When Elevate Community Yoga posted an event titled "108 Sun Salutations - Summer Solstice" I was intrigued, but not ready to sign up.
Could I really do 108 sun salutations in a row? That's a lot of Chaturanga Dandasanas! My muscles felt sore just thinking about it.
But then I was in a different studio, and at the end of the class, I overheard someone talking about the event. He was excited about it, and he said he'd done it before. I wanted to ask questions, but I also didn't want to interrupt. I went home still unsure exactly what I'd be signing up for, but I couldn't forget the feeling of the man's excitement. I knew I had to go and find out what this was all about when I got there.
On the day of the event, I felt a bit nervous. I still had doubts that I could do this. I mean 108!!! But I was also eager with anticipation. This sounded like a powerful mind-body meditation that I may never get to experience again.
Thirty adventurous people joined the event, and we packed our mats into the space in neat rows. We came with the intention of releasing the old and greeting this new season with open hearts and energized bodies.
Our teacher, Kaycie, began by telling us this was a cleansing practice, for both the mind and the body.
Once we got started it was easy to understand why. With each down dog I breathed in deep. With each move forward I breathed out fully. I could feel the cleansing release of all this deep breathing throughout my muscles, organs and tissues.
And because we repeated the same movement over and over, I came into a mystical zone. We all flowed together, on Kaycie's cues, breathing in fully, breathing out fully. Forward, up, reach for the sky, hands to heart center, reach up, forward, back to down dog.
The synching of all our bodies and our breaths was in itself hypnotic. It managed to reach that elusive sweet spot of being relaxing and energizing at the same time. It didn't take long for the sweat to start dripping off me. Forward, back, up, down, forward, back.
I had anticipated my muscles to start burning, and before we started, I had expected I'd take child's pose a few times to make it through.
But as went along, something beyond me was happening. Not only did I not get tired as we moved in this way for over an hour, but I felt like I could do this forever. I have never felt that level of strength and endurance in myself before. It's a feeling I won't soon forget.
Sometimes, I get a glimpse of my true power, whether that be in my mind, my body or my spirit, and it blows me away. That glimpse has kept me going during all the times when I'm stumbling, falling, and seeing only my perceived weaknesses and limitations.
Despite the rhythmic breathing and movements, my mind never completely cleared. It stayed active, and because of this, I didn't realize how deep into this mystical zone I'd gone. I began to wonder how many we'd done, and how many were left.
I guessed we were somewhere around number 70. I thought, okay, I can do 30 more. I got this. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel in the flow. And then, just like, Kaycie called out that we had one more.
I couldn't believe it. How had we done 108 already? How had I done 108? In all, it took about an hour and a half to complete. I cannot imagine, on my own, trying to do sun salutations for an hour and a half. That's bonkers! But in that room, in that divine space we created together, it had felt like no time had passed at all.
Needless to say, I slept like a rock that night. A truly peaceful, deep sleep. I am so grateful I was able to experience 108 sun salutations. I tried to describe the energy and feeling of it all, but now that I'm at the end of the post, I don't think I did that at all.
I suppose that's why we call somethings indescribable. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself. I will try to make this event when it comes up again next year. If you find something like this, I would encourage you to go! You do not have to do every single sun salutation. Many people took child's pose, or sat and meditated, flowing only their arms up and down, during the sequence. This is also another powerful way to enjoy the experience, as listening to your body and honoring where you're at is as important as every down dog not taken.
This event was hosted at Elevate Community Yoga. Photo copyright Kaycie Hall.
During our journey to Self, to our true self, we start to idealize the idea of knowing ourselves.
Knowing who we are and really getting clear on it and owning it.
The thing with that is, when you feel you know who you are, you begin to solidify that sense of self. This can feel like a good thing, like we see ourselves, the good, the bad, the highs, the lows, and we come to peace with it.
However, on the flip side, when we start over associating with a sense of identity we close ourselves off to what is outside of that identity. Things that we may not even be able to consider because they are too far outside of our perspective.
Further more, we might only be knowing the surface stuff, the stuff we accumulated through life experiences, while completely ignoring the deeper self. We tend not to get to know this deeper Self because it goes beyond labels, and if we can't label ourselves then how can that be who we are.... we are the I am's right? I am a writer. I am spiritual. I am kind. I am brave. I am young. I am old.
But the Self that just is, the self that is I AM and nothing more, that IS who we are.
Everything else... it's an idea construction. It's thoughts we've turned into a sense of identity in order to try to understand how we fit in this world.
For example, I have always said that I'm afraid of public speaking. I have said it and thought it so many times I have taken it in as some core, immutable truth about myself. However, there's nothing about that that is actually who I am.
Who I am really, in my core, is love. I am the Universe. I am infinite.
So how can I be terrified of crowds, which comes from a place of fear and limitation, and also be infinite and full of love at the same time?
The only way I can do this is to convince my mind that it's true and it's real. I allow experiences to convince me further it's real, when it's really only my thoughts and beliefs being reflected back to me. The feeling that it's real is the part that can be hard to shake, because damn if it doesn't feel real. But it's not. It's an illusion, a cloak I have chosen to put on and experiment with during this life. I could take it off at anytime. I could declare I'm done with it at anytime.
These feelings of who and what we are go far beyond this. We might see ourselves as struggling business owners, always looking for a way to break free, and not even being aware we are so entrenched in an identity that is the very reason we can't break free. We might be convinced that being an exhausted mom is what we are, completely forgetting that below the fatigue is something spectacular, powerful, and completely holy and divine.
We cannot see what we don't believe in. If we believe we are this or that, we will see it reflected back over and over. For example, think about how often you lose something, only to realize it was right in front of you the whole time. You simply didn't believe it was there, so you couldn't see it.
The thing that stops me, or any of us, from instantly dropping these self-created identity illusions is the ego.
Ah, the ego!
Before we all go bashing our egos and talking about how it needs to die, let's take a deep breath.
The ego is a part of you. Wanting to destroy or kill a part of yourself is only going to make that part dig in deeper. It's only going to feed the fear that made it all grow so big in the first place. In the same way you cannot hate another person into changing, you cannot hate your ego into calming down and working with you. We work with the ego in the same way we work with other people - by coming at it from a place of openness and love and curiosity.
The ego, at its core, is love. How could it not be? Either everything originated in love or it didn't. So we can relax and know that when we're working with the ego, we're working with something created in the same primordial atom as everything you see as good and beautiful in the Universe.
This doesn't mean it's easy to change the ego though. Getting your ego to loosen its grip on who you think you are and what you believe you are is like prying open a steal door. But that doesn't mean it's not worth it. Letting go of the idea that our identities are real is when we can truly begin to be who we know we really are, deep inside.
Letting go of all of those false stories also means we can create new ones, however we want.
It doesn't mean we have to become a blank canvas with zero personality. It means you are free to create your sense of identity as you feel you want to. Do you want to be afraid of public speaking? Or do you want to be confident and self-assured? You can have either one. You simply have to believe you can.
The power of belief, which ties deeply in with the ego, is the other thing that locks us into identities. In order to cast off identities you don't want and create new ones you've got to get clear on what you believe. Do you believe you create your reality? Do you believe in your power to recreate yourself anew at anytime? Do you believe that belief itself is powerless and we're all victims of circumstance?
In this world, our sense of self is attached to so many things that it can be hard to even consider letting it go. It may seem like we're rejecting diversity or what makes us add color and uniqueness to this world, but that's not what we're aiming for. I'm not writing this to say deep down we're all the same.
I'm writing this to say that deep down yes, we are all love, but we are also unique and special and gifted and insanely talented in ways we aren't even considering. In ways that you know intuitively but you can't label. In ways that allow you to access the keys of the Universe. A way that is beyond whatever your sense of identity has locked you into.
In a way that says you are all the Dianes.
Diane is a character on Bojack Horseman. In one episode, she takes a drug called "gushie" and suddenly has a mind-opening experience. She realizes that she thinks she knows who she is, but in fact, she is so much more.
"And sometimes I think that I know myself, but maybe that's a trap.
One of the most frustrating feelings I know is the feeling of being STUCK.
A stuck feeling is one of stagnation, it's almost like a negative feeling, like all of my energy is held inside of me like a breath I need to let out. In order to get this feeling out you need to find something else to feel.
An easy way to feel something else: get your body moving. The more you move the more you feel.
Moving yourself physically gets things moving through you emotionally and energetically.
It also gets you breathing deep as your body works, which pumps you full of mood lifting oxygen. It gets your mind out of believing you're stuck as you feel you really can move and change your perspective at anytime.
Let that feeling of stuckness wash through and fall away with each step. Look at the world around you and notice all of its nuances and subtle signs that it's all alive, all a part of an ever-evolving system that connects to everything.
Being in physical movement will put the energy and intention of motion in your inner world. Take a walk after work. Ride your bike around the block. Anything to get your energy moving and you will be free of believing you're stuck in no time.
My favorite thing is to take a walk every morning.
Sometimes as I go I feel into my body, into the strength of my muscles, into the actual movement within my body of blood pumping and my breath going in and out. I breathe in the new energy of a new day and remind myself that nothing is ever stuck. That feeling is only a state of mind and I can replace it with a new feeling at any time.
You exist in an infinite number of universes. You are massive. You are far more than you perceive yourself to be.
If you've read any of the Seth books, you've heard him reference "probable selves" and "parallel selves."
I have always been fascinated by this aspect of these books as it completely changes my concept of spirituality and awakening to my greater self.
Although I love this idea, I can see why it's slow to take root within us as common knoweldge. It asks for a complete overhaul of our concept of self. It asks us to tear down the idea of one body, one mind, one ego, one singular timeline. But I believe the deeper resistance to this is the fact that it once again knocks us off our pedestal as the center of something.
There seems to be few things humans fear more than realizing they aren't the most important beings in the Universe. Nevermind multiple universes, we could barely handle accepting Earth was not the center of the Universe. I do hope one day we can all realize parallel selves do not make us, as the individual entities we are in this universe, less important, but rather it makes who we are, who we really are, that much bigger and more fantastic.
Below is a quote from the Seth and Jane Roberts book Dreams and Projections of Consciousness. If you are not familiar with the work of Seth and Jane Roberts I suggest starting with the book The Nature of Personal Reality.
"There are many you’s in the probable systems, and each You is related psychologically in a personality structure.
The You that you know is a part of this. In your system, all the other You’s seem to exist in a probable reality.
To any of them, the others would seem to exist in a probable universe, yet all are connected. All of you did not have the same parents, for example, and there are portions of probable situations existing in your own parents’ separate lives. [To Rob:] In two probable realities, your mother did not have children. You do not exist in these. In some, she married but not the man you know as father. A psychological connection exists betwen that first son in that other system and yourself.
Emotional charged feeling immediately sets up what you may think of as a tangent. It is expressed in some reality system. This is the inner nature of action. Those thoughts and desires and impulses not made physically real in your terms will be made real in other systems.
Now, the inner self is psychologically influenced by these probable personalities, for they represent a whole personality structure or gestalt with which you are utterly unfamiliar. Your psychologists are dealing with a one-dimensional psychology, at their best.
In the dream state, the portions of the larger ‘structure’ sometimes communicate in highly codified symbols. It would be highly improbable that you could decipher many of these now. There is a feedback system that operates, and yet you must understand that these other identities are fully independent and individual. They exist in codified psychological structures within your personality, as you do in theirs.
They remain latent within you, and unexpressed in your system. You have their abilities, unused. You remain latent in their personality structures, and your main abilities are unused within their systems. Yet each of you is a part of one self in a multi-dimensional psychological structure.
These do not necessarily represent more evolved selves. Certain abilities will be more developed in them than in you, and vice versa. I am not speaking of portions of your self that exist in the ‘future.’ Each probable self, you see, has ‘future’ selves.
This multi-dimensional personality or identity is the psychological structure with which we will be concerned in many sessions. The term includes probable selves, reincarnated selves and selves more developed than the self that you know. These make up the basic identity of the whole self. All portions are independent."
- Seth/Jane Roberts, Dreams & The Projection of Consciousness.
Sometimes, while I'm waiting for something, I will go as still and quiet as I can and just listen.
If I'm waiting in line at Target, I will stop thinking, stop checking my phone and listen to the hum of activity. If I get calm and present enough, I feel as if I start to harmonize with the hustle and bustle of the world around me, almost as if it's music.
We generally only think of nature as having these kinds of zen like sounds. But I swear, when I give it a chance, our human world has its own hum, its own unique rhythm and riff.
Right now, I'm in a hospital waiting room with my parents. We have 20 minutes to go before my dad will be checked in for a minor procedure. I was reading just to pass the time, but then I thought, I want to be here. I don't want this to be another moment where I'm waiting for what's next, because if I do that too much, I start to align with feeling I want to be somewhere else.
Practicing the art of always being present, of always feeling now is zen and mysterious and wonderful in its own way, is something I am still working at.
Because honestly, sometimes I do want to tune out a waiting room and read my book. But I wonder, what if I really could see all moments as precious gifts to be opened and received with gratitude? What would happen if instead of aligning with, I'll feel good when I'm back where I like to be, I instead aligned with, at all times, Now is good.
Imagine what that would send out to the Universe. A constant signal of, This is great, would amplify, magnetically attracting more and more wonderful, joyful, peaceful and blissful things to me.
And so I put down my book, relaxed and just allowed myself to be where I am in this world. No escaping. No daydreaming. Just being.
I closed my eyes, quieted my mind and I listened. A man coughed. The air conditioner came to life and hummed quietly. The phone rang. The muffled sound of a car engine came through the walls. The air conditioner went off. People talked quietly. The man coughed. Another car rumbled down the street. The air conditioner hummed back on. The phone rang.
The more I listened to these seemingly disconnected sounds the more it all started to harmonize.
I relaxed even more, almost feeling as if I was melting. The sounds rotated, sometimes right on cue, sometimes chiming in at a spontaneous interval. I began to feel good and light, my energy opening and expanding and letting go.
I felt connected and like I was both a participant and an observer in a grand symphony. Just as I was really starting to let go and feel connected to that divine, golden feeling I get in meditation, it was time to go. We were called in, and ten minutes earlier than expected. And perhaps that is the true magic of letting go and being present - all resistance melts away and everything flows.
I set the coffee pot to start brewing at 4:10 AM.
I put out the clothes I was planning to wear the next day. I did everything I could to send a clear signal to my mind and body that I was doing this. I was going to make the 5 AM Kundalini yoga and Kirtan class.
When I saw the class listed on Mind Body I was intrigued. I've done Kundalini yoga before, and I've always found it has a powerful way of breaking through habits, patterns and mental blocks in a way nothing else does. It just seems to tear down the walls of rigidity and open me up to things I couldn't or wouldn't see from my old perspective.
Sometimes I go to things like this not for the meditation itself, but to remind myself I can be very committed and determined when I want to be. It's a powerful reminder to my mind, my body, my soul that when I want something bad enough, I will do whatever it takes to get there.
I can muster up willpower for anything, but I don't always acknowledge that in myself.
The plan went off without a hitch, I drove downtown, and got there at 5AM and... no one was there.
I looked through the glass door, unsure what to do. The streets were empty. I wrapped my jacket tighter around me, wishing the sun wasn't over an hour away from rising. Occasionally, someone would pass me, and I felt weird and out of place. I knew they were wondering why I was lingering outside this shop in the dark.
I never get up this early, and here I was, full of anticipation for this class that didn't seem to be happening. I didn't understand why I'd felt so powerfully guided to be here, just so I could be disappointed and cold.
Since I was there, I decided to wait. I went back to my car for awhile and finished off my coffee. I visualized someone coming, trying to will this experience into existence. Finally, after what felt like the longest 15 minutes ever, someone came. She was a student, and she assured me the teacher would come.
At last, a woman with a white turban and flowy white clothes showed up, and I knew it was her.
I was glad I'd waited and hadn't driven home to go back to sleep like I'd considered. The class began, and as we went along the Kundalini energized me and awakened me. I didn't feel like I'd gotten up at the torturous hour of 4, but instead, I felt refreshed and grateful everything had worked out.
Kundalini yoga, unlike other yoga, is not a flow from pose to pose. Instead, it's a series of postures that are intended to move energy through your body. The poses themselves are meant to be uncomfortable. Each pose usually involves a fast movement, such as sitting down and twisting left to right, while breathing in and out quickly.
Most of the postures aren't difficult. It's not uncomfortable in the sense that you must be strong and flexible to do them. Rather, you position yourself in a way you normally wouldn't. This is intended to break up blocks, stuck energy, and mental barriers. It gets you out of hard wired thoughts, beliefs and patterns, and frees you into new ideas, feelings, connections, beliefs and also, to a deeper connection to God.
After the class ended at 7:30 (it was two hours!) I thought I'd be exhausted. But I remained energized well into the afternoon, at which point I had to take a nap.
In the days that followed, things started to get interesting quickly.
I spontaneously signed up for aerial yoga, which I've wanted to do for years but never did. I joined a gym with super early classes, and continued to push myself into more uncomfortable places. Getting up at 5AM for the gym has always been a no-go for me, but suddenly I was doing it.
It made me exhausted (and a bit irritated in the beginning), but this snowball continued to pick up momentum. Out of nowhere, I felt I was done with sugar, and quit cold turkey. I hadn't had any alcohol in a few weeks, and I felt done with that also.
And then came the craziest thing. Something I swore I wouldn't do, because it seemed too impossible, too far outside my reach. I gave up coffee. The thing I craved as soon as I opened my eyes. The thing I looked forward to each night, knowing it was part of my morning ritual.
These changes led to more changes, and as my body began to feel stronger and healthier, I returned to regular ashtanga yoga classes. I always felt ashtanga was too challenging for me to really get into it, but then I began practicing the poses on my own, each morning, at 6AM.
I was becoming a new person, and one that felt empowered in her body.
I was no longer a slave to coffee, sugar, wine and my alarm clock. I felt freer than I ever had. I became healthier than I have ever been in my life. And it all began with that one morning of massive discomfort, which was accompanied by a powerful feeling of determination and commitment.
Sometimes the very thing we want is right on the other side of a little discomfort. I had no idea where all of this was going to lead, but I'm so grateful I opened this door. It has given me new insights on myself, what I want and how I approach my life. It has energized me and awakened me in ways I didn't know I could be.