There has long been a reluctance in the Western world to talk about death. This pandemic has changed that and I do believe this is a positive step. Each day we have an update on the number of people who have died from Corona virus. We must look that squarely in the face. Death is ever present, grieving is ever present, letting go is part of life. That doesn’t make it any less painful when it’s one of your dear ones who passes to Spirit World, but having faith is helpful. Yogis believe that death is promotion. We have completed the lessons that we were here to learn this time. We move back to Spirit World and we reunite with loved ones who have gone ahead of us.
Shakespeare in Richard the second said it’s time to ‘talk of graves, of worms, of epitaphs’. The virus is with us for a long time and there will be more deaths. Can we accept that and handle it gracefully? Can we think more deeply about our own mortality? Can we love folk over to Spirit World? That would be my personal wish – to be loved at that moment of expiring. To be loved across the bridge…
There is an epitaph on a grave in a cemetery in Washington. It’s from 1913 and it says, ‘Writer. Mentor. Wit. Beloved.’ What more could anyone desire? We live on in our loved ones. We live on people’s memories. V.E.day last week proved just how much we can respect, love and value those people who have lived with courage and dedication. A life well lived…a life filled with compassion, kindness, courtesy. Here is a lesson form this crisis and I’m put in mind of a saying from The Shakers: ‘Live everyday as though it is your last, and as if you will live for one hundred years.’ Wise words…
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti
My latest book is now available on Amazon! It’s a novel way to navigate the ageing process, and uses story to spread the teachings of yoga.
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‘Home from OM’ employs the ancient yoga technique of story-telling to put across spiritual teachings, the infinite wisdom. Following the progress of ten occupants of a residential home, we engage with their lives and their pasts. Can living in a yoga community bring grace and fulfillment to their last years? Could this be a way for the elderly to progress instead of diminish? Or will new challenges emerge from the experiment? Carole Kerton has been teaching yoga for forty-one years. She believes in using humour and anecdotes to facilitate learning. Whilst yoga supports all age groups, the elderly in Carole’s classes thrive on their practice.
The start of Chapter 16 in the Gita descibes the difference between the man who is born with divine tendencies, and the man who is born with demonic tendencies: ‘A man who is born with tendencies towards the Divine is fearless and pure in heart. He perseveres in that path to union with Brahman which the scriptures and his teacher have taught him. He is charitable. He can control his passions. He studies the scriptures regularly, and obeys their directions.He practises spiritual disciplines. He is straightforward, truthful and of an even temper. He harms no one. He renounces the things of the world. He has a tranquil mind and an unmalicious tongue. He is compassionate toward all. He is not greedy. He is gentle and modest. he abstains from useless activity. he has faith in the strength of his higher nature. He can forgive and endure. He is clean in thought and act. He is free from hatred and pride. Such qualities are his birthright.’
See how this description overlaps with the teachings of Patanjali in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
The first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita deals with Arjuna’s sorrow at finding himself at war with his kinsmen. He asks Krishna to pull up his chariot so that he can see the men in their battle-lines.
Arjuna says: ‘Krishna, Krishna, now I look on these my kinsmen arrayed for battle, my limbs are weakened, my mouth is parching, my body trembles, my hair stands upright, my skin seems burning, the bow Govinda slips from my hand, my brain is whirling round and round, I can stand no longer: Krishna I see such omens of evil! What can we hope from this killing of kinsmen?’
We are put in mind that AHIMSA, non-violence is the first rule of yoga. It is the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Arjuna has no desire to fight and kill his family members. At the end of this chapter, he resolves to put down his weapons and to allow his evil cousin to kill him. This seems preferable. This chapter sets the scene for Krishna’s advice to his protege.
So the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is the YAMAS or ‘Don’ts’:
BRAMACHARYA, non-misuse of energy
The second of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is the NIYAMAS or ‘Do’s:
ISHWARA PRANIDHANA, recognising that there are higher energies
If children were brought up to REALLY understand these five Don’ts and five Do’s, the world would change forever. If adults lived by these five Don’ts and Do’s, children would REALLY understand them.
On this blog we’ve considered the super-foods that best nourish the physical body. Then we moved on to looking at the subtle energy centres which nourish the whole being. Lets move now to the mental and ethical yogic guidelines.
Patanjali set down the EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA. The first two are guides for living ethically, and they are known as YAMAS and NIYAMASA.
The first of the YAMAS – which are abstinences or ‘don’ts’ – is AHIMSA, non-violence. This Yama encourages us to be non-violent in every respect, in thought, word and deed. Most yogis are vegan or vegetarian because of this – the very first rule of yoga. To hurt any other creature would be wrong.Making the decision to become vegetarian lifts your energies to a higher vibration. Respect for other beings leads to a greater respect for life itself.
Choosing foods which heal rather than harm you is adhering to the yogic principle of ahimsa.Eating in a calm, peaceful way is respecting the sattvic state of being. Cashew nuts are packed with soluble dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and health-promoting phyto-chemicals that help protect us from diseases and cancers. They are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which help lower harmful LDL cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. Cashew nuts supply manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. They are rich in the B vitamins and an enzyme which is particularly helpful for the eyes. One of my students told me that a handful of cashew nuts per day is equivalent to one Prozac tablet!