The two courses I launched at the beginning of January are in full-swing. We are approaching our second session this week and I am feeling very good about the quality, refinement and organization of my online teaching skills.
It's never easy to "deliver the goods" when it comes to online teaching. In my experience, and probably for others as well, in-person is just better. But that doesn't mean it can't be done online! It just makes it more difficult.
I think the trickiest thing is staying on track and focused with the energy. It really comes down to precision and focus. All things in spiritual practice, at least in terms of the yogic perspectives, come down to focus. It's really about centralizing one's awareness to designated topics and maintaining those focal points for sustained periods of time.
One definition of yoga that I particularly appreciate (there are many definitions for each Sanskrit word depending on context) is this one: "yoga is the unbroken stream of mental activity towards the goal." If we look at this word yoga, and understand that in it's original definition thousands of years ago, the word meant "to yoke" or "to join together", we can see where this definition comes in. To be able to "join the mind together with the goal" is the idea.
Then we take this word sadhana "the way of attainment" or "the instrument that leads to a particular goal", and we see what yoga sadhana is all about.
It is the combination of tools or processes that we use to develop a mind that can remain unbroken in its concentration towards whatever our goal may be.
Mantra is one piece of technology that has a rich history of success for this endeavor. As we know, mantra just means "instrument (tra) of the mind (manas)."
Many yogis over many generations have used mantra successfully to develop their powers of concentration and focus. It is a great tool to train the monkey mind! Chanting out loud is also a form of pranayama, or regulated yogic breathing. This word pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga, just means prana "life-force" ayama "expanding the dimension" . All of the words in Sanskrit have their usages built directly into the definitions. It is really brilliant.
So when we refer to how chanting mantra can become pranayama, the actual physiological affect of verbal recitation of mantra causes a control of the airflow into and out of the lungs in a rhythmic fashion. This creates a cycle of CO2 that is no longer scattered or disrupted due to everyday living (stress causes us to hold our breath or breathe in ways that are unnatural). It is training for the body to return to its natural order and rhythm. It is a sort of tuning mechanism for the entire organism, not to mention the fact that the mantras themselves create a vibration through our vessel.
Expanding the dimension of life-force is just referring to our ability to put more of our energy towards a task. To show up more fully in life to whatever our chosen mission is. It is quite a statement!
The beautiful thing, I think, about all of this is that once we learn to understand and apply these spiritual technologies, we see how important they are not only for our well-being, but for virtually everything we can do in this life. It becomes of utmost importance to no longer put off our spiritual practices (sadhana).
Eventually, hopefully, we see that our use of mantra, or breathing practices, or our asanas and posture training, or the combination of these tools become as important as taking a shower, brushing our teeth, or eating healthy food.
A healthy nervous system, one that is robust and resilient but also soft and receptive... a nervous system that can remain focused and motivated towards our higher missions in life is not only a possibility, but a very real outcome that is the promise fulfilled by a little bit of consistency and patience over a steady period of time.
These are the things I am passionate about reviving and bringing to the forefront of modern culture, where long-term achievement has been forgotten in exchanged for short-term gain. Nothing worthwhile is earned quickly... but a single step in the right direction provides the infinite reward of spiritual fulfillment and satisfaction that you are living in alignment with your deepest truth, which seems to coincide with the natural order and rhythm of life.
Doing your sadhana and becoming one with the cosmos is no longer a fairytale. It is an invitation to you and I and anybody else who wants to walk the path of unity.
NOTE: Although I am unsure when these two particular courses will be offered again, there will be a course offering in the Spring, so stay tuned for that. Still downloading the details ... but its coming ;)