Day 45- fire sutra

I wake up and make a half-hearted attempt at an asana practice, but am soon overcome by a stronger desire for an omelette. We head to breakfast at Café Ole and when we get back, my unrolled mat is still staring at me. Andrew wants to go get a car from Huatulco, which is about two hours away, so that we can check a wave at La Barra de la Cruz. I want to meditate and do some yoga. For a moment we come to head to head over this. Surfing vs Yoga. Essentially, we are each arguing for our own bliss. As we storm downstairs with the intention to make a tense journey to Huatulco, our dear one-legged neighbour, Larry, overhears us speaking to somebody else about our plan. “Y’all rentin’ a car? I got me one, I’ll cut ya a deal!” We briefly discuss this and then walk back upstairs, where we realise we were just saved most of the hassle and now we can both have our bliss. Still in the mood to go somewhere, we head into Zicatela beach to exchange some books. I spend some blissful time scanning the shelves of Café Babylon and sipping a rose and cinnamon tea. This is exactly my idea of a good day.

When we come back home I am flicking through the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra; The Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche. Essentially this tantric text is a dialogue between Devi and Bhairava in which Devi asks about the nature of life and how to enter into the spanda, the pulsation, of the universe. She is given a poetic yet practical answer. Through the verses, one hundred and twelve methods of meditation are described. Each one is like an instructional song on how to tune into the rhythms, the energy and the divine flow of life. Roche says, ‘All of these methods involve savouring the incredible intensity underlying the most common experiences. They work by activating the senses… the basics dynamics of life – breathing, falling asleep, waking up, walking, loving – are all used as gateways into alignment and enlightenment.’

I love this text and was a part of a workshop with Lorin and his wife, Camille, learning how to really explore the sutras and put them into practice. I considered spending four months out of this year working through each and every sutra, but I am not sure when I will have enough of a routine to do that this year, so I instead have turned to their pages for inspiration. Using it like an oracle, it is easy to just flip through and find one that resonates. Today I have picked my favourite. Sutra #30.

 

Imagine the entire world consumed by flame.

Stay steady, do not waver,

As fire transmutes form into light.

The Soul reveals itself

To itself as Radiance.

 

I go down to the beach for a swim and then sit on the solid earth. It is a hot day, with a hot wind so as I close my eyes, I find it easy to imagine the world around me engulfed in flames. The crash of waves sounds like the roar of a fire burning out of control. I imagine the water on fire, the sand, the buildings, the rocks, trees and cacti burning in bright flames. I imagine the people calmly burning brightly. For a moment, I feel my heart skip a beat. Stay steady, do not waver. I breathe deeply and see myself consumed by the fire that is changing everything into pure light energy. Radiance is revealed- the entire world, everything known, seen and felt is light. We are all just light. We are all made of stars. There is no fear in this. I see the radiant light of all that is; living and non-living connected by divine radiance.

After a while, I slowly close the meditation and return to the space. I open my eyes to the sparkle of the ocean, the sun is reflecting on the surface and dancing about like firecrackers. I get in the water to cool off and rinse the sand from me. As I look around it feels as though everything is radiating, like I can see the twinkle of firelight on everything. The hot sand below me is like sacred ash and the hot wind is blowing against my back.

Ignited by this fire energy, I shower and sit down on my neglected mat. Now I am ready for some asana. I burn through the practice and then feel myself burning from within. The previous frustration and anger from this morning are just melting away until I realise I don’t even really remember why I was so bothered! I have a renewed energy and I think the fire energy has even affected my digestion. When we go out to the Pig Roast and Chicken Shit Bingo (yes, it is exactly as it sounds- when the chicken shits on your numbers, you win!), I find it easier to eat chilli and harder to drink alcohol. Eventually I give up and eat a crème caramel and then enough bread and butter that I am almost too full for my chiles rellenos, stuffed chilli peppers. (I like to do dessert first sometimes.) Tonight I lay warmly in bed and sleep well.

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Day 38- listening to the wind of my soul

‘I am ready to listen to the wind of my soul­’ – Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

I wake up and head straight for the yoga mat. Today I have the intention and gentle determination to make my entire yoga practice a meditation. I find a recording that I have downloaded of my friend and teacher, Nicole Goodwin, of Body Mind Life. It is a two-hour class. (I don’t ever make it easy for myself, do I?) I begin to flow and breathe in this practice and for the first half hour I hear the monkey mind wondering off on little tangents as though he is climbing the branches of a tree. I am in bakasana and try to jump back gracefully, but find that because I was not present, I have not lifted into my core and I kind of flop back onto the ground, very un-gracefully. I take a few moments in child’s pose to find the breath. I have always had this experience- when I start to get too airy and I am not present, gravity will pull me down to the ground like a gentle knock to say ‘Hey! Wake up!’

I take some deeper breaths and start to really listen to my breath. It sounds like the wind. I open the door so that some fresh air can come into the room and feel that the breeze is warm. I start moving, this time with full awareness. I find myself in tree pose, balancing on one leg, meditating, when Nicole says, “For those of you who are really feeling that mental stillness, can you sit with that? Meditation in action…When we find stillness in our asana we realise how many different ways there are to meditate. You can meditate, standing on one leg, sweat dripping off your body. You can meditate sitting in your lounge room, sitting in a park, sitting in your car at the traffic lights…”

It really feels like everywhere I turn, there is a message for me about this. Like small confirmations from the universe to say, yes, this is the right way.

By the end of the asana practice, I am lying in savasana completely still and silent, inside and out. The awareness I have cultivated through the asana has created an awareness of stillness, a quiet observant attitude. I eventually sit up and continue the meditation sitting. By the time I finally om and stand up from my mat, over two hours have passed in complete meditation- action, stillness and awareness.

Day 37- letting go in Savasana

At the El Salvador hotel we are on the top level. Our balcony wraps around the whole building and is surrounded by coconut palms, so that when you sit out there it feels like being in a huge tree house. I roll out my yoga mat and set the intention to make my entire practice a meditation. I catch myself
thinking, ‘oh man’ as if that will be a bit of a chore; as if it may take away from my experience of asana. As I start to move I realise why. I have been practicing yoga lately and allowing myself to digress into any thought that comes into my mind. I have been aware of breath and poses, but also managed to be aware of what I was planning to have for breakfast. I catch myself looking at the reflection of my Yogalicious pants and thinking about how durable and comfortable they are and wondering if I should buy more next time I am in Sydney… I catch myself and remember something my friend, Rosemary Dawson, told me when she was reading my palm. She said I need to act based on what I feel and not on what I think.

So I asked myself, ‘what do you feel, Liz?’

I think I feel… ‘

Hmmm. That isn’t right. So I bended back into camel pose and counted the breath. This is, after all, how I would direct a student if they were to get that vacant stare in their eye. I would tell them to count my inhale and exhale for an even count of four and four. So I am counting and find I have lulled myself into the final supine twist. As I lay down into savasana, I can hear the birds and the ocean. I can hear my breath. The asana practice has prepared me for this moment. This is savasana, the corpse pose. I focus on my third eye centre and let my forehead relax. I am always holding on tight here in savasana. I have to tell myself, conscious relaxation. In the corpse pose, we let lie anything that needs to die. Any old habits or emotions that no longer serve us are given the opportunity to meet a peaceful rest and leave us. The earth absorbs these old stagnant energies and when I finally roll over into the foetal position fifteen minutes later, I feel lighter and refreshed. I sit up and close my practice.

One thing that I have noticed about meditation is that when I first sat down over a month ago, I was struggling to get the thoughts to just stop for a moment and when the meditation was over, they would just rush back in. After a while, I realised that when I finished the meditations, I could maintain that peace without the rush back. [As I write this, I look up and see a flock of black birds sweep over the sky directly above us. ‘Yeah, like that’]

Now I realise that there is less of a struggle. I am not saying that I don’t think anymore, but I am certainly less prone to dwelling on stuff that I can’t change. I am mindful of the experience of every moment, without needing to attach to it. After all, this is what I am practicing. Non-attachment. The Buddha says that attachment brings suffering. So non-attachment is the opposite of suffering and the opposite of suffering must be bliss. Sitting on a balcony, writing about bliss, hearing the blackbirds sing erratically and knowing that even when I am not meditating, I can maintain peace in my life…