wise Yoga, a class specially designed for practitioners age 50 and up on Mondays from 4-5pm  at Karuna. Recently she filled in for one of Eileen’s classes and many students got to experience her teaching for the first time. Chris Hamil, a fellow teacher at Karuna was moved to write this response to her teaching

Class with Susan was absolutely therapeutic. She was deliberate, gentle, caring, and most of all honest. Her sequence brought me into a passive ease that was filled with clarity and aliveness. I felt like the work we were doing was both accessible and deep. What really stuck with me was how Susan brought her whole being into her teaching, so that not only did I know where she was coming from and how much integrity she had, but also I felt profoundly resonant. She is a fantastic teacher who can only grow from the seeds she plants.

Thank you Susan!

The Gateless Gate Koan: Goso’s Buffalo

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Recently Eileen mentioned a Zen Koan during class. The Koan was from the 13th century collection The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) from Chinese Zen master Wumen. The Koan can be understood as a parable for enlightenment though, like all koans, it is meant to be a tool for contemplation rather than a definition. Eileen shared the image of a cow jumping through a window into the abyss of enlightenment, only to have his tiny tail caught behind him. Owen Wormser, a student at Karuna, shared his contemplation.

GOSO’S BUFFALO: Mumonkan Case #38

Goso asks: A water buffalo goes out of his “enclosure.” The head, the horns, and the four legs go through, but why doesn’t the tail, too?

If the buffalo goes through, he will fall into the abyss,
If he retreats into the enclosure, he will be butchered.
This little bit of a tail,
that is a strange thing indeed!

Owen wrote:

I’ve been quite intrigued by that Buddhist parable/image of a cow (ox?) jumping out the window that you’d mentioned a month or so ago.

It seems to me its tail represents one’s past and the karmic/energetic circuitry that we trail behind us (our individual history).

The past/karma is an essential part of the mythic journey that delivers a soul back to coherence and genuine self integration– or jumping out the window/box.

However, its not just the body of the cow that has to clear the window frame– that tail also has to make it out the window into the undefined and wide-open now.

If we do not attend to the transformation of our past and simply try to rush ahead, then our tail will drag us back into the past story (i.e. snag on the window frame).

Its kind of like a pollywog needing to loose its tail to become a frog– one can’t be a frog and still have a tail!

I’m curious what you think of my take on this, but I can say that that somehow this subject touches upon something very important that is happening for me.

I’ve been meditating on my own ‘tail’ while intending/allowing a deep transmutation and loosening of this tail.

For me personally this is key, because my ‘tail’ has generally felt excruciating and this has pissed me off for lifetimes– I’ve been far from appreciative!

However, for what’s next to be able to flow (further integration), I know my soul’s epic journey through the illusions of separation must be loved unconditionally.

It seems that having this awareness at this point in time can make the difference between continued expansion or recurring contraction into old ways of being.

-Owen Wormser, Karuna Student and Landscape Designer with Abound Design

Therapeutics Advanced Teacher Training

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Karuna recently held the second training weekend for the 500 hour Advanced Teacher Training Therapeutics Module. Teachers learned yoga therapeutic techniques for knees, necks, and shoulders as well as for anxiety and depression.

Using the horse and blocks to open the shoulders.

Karuna Teacher Jamie Tancredi assisting for shoulder openers.

Ann Ramsey using blocks, wall ropes and a chair for neck and shoulder alignment.


Eileen Muir demonstrating a restorative use of sandbags to calm the parasympathetic nervous system and align the shoulders in Savasana


The Eileens demonstrating neck alignment approaches


Eileen Muir demonstrating the peaceful effects of alignment on Paul Menard.

Sutra I.12: abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Last month teacher training students contemplated Sutra I.12, abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah: Practice and detachment are the means to still the movement of consciousness. They wrote responses to the following question: In consideration of Patanjali’s assertion that both practice and non-reaction are required to sustain stillness, how can I work toward a peaceful mind even when confronted with conflict or adversity? Students were also instructed to not confuse non-reaction with repression, indifference, lassitude, or slothfulness and to observe the tendencies of gripping, wanting, aversion, and/or clinging.

a long and unwieldy poem about cycles

I. What might

I might be unknown to the world,
a balloon cut loose and spinning upwards and alone

or I might be the punctured silk of a kite, unraveling in the chaos of the wind,
flailing like a broken wing that winces with each turn

II. The problem with words

cut the words. cut the shit.

III. The fears that eat us

Like if I softened I might sink

Like if I sank I might drown

Like if I drowned I might die

Like if I died, I would die.

then what?

IV. Scene: Kitchen, 8pm Tuesday night, after yoga class, girl and boy play cat and dog

I was so fucking pissed at you and I wasn’t going to let go,
No. I was gonna hang on and nurse that fire,
make it breath flames into the whole house.
and I knew it, all the while I knew I was clutching my anger
cradling it, giving it all of the space in my collapsed and breathless chest.

my mother says that anger is really sadness, concealed.

V. Practice

so I wrote a poem about cats and dogs.
you and me, I said, we’s like cats and dogs.
we chase each other’s tails in fury, we scratch and bite,
and then we’re back to bodies curled and shared sleep.

You never do your dishes. It’s a fact.
I feel hurt, my hurt becomes anger,
I shoot an arrow from my tongue,
it pierces your navel.

Now you feel hurt.

VI. Practice part 2

What if.

You don’t do your dishes
and I don’t care ?

That right there is the moment it bubbles out of me, the protest,
the nine-year-old that says but that’s not fair ! So what do I do ?
I swat at the fly that lands on my head, and then I’ve got blood
on my palm.

What if.

I let the fly do its thing,
buzz around my ear and then perch on some patch of hair.
surely the fly will move on, surely so will I.

VII. The morning after, the sky’s the limit

I’m the same person.
Unless I choose otherwise.

The roots of choice grow in the imagination,
we can only become what we dare to imagine.

Janan Scott, current student in Karuna’s 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training


Monday, June 4th, 2012

It is earnestness that is indispensable, the crucial factor. Sadhana is only a vessel and it must be filled to the brim with earnestness, which is but love in action. For nothing can be done without love.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj