The Bhagavad Gita, Mantra, and some of the tougher topics of life at the SOYA Annual Retreat.
By Mugs McConnell
After each SOYA retreat Bob and I are filled with an overwhelming gratitude to everyone who attends and makes the effort and time to learn together in this very special community of yogis. It is a joyous gathering of reconnecting and the opportunity to learn from some of the most renowned yogis in the world.
This year’s retreat with Brenda Feuerstein unfolded with quite a different focus, venturing into areas we often try to avoid, such as trauma, triggers, grief, and our responses to fear. The truth is though, we yogis have to deal with these too. Yoga gives us tools to cope, but the subjects themselves need to be explored. This takes some trust, and letting go. It took me a while to digest all the teachings, and I probably will continue to assimilate them for some time.
“The moment we tighten we lose the ability to trust ourselves or others.”
Brenda taught us that trauma cuts off the frontal brain creating a “disconnect”. Yoga gives us tools to help with this disconnect in several ways. Yoga engages both sides of the brain/body. Yoga teaches us to reactivate or reconnect to body sensations. Yoga teaches us inner guidance. Yoga teaches us to unlock areas where trauma is held.
After trauma, a person is forever changed. Far too often family and friends are waiting for their loved one to “return to normal,” but that normal is gone. They are likely asking themselves, “Who am I now?” Great comfort comes for everyone when we accept the “new person”, the butterfly that has transformed from the cocoon of healing.
During this exploration we learned it is important to know what “grounds us” in the event we become ungrounded. We learned a powerful technique to find our personal “resilience zone”, so when we feel ungrounded or triggered, we can return to a place of trust and stability.
The next big teaching for me came from diving into the Bhagavad Gita, making it as relevant today as it was centuries ago. Like Arjuna, when we are confronted with conflict, we can freeze with fear of the outcome. We are full of “what ifs” so much so we don’t take any action at all. Krishna, the Divine in form, reminds us to let go of any expectations, trust in the higher power, and do our best.
“Show up, and surrender expectations of the outcome. On this path no effort is wasted. Perfection doesn’t exist. We are just called to show up and do our best.”
I loved the Bhagavad Gita Warrior asana sequence, and the asana session each morning, plus each time Brenda suggested we do the asanas “our body is calling us to do” (or Freedom Yoga” in the words of Erich Schiffmann – another way to trust the inner guidance). I loved the slow, long holds, and being present during them, rather than continuously moving from one asana to the next. One student came to affirming the same – that she had forgotten how lovely it is to slow down and savour each pose.
“Being established in yoga, take action, and surrender the outcome. This is yoga, and the grand asana of life.”
The integration of the Bhagavad Gita and how Brenda captured the essence of each chapter in just a few words was so enlightening. It was a beautiful process to bridge the ancient text to modern times. And every one of these statements is so powerful in and of itself, they can be a meditation in and of themselves.
Chapter 1: Wrong thinking is a big problem in life.
Chapter 2: Right knowledge is the ultimate problem solver.
Chapter 3: Take the appropriate course of action without attachment to the outcome.
Chapter 4: Every act is an act of reverence or prayer.
Chapter 5: What does it take for you to stand up in the world?
Chapter 6: We need to connect with higher consciousness daily.
Chapter 7: Live what we are learning. Walk the talk.
Chapter 8: We can’t give up on ourselves.
Chapter 9: Whatever you do, do it as an offering. Dedicate your practice outward and upward.
Chapter 10: See Divinity in everything.
Chapter 11: Every problem is an opportunity. Let go enough to see Truth.
Chapter 12: Do everything with devotion, without expectation or obligation.
Chapter 13: Discriminate between Spirit and matter. Detach from delusion and attach to Divinity.
Chapter 14: Observe the play of the 3 gunas. Be sure the way you are living matches True vision – self adjust to make it so.
Chapter 15: Deeply connect with your Self – this is the way to the Supreme Self.
Chapter 16: Appropriate action is enough in itself. Do the right thing.
Chapter 17: Choosing the right thing to do over the pleasant thing to do is empowering.
Chapter 18: Let go. Move into union with the Divine and fulfill your dharma! Do It!
This is our call to action! Figure out your dharma, let go of the fear, and live the life you were meant to live!
“Self-Transcendence is to go beyond who we appear to be to ourselves and others.”
Brenda created the opportunity for sharing and asking questions often throughout the weekend, giving us the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences in a safe environment.
Speaking of sharing, I have learned through working with First Nations people that “listening” while someone tells their story creates empathy, compassion and understanding. In the circle, everyone gets a chance to speak, no matter how long they need. Brenda is very rooted in appreciating First Nations culture. This “listening” can become challenging because our society is focussed on “hurry up and move to the next one.” Finding your voice and feeling heard are very, very important. Listening and speaking relates to the vishuddhi chakra at the throat area. Vishuddi is powerful, and if we don’t have a voice, or we don’t feel heard, or we never shut down our mind long enough to listen, it can impact our future enlightenment greatly.
“Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel it. This is exhausting. Compassion is the desire to care for others. This is nourishing. True radical compassion opens you up.”
Sunday morning came so quickly. It was filled with the sound of Yoga. The Divine manifested. The sacred language of the Gods was telling the story of Creation through mantra. We chanted the Power Shakti Mantras 21 times each. AUM, AIM, HRIM, SHRIM, KRIM, HOOM, HLIM, STRIM, TRIM all the way through the process of creation to human form.
“Imagine the beginning of time. Imagine the sound underneath the beginning of time.”
This powerful chanting was followed with the chakra mantras, vibrating the beautiful lotus flowers within. All the chakras and all the koshas are affected. LAM, VAM, RAM, YAM, HAM, AUM, OM. Every mantra ending with “m” transfers the shakti energy up. (If you attended the retreat and would like a recording of these mantras, send Brenda a private fb message and she will send it to you).
After 1½ hours of beautiful chanting together as One, we closed with arati. I was vibrating and grateful for being created. I left our community of yoga being filled with the reality of the Gita’s equation…
Action (karma yoga) + Love (bhakti yoga) = Light (Jnana Yoga)
Thank you Brenda, and all of you for making this weekend a reality. Attached is my drawing of the great warrior sequence in case you didn’t take notes! Namaste, Mugs
The great warrior sequence: