Listening to the Sun By Mantra Shakti

This poem was written over two years ago. I had always enjoyed working outside in the Ashram grounds but the spring of 2017 was when I first took the drum outdoors and played with the trees and the birds for company. I did have this sense that nature was encouraging me to let the music out. In 2019 I started writing songs and many of these tracks are celebrations of the natural world.

Prose, Prose, Prose

I cannot write that way to describe life here 

in the wet green hills in northern climes of planet earth

The sun is our nearby star and her light touches us 

as we work among brambles, ash and pine.

Our lungs gorge on oxygen, a precious gas 

which the Italians call ossigeno  

and that sounds like a bony genome.

Light is made of photons and photons are found inside our bodies*

science fact, but little reported and every photon tells a tale.

The sun shines white, the plants blaze green, 

 tree roots explore the soil and the mycelium spreads far and wide.

Here at the Ashram if you walk by the big pond when the sun is out,

our nearby star may call to you and she may say

“Darling little one, my love sweeps over the land 

Do you have eyes to see?

Darling little one, come out and drum and sing, 

sit on a rock and let the songbirds hear you play.

If you do I’ll tell you my stories:

I’ll speak of planets, moons and comets, of spiral galaxies and gassy filaments,

but I’ll also speak of the spinning earth 

and all thereon that responds to my radiant presence.

In my rays your hair glistens, you work and sweat and enjoy being flesh and blood

and my love coaxes out that voice of yours

SING SING SING, get out and do it boy 

SING

By Mantra Shakti

*See the work of Fritz-Albert Popp (his discoveries are mentioned at some length in the book ‘The Field’ by Lynne McTaggart)

 

African Mandala

We said we’d build a Yoga hall in Zambia…… and we did.

I’m signing in from Eastern Zambia, as I had to stay here for a further three months because of the UK being in ‘lockdown’ etc. Here life is much easier as we have complete freedom of movement and the whole Covid business may as well be on another planet. Would be nice to stay but my ashram duties call me back, then reality will hit and I have to quarantine for 10 days at vast expense. Ironic as I feel much safer here and we probably developed ‘herd immunity’ in Eastern Province months ago.

Those of you who donated …. we couldn’t have done it without you. I’ve tried to do my best for you with this movie …. it’s a big thank you.

Narada

I don’t have a lot more to say, as the movie that I made says it all. I have tried to do as complete a job as I could with this movie… some of you have donated money, trousers and yoga blocks and we couldn’t have done it without you, so this movie is a big thank-you to you all (the Northern Ireland contingent has to come in for special mention here… they continued to help us most generously through the project).

African Mandala is a project supported by Swami Nishchalananda, in that he gave me encouragement, inspiration, also the leeway to continue coming to my Africa projects even after I moved into the ashram (see Ulingana.com). His freedom of spirit infuses Yoga in Zambia; I hope you will see that from the movie.

The film is a documentary, not a ‘short’. It’s 20 minutes long, so give yourself some time, freedom from immediate tasks, and a reasonable sound system (!) to enjoy. I have tried to briefly paint a picture of Zambia… its wildlife and culture, to start. Then we focus a bit more on the build, also on life in Eastern Province where life can be astonishingly hard at times (making it even more surprising that people have adopted Yoga so readily). Finally we focus in on the two principal teachers and the opening class that marked the end of the project, and the beginning of a whole new chapter for the teachers and practitioners.

Reflections on The Bhagavad Gita by Amanda Jameson

On the current Ashram Yoga Teacher Training Course, the student teachers have been guided in their study of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the core inspirational texts of the Yoga tradition. Their latest assignment was:

In a few paragraphs, give a summary of:

1. the core impact that the Gita study has had on you to date

2. the key verse, or teaching, that you have been practising in your daily life

3. in brief, how would you describe the Gita to your students? 

Following is the assignment of Amanda Jameson, from Lincolnshire, copied here with her permission:

The main impact that the Bhagavad Gita has had on me is not to be afraid and face things head on. It has given me the strength and courage to deal and accept what is going on in my life. I now trust that I have no influence really on events. I am just on this journey of life to observe and witness. It has helped me spiritually realise that to be truly happy in this life it to just accept and trust and live my life the best way possible to serve myself and others so we can inhabit this beautiful earth in harmony and peace. It has helped to clear any doubts that I have in my life and to trust.

I believe that one of the key purposes of the Gita is to help us not to fear death as it is inevitable. To remain happy and open to life’s possibilities.

The key verse for me right now is chapter 3 – verse 21 – by setting an example to others. If I live my life selflessly with compassion for myself and others, sharing my knowledge, taking joy from each moment and spreading that sense of joy ……… it is contagious. Living with positive energy that passes through me to my friends, family, students and even a stranger on the street. The happiness I am feeling right now helping people and sharing my knowledge of yoga has been profound. I know we do not have to be concerned with the outcome, it is the journey that matters, but it’s a beautiful journey and to share that feels wonderful.

I would explain the Bhagavad Gita to students as a book to gain spiritual awareness if that is their purpose. To digest it slowly and enjoy the message its conveying. It can be a book to turn to when you are in need of answers to life questions. It will help to clear your doubts and trust your instincts.

I must add that I now keep my copy of the Gita by my bed so it is there to read whenever I need it.

Three Pillars of Yoga By Swami Krishnapremananda

This short article draws from three pillars of Yoga that are directly pertinent to the present uncertain and changing times.

Firstly, yoga practice holds the promise of many things, but key amongst them at present is that of a refuge; finding some quality time and space daily in which we can gain some space from current affairs, family issues and responsibilities. Even a little time spent on the yoga mat and cushion can put us in touch with this sense of refuge. For example, by exploring yogic postures which bring the body back into alignment, harmonising our internal energy pathways; simple pranayama practices which can calm and energise our system, or simply bring us back home to the present moment through breath awareness; meditation and chanting bring more spaciousness to the mind, thereby releasing the heart; moments or times of relaxation/ Yoga Nidra offer the body and mind the blessing of deeply letting go. The problems of life do not just magically disappear, but our capacity to handle them is enhanced through releasing into such a refuge each day through simple yoga practice. 

As the Bhagavad Gita says – ‘No effort is ever lost and even a little practice can protect us from fear’ (2:40)

A second pillar is that of gratitude. We will always have ideas for how life can be improved. Yet consciously cultivating a sense of gratitude for what we have – time in nature, simple gifts of everyday life, the food on our plate and so on – helps to soften the heart and lift our spirits. The glass is seen as half full. We are often programmed to have a negativity bias, which puts more weight on what we do not have, or our problems in life. Gratitude counteracts this, shifting our perspective, and reminding us of the maybe small yet valuable blessings we already have. 

Alongside the previous two, the third pillar is simply the willingness to be of service in whatever small or practical way to those around us. Service, especially if offered selflessly (or as close to this as we can), connects us to the Oneness of Life, whether we know it or not. This connection is why we often feel uplifted through our intention to give. Whatever our present situation, can we offer something constructive through our words, our actions, our silence, or simply our centred presence?  Yes, we may forget and ‘fall down’ many times, yet this is not a problem if we are willing to stand up again, learning from experience, and being available in the service of life.  

Using our practice to find daily refuge, being open to gratitude for what we have, and the willingness to be of service to the situation we are in. These three pillars of yoga practice, amongst others, are readily available to us as we continue to navigate our way through the current uncertain waters.  

Getting what I want in life

Is this not the purpose of our life? Is this not what we have been educated for, and what modern marketing has led us to believe? 

Yet, ‘getting what you want is vastly over sold’, to quote Michael Singer, a wonderful contemporary yogi, teacher, and author. We are promised so much in life. In marketing and politics, for example, we are assured that if we just work hard enough, try hard enough, have enough money or resources, then we will be eternally happy. Even in our yoga practice we have the same aspiration … but is getting what I want the key purpose of my life? 

Please help us grow Yoga…..

A post by Narada / Tony Sugden

‘Please help us grow Yoga in this Land of Ours’ – An appeal
from our Zambian Yoga Group.

We have lost the use of our Yoga Hall.
Those of you who read my previous post (Mandala branch in Africa) know that I established a Yoga group in Eastern Province, Zambia. Well the group is thriving; Swamiji refers to them as ‘our African Branch’. But the Lodge where they worked, and where we used to do our Yoga, is in great difficulty because of the lack of visitors due to Covid, so not only have my friends lost their meagre income, but they have lost the use of the hall where we practised.

Bhagavad Gita – the Yoga of Right Action

by Swami Nishchalananda

(Note: this article is also given in Swamiji’s book ‘The Edge of Infinity’ (chapter 7), published by Mandala Yoga Ashram).

The Bhagavad Gita (lit., the ‘Song of the Divine’) is a superb classical Sanskrit text on the practical and mystical teachings of Yoga. It is a scripture on Brahma Vidya (the ‘Science of Consciousness’), showing us how Yoga can be lived moment to moment in daily life and how our actions can be a way to transcendence. 

Two Faces of Clarity

A Post by Narada (Tony Sugden)

There have been times in my life, when I have become aware that we are all made of the same stuff. Times when I know we are sisters and brothers, not by believing that to be true, but by experiencing the essence of such a truth. It’s a high truth, something profound, that brings reverence. Such vision is often related to meditation, or inward comprehension. It’s a vision which has been granted by that which gives Life. In the Yoga world, and some religions, it’s called Grace.  A wisdom beyond intellect, but yet innate in my ‘greater’ self.

There have also been times in my life, of being with people where we work towards a better way of relating to each other, of understanding each other’s fears, aggressions, anger, grief. It demands self-honesty. When I commit to exploring my inner feelings towards others, I open up a chain of feelings and associated thoughts which can open up lines of communication in myself that go way way back in my history. That in turn usually sheds light on a now redundant mechanism of protection against harm, which before was a nameless monster in the dark.

THE SUN BEHIND THE SUN

A Post by Michael McCann (Spandan)

As the One Sun illumines the whole world, so does the in-dweller illumine the whole body-mind field” 

Bhagavad Gita

In the language of symbols, the sun is the universal symbol of spiritual light. In some Indian teachings, there is reference to “the sun behind the sun”. This is an immeasurably greater sun, concealed in dazzling darkness, “behind the sun”.