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January 28th, 2017

It is easier to see problems in someone other than oneself.  We all know people who knock on our door with bibles.  They’re very certain. They are living in their certainties, but if we look outside our own worldviews, and look at beliefs distant from ours, it can begin to open our minds. The wise person starts asking, “How does this problem apply to me?” Where do I have a similar belief that I am not aware of or that I am stuck in?

I had a wise teacher who said that "not knowing" is one of the highest states of awareness.  We need to free ourselves from the limitations of knowledge. This doesn't mean getting rid of knowledge—knowledge is extremely necessary of course, but rather, we should not be stuck in the known. We need to be open to the unknown. The unknown can be terrifying, but if we don't stay open to the unknown, our terror is still there—it's just hidden.  The demons of fear and certainty stand guard at the door of self-knowledge.

Certainty may be what we want, but relativity is what we’ve got!  The unknown is the source of joy and adventure.  Do you want to know how the movie ends?  Or “who did it?”  We are told and conditioned, in some philosophies, to believe that we can get to a place of all-knowing.  By acknowledging that there's no such thing, that knowledge always has limits, we gain freedom. Then we are living with perception and insight in the moment.

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August 23rd, 2016

"Yoga is practiced and celebrated around the globe because of the positive difference it generates--physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually.  It continues to evolve as it has moved from East to West and back again.  This is also because there is no one form of yoga but it is rather like the petals of the lotus flower, with its many branches and approaches. With a good teacher, yoga asana and breath work are infinitely adjustable to any age or stage, and from the bed ridden to the athlete.   The essence of yoga is about consciousness, self study, reflection, and the full exploration of living and dying.  It has the goal and intent of opening the mind and heart to insight, love and compassion bringing the perception that your life is your meditation.  Many begin yoga for reasons health, fitness and physical wellness and this often expands to need for service in the world and care for our planet.  Yoga has permeated many levels of our culture and continues to grow as it serves individual and general well being."   --Ganga White

Note: White Lotus, Ganga and Tracey are featured in NewsWeek:   https://tinyurl.com/NEWSWEEK-white-lotus

 

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June 1st, 2016

Seek Nothing

 

Wishing you lots of nothing

You need nothing to be yourself

Nothing is better than something

All things must pass

But nothing lasts forever.  

 

Everywhere we look there are things we are told to seek. Many somethings bode from all directions.  What we really are missing in our lives is nothing which is the fullness of emptiness, silence, and the timeless.  Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of wasted time.”  And it’s easy, you need to do nothing.  But it also can be difficult because anything you do is another thing.  

 

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April 9th, 2016

Fire Ceremony Talk, March, 2016,   16 day Gathering at White Lotus.

We asked for a ceremonial atmosphere because, unfortunately, it’s all too rare in our modern world that we find ourselves sitting with a group of yogis around and ancient, sacred fire, by flowing mountain waters, the wind bath through the trees, the celestial bath above, serenaded by frogs, crickets and cicadas.  Meditating on fire is one of the most potent meditations.  It’s potent in the sense of creating benefit, insight, self-knowledge.  It’s all in the fire.  The yogis called fire a doorway—between the physical and the non-physical, between light and dark, tangible and intangible, life and death.  We’re born through sexual fire, and we live through the fire of digestion, cooking and electricity.  We leave the physical plane through the funeral fire.  Whether you slow the funeral fire down or go directly through it, fire takes back and releases its elements.

One of the things we’ve learned from science is that we are made of earth, water, fire, gas, sound, information, and cosmic energy.  We are the dance of those things watching themselves in the dance and also in the dance of the fire—we are self reflecting, cosmic intelligence.   Our ceremony is an alchemical combination of East Indian, American Indian, Hopi and hippie.  Fire meditation, fire circles, drumming, and music are most probably the most ancient form of ceremony.  So enjoy being bathed in the earth energies as you sit with the huge boulders here, enjoy the waters, the sounds of the flowing water, the bath and sounds of the dancing fire, the sounds of the creatures of the night, the wind, the waters, the voices, and drums. And, we sit enveloped in the celestial light of the stars and galaxies.  

One of the things we point out at these fire circles is looking deeper into things, instead of merely seeing a campfire.  We’re seeing the light of the sun, but really light from combined earth, sun,  air and mystery.  The trees we’re burning built themselves from sunlight, water, air and earth.  We take a mighty tree and reduce it to a small handful of ash. The rest of it was combined water, air, light and information.  When we look across the circle and see others, we are seeing them by dancing light waves and we're hearing by vibrating molecules.  What’s less obvious, even astounding, is that all these waves, vibrations, and energy conduits of information are simultaneously passing through each other in a vast, chaotic quantum soup emerging untouched.   Right here where we sit are numerous layers of sound, light, energies, music, radio and TV shows, all within the space where we sit.  With the right attention or instrument you can tune into any of them.        ... And we’re searching for miracles?

Fire is the doorway into and out of life and the force of living.  It took us, humanity, millennia to see and understand these many frequencies, layers and levels.  It’s wonderful to be able to be here around the fire with all of you and we thank you for making it possible by coming to White Lotus.  

Words from participants: 

Sven: I want to honor, in the Native American tradition, to acknowledge our ancestors—those people who contributed to and enhanced our lives, and got us here.  To all our relations and loved ones: Blessing and thanks. And to the fire, and what it represents--energy and transformation, as you all have shown in your practice and presence.  Energy, sound, light, smoke.  Let us continue the fire in all of us.

2: With gratitude, with reverence and heart opening. Earth, fire and water, return.

3:  At home, preparing for this retreat, I read Yoga Beyond Belief.  It made a lot of sense and I feel I took the right course for the right reasons.  But something in the book didn’t really hit home till this week here.  We can’t learn to fly by following another’s tracks in the sand.  We must find our own wings and soar.  In time we will all soar.

4:  It’s an honor and privilege to be here with all of you.  Every person I met here is warm and genuine—an experience I don’t have every day.  I didn’t know what I was getting into when I came here.  I’m not a flow or vinyasa person but I am learning so much more about yoga than I ever could have imagined and in such a supportive caring environment.  I feel deeply grateful just to be here.

5:  I am so happy to be here.  Yesterday was the hardest day yet here for me.  This morning was one of the best four hours of my life.  I spend the last 20 years looking for the spiritual release that I received. Thank you.

6:  I feel the beauty all around me everyday in this place but especially now, around the fire, on your faces.  Everyone is glowing and happy.  Fire ceremony is amazing and I’m going to hold one at my house when I get home.  Thank you for opening this land to us and teaching us everything you know.  It’s been incredible to learn from you all instead of just from some guy where I live.  You all have taught me so much about myself.  Every night I ‘ve had amazing dreams, with spirit in my dreams and things from my past where I’ve been bogged down. And I feel like I’m moving and opening to new possibilities.  

 

 

 

 

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February 11th, 2016

From interview with Retreat Guru:   http://blog.retreat.guru/yoga-past-present-and-future/

Note:  On Yoga vs yoga. There is an ongoing debate, for years, as to whether or not Yoga should be yoga.  The print media for the most part stopped capitalizing it.  This actually limits the use of the word yoga to asana or physical practices.  We follow the convention of not capitalizing when it refers to yoga asana and capitalizing Yoga when refering to the broader philosophical, spiritual practice and philosophy. 

Origins of Yoga

There isn’t just one Yoga: the different branches of Yoga have their beginnings in different time periods. Most people used to say that yoga asana practice is 5000 years old, but it turns out to be “only” about 1000 years old. And it was strongly influenced by the West. Some of the most influential yoga teachers in India in recent centuries drew very explicitly on European influences, particularly from British colonial culture in India. They picked up different techniques and philosophies and incorporated them into their teachings. So, although a lot of a people in India are crying foul at the Westernization and appropriation  of “ India’s yoga,” it turns out that a lot of these yoga practices in India were actually derived from Western  systems, such as Swedish gymnastics. It’s a long conversation.

Swami Vivekananda wrote an influential book called Raja Yoga, which was his translation and interpretation of the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. When Vivekananda came to America, he was blown away by Western sciences and philosophy, and particularly with Theosophy, which was really popular at that time. It turns out that Vivekananda incorporated these teachings into his loose translation of the Yoga Sutra, interpreting Patanjali’s text from a contemporary or even Theosophical perspective. Not only asana practice, but also many philosophical systems of Yoga have both Indian and Western influences. That said, the Upanishads and the Vedas are among the oldest texts in the world. They represent a spiritual and philosophical tradition of human beings studying themselves and studying life, which dates back thousands of years. 

We don't truly know the exact history of Yoga. It may be more useful to inquire into the application and practicality of practices and beliefs.  I see the teachings of Yoga, and our teachings, as evolutionary—growing, expanding and evolving into better more useful forms.  There are generally two schools of philosophy or approaches in Yoga, and perhaps you can find this dichotomy in many fields of knowledge. 

One perspective teaches that the spiritual path and practices of Yoga were mapped out in the past.  We must get that map and follow it to the goal!  Those following this perspective often spend a lot of time struggling over the meaning of one word so they properly follow that intent.   

The other perspective teaches that there are certainly some timeless truths, but they too are evolutionary because, as human beings, we are growing and changing. The ancient philosophers who composed the Vedas didn’t have iPhones, space travel, computers, or the internet. The world changes, and the human brain evolves and changes along with it. Our understanding and practices must do the same.  

There is truth to both perspectives, ancient and modern. There are new insights and teachings and discoveries being made all the time.

Where is Yoga Going?

The caterpillar doesn’t know that he’s going to become a butterfly. He just lives his caterpillar life and then goes to sleep, and slowly metamorphosizes into a butterfly. I would say that in the 50 or so years that I’ve been practicing yoga, the discipline has grown enormously in technique and understanding. There has been an evolution of the ancient teachings—new things were discovered when the yogis met science, medicine, feminism, environmentalism and more.  Some may say these things were always there in the teachings because that is their hope and belief.  But they weren’t there, or at least they certainly weren’t clear. A lot of the ancient texts are very short, verbless sentences, and therefore open to much interpretation and extrapolation. In contemporary times I’ve seen a lot of dogma and superstition stripped away from the teachings, especially in regard to asana practice. I believe that yoga is going to get better and better. Some poses or practices may never change much, because they have already been refined, but I think that the discipline is going to grow to new levels of blossoming and unfolding. And so are we. 

What is Needed?

Love, connection, and awakening, seeing beneath the surface. Everyone is so heavily bombarded by consumerism, like seeing 5000 advertisements a day, that some kind of personal practice is very much needed. It might mean practicing breathwork, asana, or meditation for even five minutes. 

Connection with nature might be the most needed quality because we’re fast destroying our planet’s life force—it’s quite literally insane. I like to believe that when people start an asana practice, they find themselves becoming conscious of their own ecology, and that expands out into consciousness of planetary ecology, which is at a crisis point. Yoga is helping a lot by teaching one to live harmoniously with the environment, whether it’s your body’s environment or the planet's environment. 

 

 

 

 

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February 2nd, 2016

When we think of flow we think of water flowing along like a river.  Asana flow is most often described as moving gracefully, within and between poses.  It is counter intuitive to think of flow as opposition, but it is balanced, opposing energy that creates flow.  Flow, even of water or liquid, is only possible with the opposition of firm structures to flow over and against while taking shape adjusting to the terrain and obstacles.  To create graceful, fluid movement you must have an oppositional force.  This opposing force is created by isometric leverage or isotonic resistance of muscles, and less obviously, by movement against the oppositional field of gravity.  A classic example is that astronauts in zero g must create resistance to work against or their bones and muscles atrophy.  We are always moving within and against gravity, even while sitting still.  As said in the Gita, there is movement in stillness and stillness in movement.  Stillness is part of flow.  Holding asanas for periods of time is part of flow, just as ponds or lakes can be part of rivers.  The graceful, poised movements of yoga or dance require a balance of control and surrender, and of flow and opposition, movement and stillness.  This is one of the greatest lessons, on and off the mat.     

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October 7th, 2015

What is a buddha? An awakened one? And what is it to be awakened? Is it advisable even to define and then limit a buddha to a definition? The questions are more important than the answers. There are buddhas hiding everywhere–in stores, at work, in flowers, sometimes even in Yoga centers, and for sure among children. I once gave a talk about meditation and awakening to a college class. In the back of the room was their bus driver who raised his hand and then gave a short and poetic discourse on how he “learned all this just driving my bus!” There was also a famous beedi salesman whom people slowly found out had the most sage advice and insights.  There are many stories like these.  

Decades ago my friend and mentor, Swami Venkates, came to visit me in Los Angeles. He always liked to meet sages and spiritual teachers so I told him that I had heard about a Zen Roshi who just came to town. “Get us an appointment,” he requested. We entered the Roshi’s room, all bowed to each other, sat quietly on the floor and were offered cups of hot tea. After some minutes of just sitting with each other the Swami asked, “Roshi, what is enlightenment?” The Roshi said, “Your face! Your face is showing it!” He then broke into laughter. The Swami joined the laughing, and soon we were all hysterical. The Swami then said, while struggling through his laughter, “Roshi, it’s your laugh! Your laughter is enlightenment, thank you verrrry much!” We all again bowed and left. Few words, immense light.

At times we are all buddhas. Many children often seem to be born buddhas. An eminent buddha is imminent when she emanates love and insight. Join the buddha field often–by entering the field, or by emanating the field. The mistake may be to think there exists, and then to try to become, a permanent buddha.

All things must pass. Even your buddhahood.

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July 6th, 2015

From a recent talk by Ganga.  

OM is a wonderful, effective, and beautiful way to bring the attention and energy of a group to one place—the same place. When you begin a class and say, “OK, we’re going to start, attention please!” Some are listening, some are not, and it’s hard to gather the attention. When you chant OM, everyone comes to right here and now. It brings everyone right to the present moment. I think that is as good a definition and meaning of OM as anything.

People will ask, “What does OM mean?” You really cannot actually or strictly translate it. It has no definition, it means nothing, and it can also mean everything. The sound is a symbolic sound or attunement. OM points toward something and has import or direction. It points toward everything and nothing, toward what is and what isn’t, and toward the inner, and the outer. Ancient Yoga philosophy had some idea that everything in the universe is energy and vibration. They may not have necessarily understood this scientifically since there were many things they didn’t know or understand, but their idea about the universe turned out to be more or less true—that the universe is made of energy and vibration. Chanting OM harmonizes you with that universal vibration.

OM is said to contain all sounds. The verbal sound starts gutturally with Ahhh, and becomes uuu as the mouth closes, and with the mouth completely closed, becomes mmmm vibrating the top of the head. It is actually not correct, though you will hear teachers say, that om should be broken into the separate vowels a, u, m. Some teachers say it should be chanted with aaa ooo and mmm as three separate syllables, but this isn’t accurate. The letter in Sanskrit is one symbol, one letter, and represents one sound. When that sound is made as one oooommmm you still have all three syllables and sounds contained therein. The aaa, the uuu and mmm are all there and contain more or less the range of verbal sounds. OM begins with a low tone, vibrates low, especially with a deeper voice, and as you close your mouth you feel the sound move up the spine to the top of the head carrying the vibration to the crown.

One way I often translate OM, is “what you feel and experience when you chant it.” There is resonance, there is harmony, and there is connection between everyone, and there is bringing everyone to the same point. That’s powerful, that’s beautiful; it’s simple. And it freaks some people out! Some people may think oming is weird, and I get that. And some also think it’s going to destroy their religion. I’ve taught in churches and some places where we weren’t allowed to chant OM. So I would say, “Well, it’s the same as amen”. They might reply, “Ok then let’s just chant amen instead of OM. Religion is most often programmed in with fear, but that’s another conversation…

OM means everything; it means the vibration of the universe; it means harmony; it means resonance, oneness, connection. OM is part of all that; it is all that. We could also add that you often hear OM
chanted three times. There is no rule. You may chant it once, three times, five times. It’s commonly done in threes, and there may be no provable reason, but there are some good theories, or perhaps truths. There are many threes in life. There are is the higher, the middle, and the lower. There are the body, mind and spirit. There are the past, present, and future. There are you, me, and we. These are some good reasons to chant in threes.

A continuous OM is also powerful and beautiful. The group begins together chanting OM, then lets it go on for however long the group dynamic makes it last. It may go on for two minutes or five minutes or however long it continues naturally. There is the starting point and then just letting the vibration and sound go. Each person comes in and out at their own pace, harmonizing, and tuning to the quality and energy of the group OM and letting that group OM feeling express itself and relate through your own individual contribution which becomes the fabric of the group chant–that is also a profound lesson in life. That is what OM points toward—the vibration, sound and silence of the universe, the one and the many, the inner and the outer, everything and nothing.

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March 24th, 2015

The Supreme Being

Be present, be insightful
Be loving, be happy
Be learning, be listening
Be seeing, be sensitive
Be alert, be compassionate,
Be wise, be awakened,
This is the supreme being

© 2014 Ganga White
All Rights Reserved

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March 24th, 2015

[From a recent interview with Ganga White]

Should yogis have goals for their practice and if so what kind?

Many yogis have the common goals of increased strength, flexibility, and vitality. But the more important goal is learning to use your practice to better serve yourself and tune the well-being of your body, mind, and spirit. That is much more meaningful and valuable than bending farther or doing a one handed handstand.

How do we know when we’re progressing? 

Real progress starts when you learn to see and feel, for yourself, the actual effects of the various poses. A teacher can tell you what the benefits of a pose are, but when you actually feel it yourself, it is much more effective. It like the difference between being told what the gears in a car do and learning to use them skillfully yourself and feeling their effects on the road and in the control of the vehicle. As you progress, or become more effective at using the tools of yoga, you develop the ability to articulate joints, vertebra, tendons and nerves as you tune into more subtle aspects of what the internal actions of the postures are.  You learn how to remove the imbalances created by other activities and to reduce the stress we all accumulate. It’s also important to remember that the essence of yoga is about awareness and consciousness. Real progress is expressed as mental clarity, happiness, and insight into living.

What do we do when we see progress or a goal being met?

There is a lot of joy in mastering a posture or finally overcoming a limitation, or attaining a sought after asana. But we also need to remember that life is a moving target. Goals are constantly changing and moving and we need to learn to go with the flow. Yoga is more about learning and refining a lifelong process than merely reaching goals.

What are we looking for in certain kinds of poses–what does it mean to progess in inversions, standing postures, etc. For example, in some pose categories the aim might be to let go and surrender and in others it might be to extend endurance and stamina, improve balance, still the mind, be gentler with ourselves.

In all the poses we want to move away from straining and efforting, toward gracefulness and effortlessness. When we get better at using the poses to serve our well being, we are less likely to force a goal and go beyond the edge to injury.

How can the broader practices like pranayama, meditation, philosophy support and be part of this process?

Meditation is the process.  It is moving into self awareness on the deepest and broadest levels. Whether we realize it or not, our philosophy, ideas, and beliefs directly condition our practice. Meditation involves becoming aware of conditioning, beliefs and internal constructs.  Meditation is becoming more watchful of the internal landscape. Pranayama helps develop energy flows, internal perceptions, steadiness and focus. Control of breath leads to control of the energy systems and the energy body and pranayama can connect us to the healing intelligence of the life force. These things are at the core and essence of yoga.  And meditation is your life. 

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