Archive for February, 2013

So Hum

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Yoga has been a catalyst of upward spirals and growth in my life. It has been a grounding, centering, and purifying practice to shine light and metabolize darkness. As discussed in class, we all have darkness whether it be unprocessed emotions or experiences that seek light and want to be “purified” or brought to the surface. This year, deepening my practice of yoga by home practice of various sequences and postures coupled with engaging in the Yoga Sutras, various readings, and pranayama has been highly transformative and I’ve only just begun to lick the surface.

This transformation has rippled and spread into all areas of my life, improving the quality of my work, relationships, and overall state of being. These last few months of deepened practice have lead to a more focused and luminously lucid presence. As mentioned in class, when we chant, sometimes just visualizing or making those vibrations call its meaning to the present moment, awareness of yogaś citta-vrtti-nirodhah almost in a way calls stillness to the present moment. Having previously only associated yoga with the physical practice or āsanas as Bryant discusses in the Sutras being a common Western interpretation to yoga, engaging and exploring the principles and greater meaning of yoga has rooted my practice more deeply in truth and transformation.

With this awareness of the greater meaning of yoga comes challenge. These philosophies and practices are not effortless and take much abhyāsah (practice), yatnah(effort), patience, and devotion over a long period of time (Sutras 1.13 and 1.14). In my pranayama home practice, I grew bored doing the same thing after just a few days. I thought “gosh, I already know how to do this.” Then, I observed that while isolating the senses and breathing into the eyes, I was not nearly present. I was focusing on the nose, or the next sense organ in the exercise.

Although simple, this observation reminded me the importance of “the beginner’s mind” and my tendency to decide that I “know” something. As Hartman explains inthe article, “if we decide we ‘know’ something, we are not open to other possibilities anymore.” After sitting with this realization for some time, I felt a spark, a new attitude to the practice that each time feels like the first time, present “to explore and observe and see ‘things as it is’..full of curiosity and wonder and amazement” In class, while practicing Utthita Trikonasana, Eileen mentioned doing the pose for decades and each time finding something new to learn. Yoga challenges my willingness to not be an expert, letting the fixed view go and cultivating the beginner’s mind.

Similarly, the observance of the natural breath without letting the ego manipulate really challenges the way I think and feel. In this practice of just observing the breath, I notice a strong tendency of wanting to do a better breath or a deeper breath, almost seeking a result and being disappointed if I can’t deepen my breath in that moment. Noticing this samskāra and working to “restructure the lens of ahamkāra” is meaningful work.

Spending the last year traveling mostly alone, I sure learned a lot about myself, my patterns (samskāras) and tendencies, both negative and positive. Although I am blessed to love my work in local agriculture so much, I noticed a tendency to fill every waking moment with commitment. Almost to a point where when I had free time I spent it fulfilling commitments or seeking more commitments to fill. A citta filled with vrttis, constantly in flux. Realizing this was powerful. A beautiful friend sent me a passage from a book I haven’t yet read but will someday (The Way of the White Clouds): “when every detail of our life is planned and regulated, and every fraction of time determined beforehand then the last trace of our boundless and timeless being, in which the freedom of our soul exists, will be suffocated. This freedom does not consist in being able ‘to do what we want`, it is neither arbitrariness nor waywardness, nor the thirst for adventure, but the capacity to accept the unexpected, the unthought-of situations of life, good as well as bad, with an open mind..”

This passage illustrates a very real truth and through practicing yoga I’d like to shift this negative samskāra observed in my travels and reflection, to a more positive and nourishing way of being, where I may “dwell in an open loving heart, where I may attend to whatever clouds my heart, where I may be awake in this moment just as it is.” Yoga challenges my goals of responding to my calling of my work in agricultural education roles. Although this teacher training focuses on yoga, through committing to its practice, I feel I am committing to being a better teacher or facilitator. In a meditation class in California a few months ago, a teacher said “you can’t just meditate when you feel like it and expect results” and this resonated deeply with me as I deepen my devotion to a regular practice at home. With an often busy schedule, it has been a challenge but a beautiful and transformative learning experience to be firm about my commitment to my yoga practice and setting personal boundaries honoring time for myself to just be.

Wellness is something that I value, and I believe that it is an ongoing process, a life practice, something that cannot be “achieved.” As in Nisargatta’s dialogue when he asks, “Is your mind at peace? Is your search over? There will be no end to it, because there is no such thing as peace of mind.” yoga challenges me to practice, devotedly compassionately and tenderly act to alleviate suffering. I need help exploring this balance, weaving this practice into the work and other projects I feel called to do. The structure of this teacher training will facilitate (and already has facilitated) a blossoming process in which I can find softness whether it is in a challenging pose or during any challenge in life, balancing two opposing actions in a posture or two tasks on my to do list, treating transitions as poses, and falling into grace.

I am grateful to be a part of such a beautiful community like Karuna to share a practice together with maitri karuna mudita upeksha in our hearts as we shed layers revealing our inner most purusa and fearless love of life.


Sarah Berquist is currently enrolled in Karuna’s 200 Hour Teacher Training Program. She is also a radiant and beautiful area farmer and agricultural educator.

Mystical Powers

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

We have been studying the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for the past couple months at Karuna. The chapter is aptly named “Mystical Powers” as it describes eventual experiences and capabilities a yogi may acquire after a level of mastery is achieved of the last 3 limbs of Yoga, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. As an effect of doing these three limbs together, samyama, one is said to be able to do things such as know the future (3.16), know their past lives (3.18), read minds(3.19), know of their own death (3.22), and cease experiencing hunger or thirst (3.30), among other things. This chapter of the sutras comes with a warning that certain powers, though gained through yoga practice, can take one off their yogic path if squandered or coveted.

In our discussions of these sutras we have kept in mind that within the cosmology of the Yoga Sutras these powers are believed to be quite real and literal. We have also discussed the ways that these powers can be understood figuratively within our own practices. When discussing one sutra, the ability to assume the consciousness of others (3.38/39), many of us made linkages to our asana practice as well as our experience as teachers. When we ‘come watch’ a pose being demonstrated in class we are observing the person doing the pose as though we were in that body, or as though that body was our own. When one teaches asana one has to relay techniques of embodiment of not just physical form but of philosophy as well. In order to be adept at this teachers have to try to feel what their students are feeling in order to provide options to guide them in the right direction.

Looking at the third chapter figuratively can provide us with openings to the ideas offered and provide us with insights to strengthen our practice as teachers and students. Owen Wormser, one of the current students in Karuna’s 200 Hour Teacher Training, captured these images of a bobcat in his yard the other day. After seeing how quickly this animal seems to become invisible, we were inspired to revisit Sutra 3.21: When samyama is done on the form of one’s own physical body, the illumination or visual characteristic of the body is suspended, and is thus invisible to other people.

Photos taken by Owen Wormser

Erin McNally is a Yoga teacher currently participating in advanced training at Karuna.

For Contemplation

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

The window is the absence of the wall, and it gives air and light because it is empty. Be empty of all mental content, of all imagination and effort, and the very absence of obstacles will cause reality to rush in.


Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj


Saturday, February 23rd, 2013


According to the Chinese Zodiac we have just entered the year of the snake. Owen Wormser, a student at Karuna, shares with us the significance of the snake from a Gaian perspective.

Of all the animals here on this incredibly diverse planet, snakes are the fullest
embodiment of divine feminine Earth energy. Snakes inhabit both feminine components
of the Gaian body- water and earth. They move as an actual wave and they are always
in full contact with the element of earth or water. This constant contact allows them to
be supremely in sync with the actual rhythm of the Gaian heartbeat itself. That Gaian
mother energy wants all her children (all living things) to grow in their full multi-
dimensionality. The snake embodies the faith and willingness it takes to do this; in
order to grow the snake shows us we must be willing to be blind (innocent and trusting)
while shedding our skin. After all, dimensional growth (shift) isn’t possible without

In the last age Gaian energy felt very present in all its harmonic glory– it was a palpable
presence that was much easier for us to perceive at that time. As the Gaian system
evolved, this powerful energy ‘sank’ back into its body hence appearing to go dormant,
or worse abandoning us (this was the Fall). Cultures mythologized that shift– and that
loving Gaian energy itself– so that awareness of this would not be lost as humanity
predictably slipped into a state of forget-fullness. Each culture was gifted with allegorical
traditions that point to these literal truths; as such, almost all serpent related myths are
simply different perspectives on the same subject.

It is my understanding and experience that this energy is presently– just in these
precious weeks since the solstice– returning. The presence of this energy is now wafting
out of key portals on this planet in all its richness with a fullness and power almost
unimaginable. Like a serpent, this emergent energy moves in waves…. these waves of
love are now flowing out over the body of this planet and reigniting the Gaian grid! The
really excellent news is that this is just the beginning; this Divine Feminine presence
is only going to become stronger! If one taps into that presence, they will feel the
unconditional love of the Mother and when we truly allow that Love to hold us, we re-
member that every-thing is fantastically OK!

The return of this energetic presence will make it easier for people on this planet to re-
member the truth of our unity and connectedness. And when this memory returns, the
fear and illusion of separation has to transmute!

Owen Wormser is currently enrolled in Karuna’s 200/hr Teacher Training Program. He owns a local landscaping business, Abound Design

Richard Rosen Workshop Thursday 2/7-Friday 2/8

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Richard Rosen is joining us next Thursday and Friday to teach a Pranayama workshop at Karuna!

Here are a few videos to inspire you to join us in this practice.

Pranayama 101 with Richard Rosen from Naada Yoga on Vimeo.