Monday, 24 October 2016

Bliss Bubbles from the Beyond - 6th Week of the Katha Upanishads

Throughout the study of the Katha Upanishads, we’ve been receiving the teachings through Yama, the Lord of Death, via the story of his encounter with the young boy Nachiketa. Nachiketa and ourselves have essentially (and bravely!) chosen to make Death our Guru, as we boldly begin to delve into it’s deep mysteries. However along this journey, we are also starting to recognise the wonderful paradox that Yama – Death himself, truly and totally believes in our capacity for LIFEIn our complete entitlement to freedom. It turns out that Yama is actually 100% life-affirming, utterly pro-life and absolutely life LOVING.
This week, Yama brings us deeper into the untouchable – the unshakeable place within us all that even Death cannot reach. For this, he gives us the gift of one word.

“I will give you the word all scriptures glorify,
All spiritual disciplines express,
To attain which aspirants lead a life of sense-restraint and self-naughting.
It is OM. This symbol of the Godhead is the highest.
Realising it one finds complete fulfilment of all one’s longings.
It is of the greatest support to all seekers.
Those in whose hearts OM reverberates unceasingly
Are indeed blessed and deeply loved
As one who is the Self.”

He uses OM to highlight the true Self, or Atman, which resides beyond the layers of all else. Almost like an onion, we are layered – and to experience what lies beneath, we must begin to peel these layers back to believe in beyond the surface. The great Yogic scriptures describes the understanding of these layers as Pancha Kosha – the 5 ‘bodies’ or Sheaths. (And there we are thinking we just have one body!)
So we begin with OM, the behind-the-scenes ultimate Self with a capital S – the essence of creation, unity, oneness and ultimate consciousness. Sounds great, to know that is our true nature, but it seems that it is not always so plain-as-day to see that. And it doesn’t seem like we can force it to come about either. We cannot grit our teeth and ‘try’ our way into universal consciousness. Rather, it is just always there, and actually has not much to do with ‘us’ making it happen at all. Instead, what we can do is clear some of the layers to allow this natural place to be experienced.

On top of OM, our true self, we have our Bliss Body or our Anandamaya Kosha. It is the thinnest and most subtle body between our ordinary awareness and our highest self. This is our closest connection to our natural self which is complete, whole and utterly, naturally, blissful. We know that this one definitely exists, as we can hopefully all recognise some moments of pure bliss in our lives that perhaps even happened for no reason at all. They don’t come from an external circumstance – they come from within….they are like little bliss bubbles that have managed to make their way through the other layers or bodies and come to the surface. But a lot of the time, those poor bubbles get burst for whatever reason. Of course, we all naturally have the desire to be happy, to be blissful, and in fact, it is our innate right to be living in our natural state of joy. Children are pretty much 24-7 in their bliss bodies! The pure existence of our Bliss Body means that the experience of bliss and those bliss bubbles are already there. We don’t have to try to become more blissful, we just have to clear the way to allow those bubbles to come to the surface.

Our next body, is the Wisdom Body or the Vijnanamaya Kosha.  As we travel through the 5 bodies, they move from the very subtle to the more physical. The Vijnamaya Kosha is a slightly thicker field than the Bliss Body. It is a place where our creative inspiration and intuitive knowledge comes from. This is a place of knowing, but beyond our thinking minds.  This is not the knowledge that we can gather from books or learn at school, it is not borrowed – it is inherent and again, already there. We don’t need to “become” more intuitive or more creative, we can just assist in letting it shine out through us by tapping into it.

Thicker still, on top of the Wisdom body, is the Thought Body or the Manomaya Kosha.
This body is to do with our thinking minds – our thoughts, emotions and memories. Now this one can be helpful – to plan, to sort things out. It is totally necessary. But it can also be not the most beautiful. It is mostly very self-concerned and self-believing and also sometimes quite draining. It spends most of its time making up stories and trying to lead us on. And we tend to spend a lot of our time up there. It’s the one we might yell “Shut up!” at whilst we’re alone, or the one we sometimes wish we could just turn off with a switch for a while.  This mental body feeds off the things we feed it from the outer, physical world and because it takes in so much it actually needs to shut itself off for approximately 8 hours per night to rejuvenate itself! But we mustn’t go to war with it – again, it can totally be a friend if we learn to look after it well. (And also stop believing in all of its chatter from time to time).
Covering this, and even denser still, is our Energy Body or our Pranamaya Kosha.
This is the blueprint of our physical body, the energy or ‘life-force’ that holds your physical body together. If this were to cease to function, your physical body would also cease to exist. This is the sheath that the Chakras or Energy centres are held in. And the Energy Body is totally so – it is not just for “Super Yogis” or “The Spiritual” – Prana is the vital force that makes life happen – it runs through you as it runs through the world around you. In Yoga, we devote our time to cleaning up this Energy body with the physical practice and Pranayama with our breath. 
Our last body of course, you’re completely familiar with. It is the Physical Body or the Annamaya Kosha. ‘Anna’ meaning food – the body that is made up of the food that we eat. Here, energy is solidified into matter and it is made of the five elements, of which the earth element is the dominant one. The physical body is the doorway to the inner bodies, and although it is the most outer shell, it is the one we have to start cleaning and taking care of the most so that the layers beyond can start to clear. When we begin to start clearing the first 3 layers, the Wisdom body, Bliss body and true Self can more easily come through.
Our true self is always speaking out to us, and always has a bigger plan for us (usually one much better than our own ideas!). In order to be able to listen to this, we must first let the other layers become more fluid, more responsive, and as clear as possible. The layers can act like walls – for example, things on the outside physical world can get through the cracks and break into the bliss body. For instance, perhaps when we see a newborn baby and are suddenly infused with a deep sense of love and bliss (even if we are changing stinky nappies!). And it can also go the other way –  we can allow our own innate intuition or bliss to flow through the walls and embody it on the surface. The clearer and cleaner the layers get, the more and more we have access to these more subtle bodies and experiences. And of course, this is why we use our Yoga practice to help us to do the inner cleaning and get closer to the nature of the True self – the place of universal consciousness…that which cannot die.
And so, we end this week’s teaching with a few wise words from Yama himself on the nature of The True Self…..
“The supreme Self is beyond name and form,
Beyond the senses, inexhaustible,
Without beginning, without end, beyond
Time, space and causality, eternal,
Immutable. Those who realise the Self
Are forever free from the jaws of death.”

With love
Adéle x

Friday, 14 October 2016

The fifth week of the Katha Upanishads….an invitation to come and sit near to the Guru within yourself.

Throughout the journey, we’ve been downloading the wisdom of Yama, Lord of Death, through the story of the brave boy Nachiketa. We start off this week with a note on wisdom, and how we can deal with the sometimes overwhelming supply of it all!

We’re always learning, and especially when we are choosing to enquire deeper we can be presented with so many awesome insights. This could potentially lead us to think we need to suddenly become completely enlightened with all the wisdom we have received, and perhaps never make a ‘mistake’ again. We can think learning is a 1-2-3 step process…learn the wisdom, and BAM that’s it - you’re perfect and you have all the ‘answers’ and you’ve officially NAILED IT. Off you go!

How terribly boring that would be.

The thing is, wisdom is not designed to be ‘nailed’. It is beyond nailing. It is non-nail-able. We can sometimes start to take it all in and then try to look through the wisdom into the world. This can lead to us over-analysing every situation and trying to enforce our nuggets of ‘wisdom’ we’ve gathered onto everything. And then we miss the pure, natural, wonder of things. I’m writing like this because I’ve been totally guilty of it. I’ve also realised how great it feels to put your hands up and say “Um, actually, I don’t really know all the answers, and I don’t think I ever will….or want to! Sorry!”.  I love that its means that we’re not supposed to do everything right. Wisdom isn’t a pill that we can swallow and then ‘we got this’. We can read so many books, listen to so much Satsang, and come away feeling like “Ah, right cool…NOW I know”. But the truth is, (for me anyway), we go out into the world and things get a bit jumbly and it isn’t so straight-forward as we’d like to think, and we are not the enlightened wise guru we thought we were for approximately half a minute. Huh.
Alternatively, there is the much lower-pressure route of just letting the wisdom nail itself. Just letting yourself take a bath in it – soak it all up, and then go on your merry way knowing that it’s been absorbed inside of you on its own and will apply itself, when it needs to. Rather than us trying sooo hard to apply it all the time, it will settle inside of us, sprouting and blooming over time. All we need is to hold an openness – a receptivity to it infusing our life. We can fall back a little, feel our way through life trusting that it’s there, and it will do its own work when the opportunities arise. Phew.

So after that “Ahh” breath of relief, we continue on. With another serving of wisdom to eat up, of course!

This week, Yama’s message really just follows on from last week regarding our energy, or Prana choices. We know we’re on the journey of making more Shreya choices, or choices that serve us long-term. And we come to know what does and what doesn’t by observing our internal landscape – the city inside of us. Is it filling up with energy? Or is it spilling out? What is causing it to leak and what is it that makes it rise? Of course, we can only begin to see these things inside ourselves because our energy is functioning at such a higher level that we’re able to pay attention to it. In other words, if you can even just notice within yourself when your energy is being lost, you’re already on a higher level of energy than being oblivious to it. I think that’s really good to know, because we can sometimes get so caught up in what we see, we don’t appreciate that at least we see it. Then when we can pay attention and make these choices, we start to upgrade our vehicle (or our chariot). We can start to ride first-class. Until eventually, our vehicle could even drive itself with its own energy. Super sustainability.

What if energy was money? What if it was our level of Prana that paid our bills? I can imagine that everyone would be interested in taking care of it then. But actually, it IS our currency – everything is energy, and our energy level is how we exchange with the world around us. When we fill up our Pranic bank account, or the energy inside ourselves, how does the world look from that place? When we suddenly don’t need anything from it for our energy to rise? Then I guess that we can actually start to just enjoy it.  As Steve jokes, we become the “IN-JOYERS”. The one within is already full, and therefore we can truly in-joy the world around us.

When our Prana is low – we reach for things to feel it fill up; people, objects, appearances, food (particularly choux buns), whatever we feel will make us feel “okay” or “better”. We’re grabbing at the outside world and we’ve got our hands in the wrong jar. What we need to do, in that ‘needy’ moment (that I hope we all get some of, because I know it well), is take a deep breath and come inside. Ahh. This is what we do in Yoga…we take time to conserve and pay attention to all the energy within and start to build it up. When we lay down in Savasana at the end, we can notice the energy that we’ve cultivated. We’re much more empowered. The King or Queen of our cities is there, ruling rightly. (That’s you by the way).
Something that inevitably takes a lot of our energy, is our thought patterns. And goodness, we put a LOT of energy into trying to stop our thoughts, don’t we? We do everything we can to try and “fix” the way we think. But actually, when we decide to raise our energy, it also affects our thoughts. We start to actually think less – the stuff we try to avoid so much just isn’t really there, because it just can’t function at a higher energy level. And so our mind expands, and the psychological mind recedes as we raise our Prana higher. And the journey is never over, there are things now that we may not even notice is taking our energy from us…but the higher we go, the more we can see. Things may get wobbly for a while, as we adjust to being on a higher level, just like we do when we take our stabilizers off our bicycles – we can go through spirals of feeling secure and then insecure before we feel secure again. And this is adjustment. This is growth. This is good.

Yama’s message this week, simply, is to look after our energy;
"The Self cannot be known by anyone
Who desists not from unrighteous ways,
Controls not the senses, stills not the mind,
And practices not meditation.
None else can know the omnipresent Self,
Whose glory sweeps away the rituals of
The priest and the prowess of the warrior
And puts death itself to death."

In Steve’s translation:
"If you wish to reach a deathless place, raise your frequency to a place of such high energy until it matches the frequency of the Universe”.

Om Shakti….Wishing boundless energy to you all.
Adele x

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ruling your own Inner City…(Katha Upanishads week 4)
We continue on to week four with the teachings of the Katha Upanishads – essentially in truth, a deep conversation with our highest self. 
Up until now, we’ve explored the first two teachings that Nachiketa receives from Yama, the Lord of Death. Questioning the idea of what it is that can ‘die’ within us and what it is that cannot. 
We found out that we only ever have two choices in front of us, Preya and Shreya – what isn’t beneficial in the long run, and then what is ultimately better for us. And to further understand how to make these two choices, we learned an analogy of our being – understanding that our body, mind and senses are vessel which we must learn to control to navigate through this life.
Which brings Yama to his next point in how to defy Death itself….A challenging statement:
“Nachiketa, what most people are actually experiencing of life, is really just a slow process of death”, says Yama.
“And if, Nachiketa, you really want to go beyond this idea of Death…you must start by becoming more and more ALIVE on the inside.”
Isn’t it true, especially in our modern day and age, that we wear ourselves and our bodies out by so many externals? Over-working, staying up late, eating the wrong foods, seeking approval from others, chasing after desires….the list goes on. The horses (or our senses), continually promising us happiness by tugging at the reigns, causing us to make less than beneficial choices. All of this meaning our system gets slowly less and less alive on the inside. 
But the good news is (explains Yama), that it can totally go the other way.
We can start to grow and feed our aliveness from the inside – we can start to fill ourselves up with life energy or what we call PRANA. The force that runs through all of life. And we can either focus on filling it up or we can let it spill out.  
Yama gives us a new analogy to help us comprehend:
“Your body is like a great city, Nachiketa, with 11 gates within the surrounding walls. These gates represent your centres of exchange. Your two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, your mouth, genitals, anus, belly button and the point at the top of your head. Your job Nachiketa, is to man this city – to RULE this city. You are essentially King. Making sure that your life force, or your Prana is not spilling out into the world through these gates. That it is yours for building and using to create a sparkling, vibrant city within.”
So there you go, you may have more ‘exchange centres’ or ‘gates’ that you knew about in your body, but coming from The Lord of Death explaining the secrets to immortality…we can assume he knows a thing or two.
We can think of it like a whiskey barrel full of holes – if we’re continuously trying to fill it up with whiskey (or energy), but still letting it leak out the holes (through choices which deplete our energy), we are going to become exhausted. With no whiskey left for us or anyone else!
We need to start becoming Kings and Queens of our inner cities. We need to control the gates, or our energy choices, to keep building up our Prana inside. This means NOTICING what steals our energy from us and what builds it. For example, what happens to our energy after eating a delicious, sugary choux bun? Does it generally serve to lift our energy or does it actually make us feel a bit drained a few hours afterwards? If we get enough hours of sleep does this help generally enhance our energy? And are there some people in our lives that we realise lower our energies and some that maybe help us raise them? Are we perhaps letting visitors break into our inner cities and graffiti the on walls? It starts to get super interesting when we really start to pay attention to the little things.
So we start to come back to Preya and Shreya – our decision making tools. But tonight realising that these tools are to help us BUILD UP our level of Prana, so that we can become a total fountain of energy onto ourselves. So that we can live not just a ‘good’ life, but an utterly enriching one, totally beaming with aliveness. This reminds me of something I once heard Steve (our teacher) say:
“To live an ordinary life it requires an ordinary amount of energy. To live an extraordinary life, it requires an extraordinary amount of energy”. 
I remember hearing that and walking away thinking…’Gosh… I want the extraordinary life’. Wouldn’t anyone? And we’re all learning that it takes some real discipline, as well as being a process of never-ending learning and evolving. Personally, I feel that these energy choices, and Preya and Shreya, seem to reflect well on the idea of ‘self-love’. And I’m figuring out that it’s a two way street – to make better energy choices, means that I am being loving to myself, and being loving to myself makes me make better energy choices. And of course, being connected to everything else, as we all are, loving myself means loving the WHOLE. Which we reflected on when we questioned whether a Shreya choice for yourself could possibly not be beneficial for anyone else in the long term. In other words, could we do something that is beneficial for our highest good in the long term, which is NOT beneficial for someone else’s highest good also long term? The answer seems to be no. We may of course cause temporary pain in someone, but ultimately, they will also grow through that. All we can do, if life and the insistence for us to expand pull us one way, is offer love and try to reduce any damage to the best of our ability as we grow on our path.
Choosing to fill ourselves up with our own energy may sound a little bit selfish, but it’s more like becoming responsible for our own inner landscape. It is really the level of energy, or the Prana behind our own eyes that starts to determine our experience. That way, through our senses, we will start to experience the wonder everywhere – we’ll sit back as the perceivers of the glory of the externals. But only…. When we fill ourselves up FIRST. We can’t force ourselves or ‘talk’ ourselves into seeing the wonder everywhere. Imagine that! “Come on…we must try really hard now to appreciate the beauty around us”. It’s just not authentic, and it doesn’t happen that way. We must feel it within first.  And when we ARE full of energy inside ourselves, even within what we may consider a “mundane” and “normal” life – suddenly the trees start to become a little greener, the sky a little bluer, the sunrise more beautiful. Until one day, we catch ourselves ‘falling in love with a snail and we don’t even know why’. Life starts to become more technicolour, HD. The ordinary suddenly reveals its extraordinariness
So for one week, as rightful rulers, we get to examine our own energies – what builds our gleaming inner cities and what it is that knocks them down…What can we choose? Is this adding Prana or deducting? 
Until next week, Kings & Queens! :)


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Taking Back the Reigns... Katha Upanishads Week 3

So this week us Yogis gather around again - first to freshen up our understandings so far, before we continue to deepen into the mysterious teachings of The Katha Upanishads. We begin with a small recap of our story…our “Death chat” with Nachiketa and the Lord of Death himself, Yama.

After seeing his father’s false generosity is all for show and image, Nachiketa has challenged his father by asking him, “To whom would you give me!?”
Nachiketa’s father, sick of Nachiketa’s smart-arse comments, bites back; “I give you to DEATH!” (The modern-day equivalent being somewhere along the lines of, “drop dead you little…*bleep!*”)
Hmm, Nachiketa ponders – what would it really mean if I was given to Death? What would happen? Who, or what, would ‘die’?
Eager and very brave, Nachiketa sets himself off on a daring expedition to find Yama, king of Death, to explore these very questions. But poor Nachiketa had no idea that he’d be signing himself up for quite a delay. Of course, being The Lord of Death is understandably hard work, and Yama (being a busy man), has popped out on an errand……for three days.
When Yama returns, impressed by his patience, he offers the courageous (and probably now hungry) Nachiketa, 3 wishes. The first two, Yama grants with ease. Firstly, Nachiketa wishes for forgiveness with his father – for all to be well when he returns home. Granted, Yama nods. Secondly, he wishes to learn the secret to a fire ritual that will give him the power to ignite his whole nervous system, causing transformation within his body. It is yours Nachiketa, Yama agrees.
Third and lastly, Nachiketa decides to really go for it….
Yama, may I know the place of stillness within myself that not even YOU can take away from me. Let me know this, let me experience this place, whilst I am still within this body, within this life”.
With much reluctance and debate, Yama finally gives in – seeing Nachiketa worthy of his knowledge.
Okay, you win”, says Yama. “But Nachiketa, you must be wide open – you must be willing to drop everything you think you know. You must be up for this ride. Are you in Nachieketa?
Okay. Then we begin
Last week saw us dive into the exploration of Yama’s first teaching to Nachiketa – the idea that he (and all of us too), will only ever face two choices in life – Preya or Shreya. Preya, being that which gives us just a temporary benefit or pleasure (e.g., eating too much ice cream), and Shreya being the choice that is beneficial in the long term (e.g., maybe stopping after just the one scoop). 
We all make these choices daily, and we know it – and sometimes Preya choices are made because that is simply just the level of consciousness we are at, at that moment. But how beautiful is it to look back and to see our own growth? How the ‘you’ that sits here now, would not make the same choices as last year’s you? And with this, there can hopefully be a forgiveness. Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is oneself, no? But if we can see that the choices that we made were just the best that we could do at that time, we can start to let it go. Of course, Karmas inevitably need to play themselves out, and we have to accept the consequences of our actions, but moving forward with forgiveness means we can start to change our future. 
And how do we move forward? We learn from our mistakes. We learn that we cannot plant lemon trees and expect oranges. Therefore, we endeavour to make more Shreya choices. Which in turn, leads to more opportunities for Shreya choices to find our way to us. Until eventually, there will be no more choice – our world will just become Shreya orientated. The rest will naturally drop away.
Yama, it’s very cool and helpful that you’ve cut it down to two choices for me…but how on Earth and I supposed to know WHICH is Preya and which is Shreya? It’s not always so easy”, sighs Nachiketa.
Now, if you’ve ever had to make a very difficult decision, you can feel Nachiketa’s confusion. It’s not always simple. And even Yama, Lord of Death, with all his secrets, know this too. And that’s where his second teaching comes in.

“Okay, Nachiketa, let me give you an analogy, which will explain to you precisely how your human being, and body, works.
When you come into this life, it is like you are given a vehicle. A vehicle that you ride through this life until I come to take you away. This vehicle is exactly like a chariot. And to ride the chariot through this life, you must come to know how it works.”

It’s strange isn’t it? How we come into this life, this body, with absolutely no instruction manual whatsoever.  We’re just supposed to figure the whole thing out! It must have got lost along the way somewhere. We would probably be a lot better prepared if it had come attached to us when we were born, somewhere, with big bold red letters saying, “READ ME”.
But it’s okay – Yama has the manual for us, although a bit delayed.

“Your body, Nachiketa, is the chariot. And your 5 senses – they are like the 5 horses pulling the chariot along. Then the reigns upon those horses represent your mind – your desires, your emotions. And the driver in the chariot is your intelligence…your discriminative faculty, the one that can see and learn from your mistakes. 
And finally, the one behind the driver, that witnesses it all…is your true self”.
So as long as our identification, is taken by the horses (our outward senses), pulling on the reigns (our thoughts, emotions, desires), what kind of life is this? How does it look? Who’s driving? It feels totally out of control, right?
But Yama says, we can train this chariot, and we can train these horses. Just like we can (and we must) train the body and our senses. This is OUR vehicle, and if we can train it, we actually have a lot more control over our own health, and our own life than we thought. For example, if we come into a spinal twist every day…we are doing something phenomenal for our digestive system and our well-being. And then when we come into Savasana – isn’t it true, that our senses do a total U-turn from being so ‘out there’, to coming ‘in here’? On top of this, our practice within Yoga causes us to feel everything much more deeply, and see everything so much more clearly within ourselves.
Training, taking care, and taking control of our vehicle, means that we are not so easily ruled by externals, or our thoughts and emotions. Whereas unruly thoughts (wild horses), can lead to Preya choices… the one behind the driver (the one that witnesses it all), can see when these horses go mad. This is the one that when our vehicle is trained, causes us to follow higher intentions. Essentially, taking the reigns of our life back into our own hands.
Now this presence, behind the driver, will have also have been felt by us all. It’s that mysterious, unexplainable sense of uncaused peace that sometimes runs through us, occasionally in the strangest of situations. You know it? That feeling that actually, everything is okay. That you are a supported charioteer. Because you totally are.
Yeah, it might sound a little bit weird. But it doesn’t need to be understood. Actually, it’s not possible to understand it – it’s too big, too magnificent, for the intellect to understand. It would just exhaust our understanding to even try to understand it. But instead of trying to comprehend this one, we can start to build a relationship with it. With the mystery that it is, through experience. Of course, we keep all the tools that we’ve been given, like our intelligence (we don’t suddenly stop locking our doors and crossing the road without looking). But we are also just willing to open up to that which we have no clue about. Can we feel into the space behind the driver, and be with the one who witnesses it all?

The message of the teaching this week:
“You are given a vehicle in this life, which you must learn how to use. If you take good care of this vehicle, and come to understand how it works Nachiketa… you will ride blissfully though this life.”

Om Charioteers
Adele x 

Friday, 23 September 2016

We only ever have two choices…
So, week 2 of the Katha Upanishads….following on from the opening cliff-hanger of the teachings from the beginning of our dance with Death!
Our young and persistent protagonist Nachiketa has managed to convince Yama, the lord of Death, that he is worthy of his third and ultimate wish – to know and to abide in the unchanging place within himself that even death itself cannot steal from him. To know the very secret to immortality.
Yogis gather close around our teacher Steve, of course all eager to know more so as to feed the little Nachiketas living within us all.
But inevitably, the answer to such a deep and brave question does not come with just a simple reply. This evening, we delve into the first teaching that Yama reveals unto Nachiketa, the beginning of taking our life back into our own hands.
“The first thing Nachiketa, that you must understand”, says Yama, “is that YOU have a CHOICE in how you live your life. Therefore every moment, the seeds that you are sewing are becoming your future garden”.

Sounds scary doesn’t it? Sounds like a lot of pressure and responsibility. In reflection of a world FILLED with choices, the marketplace of life an expanding display of options….how do we ever make the right ‘choices’?!
Steve gives an endearing example of how one may eat their Weetabix. Some with skimmed milk, some with full fat milk, some dry, some soggy – is my Weetabix better than your Weetabix? What’s the RIGHT way? The right CHOICE? How on Earth do we know?!

But it’s all okay. Yama puts us at ease, telling us that we can quit worrying about our perfect Weetabix, as he explains that absolutely whatever the situation…we will only ever have TWO choices presented to us.

The Katha Upanishads use two marvellous Sanskrit words to distinguish between which course of action will lead us into trouble and regret in the long run and which will benefit ourselves truly – leading to us living a more loving life in line with our highest good.
These two words? Preya and Shreya.
Simply beautiful aren’t they? And you will know them deeply already – we all do.
Preya, is simply that which gives us immediate gratification or short-term pleasure, but we know will not be beneficial for us in the grand scheme of things. Think of putting off an assignment until last minute in exchange for watching TV or partying too much. Ah I travel back to my Uni days! Definitely a few Preya moments.
And the opposite, Shreya, is that which is beneficial for us in the big picture. Sounds totally great, and we all want what’s ultimately best for us – but making a Shreya decision is sometimes very hard work. It is true that what is beneficial is not always pleasant, and what is pleasant is not always beneficial!
Does it sound familiar? I totally know it. And we all know we know it on some level – there’s always that little voice inside us popping up that knows what’s ultimately best for us. Isn’t there?
Of course, we want to choose Shreya. But how do we make friends with it when it can be so difficult sometimes? Ah, Steve says…this is where our Bhakti comes in. Our heart wish.
If our higher ideal in our life is clear to us – if our deepest wish is to open, grow, develop, and EXPAND in life….then the power of our hearts can get behind our endeavours. That way, “the Preya can prey on us less”, Steve jokes. When our own very hearts are involved in our choices, it is totally different than “being told what to do”. When we have true, meaningful reason behind sticking with often not-so-easy choices – for example, eating a better diet, sacrificing time to nourish ourselves or do important work, it becomes a little easier to decide. We can always be continuously asking the deeply telling question; “does this choice truly serve me?”, and endeavour to be completely honest with ourselves. The tough and wonderful thing is – absolutely nobody elsecan make these choices for us.
A beautiful, memorable example. Steve plays,
“You’re never alone in bed you know, there is always three of you. When you wake up, Preya and Shreya are right there next to you”.
One I am totally familiar with, as I am sure all Yogis are! Do I drag my sorry bum out of bed to my mat for my practice at this ungodly early hour or do I enjoy another hour of sleep in my lovely, comfortable, warm bed?
And inevitably, Shreya is not always going to win! We are going to make totally Preya choices sometimes. And that…is okay! And actually, sometimes it’s very necessary to make Preya choices for our own growth – so we can look back and see the consequences of our own actions. But our general ongoing endeavour…is to work with Shreya whenever we can, and slowly move more and more of our choices over to what is beneficial for us in the long term. It will be a slow progress, with many slips and falls, but the most important thing is that we HAVE FUN trying to expand into Shreya! And essentially, despite the mistakes, we know we are ultimately on the path.
Using our Yoga, we start to develop the inner capacity to be able to read into what is truly right for us. In a time where working until we are burnt out seems admirable, it could be easily confused for Shreya. But when we start to listen deeply to ourselves, we can notice there is actually a lot of balance that comes with Shreya. We can notice when we are perhaps over-doing…and actually, maybe the deeper benefit that is needed here for us is to rest. And of course, the opposite is also true.
Can we commit to delving into Shreya? Into exploring more and more what is needed …what is for our highest benefit in the long term, rather than an immediate relief right now?
What a total, moment by moment PRACTICE, Preya and Shreya. Steve asks….
“Can you fall in love with it?”
I know I totally can.
And for this week, we close…. With the space and time to play with exploring our choices.
Om om!
~ By Adéle Sales