In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy there is a god named Kala, the god of destruction. Like the gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral, the image of Kala is often placed around buildings, especially near entrances to ward off evil spirits. Both Kala and the gargoyles of Paris remind us that sometimes we have to be fierce, even a little scary, to frighten off our so-called monsters and demons.
Of course in yoga it’s the poses that help us embody this fierce, monster-like quality we sometimes need to cultivate. Here is a brief guide to one of the most formidable poses in the asana canon. Commonly called Lion pose, I personally think of this as either Kala or Gargoyle pose. This is one you can really have fun with, especially if you have little ones.
Begin by sitting on your heels in a kneeling position on the floor. place your hands on your knees or on the floor just in front of you. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not lifting up towards your ears. Spread your fingers wide, like claws! Open your eyes and mouth as wide as you can, stick out your tongue, and ROAR! ROAR! ROAR! If you aren’t laughing by now, let go of trying to make the pose look “perfect” and just have fun with it – it’s Halloween, so make all the scary gargoyle faces you can come up with until you’re absolutely sure you’ve scared away any monsters that may have been hiding under the bed!
You may want to wind down with a gentle meditation or
savasana to help settle the now-probably-giggling kiddos.
Remember you can cultivate the fierce lion-esque quality of Kala and the gargoyles any time you need – seriously, try doing this pose the next time you want another helping of that Halloween candy, and you might just decide you don’t need it after all.
“I can’t turn off my brain” is often said by those trying out meditation for the first time. Of course you can’t turn off your brain! And why would you want to? Meditation is not an emptying or turning off of the mind. The brain thinks. That’s its niche, its function. You could no less stop your brain from thinking than your heart from beating. But just as you can, through stress reducing practices, lower your heart rate or through training grow your muscles, you can also relax your mind.
Think of meditation as reducing thoughts per minute. Yes, it takes practice but can be and is being done. In fact, you probably already do it, even if you’ve never sat on a yoga mat or meditation cushion. Have you ever been so absorbed, so focused, on something that you forgot about everything else, didn’t worry about time or anything? That is meditation! Pin-pointed focus. Tibetan Buddhism teaches that meditation gives the monkey brain a branch to rest on. We don’t want to kill the monkey! We just want it to rest!
So why is it important to rest the brain? I could here list pages of the benefits of meditation, but I just want to focus (meditate!) on one right now: When you relax your mind, you have a chance to connect with the You who observes your thoughts. Your thoughts are not who you are. Thoughts and emotions are part of the physical body. They are affected by hormones, stimulants, depressants, foods, anything that affects your body can also affect your mood and thoughts. You are a constant. You are the one who is aware of emotions, thoughts, and feelings in the body. You are the witness of your own life. Without the clutter of having a million tabs open on the screen of your mind, you are able to connect with the observer that is You, the reader, the one who notices your thoughts and feelings, the one who is able to say, “I’m having a lot of negative thoughts today because I didn’t get enough sleep and my brain isn’t producing its normal amount of serotonin. But this is not who I am. It’s what is happening in my body today and it is temporary.” This is what we mean when we “woo-woo” yogis say things like, “your highest Self,” or “my true, authentic Self,” etc. We are speaking of the observer. That is what we yogis seek in meditation. It is not to stop essential and important functions like thinking from happening. It is rather to come to understand that our thoughts are not all that we are.
Creation is always an act of love. It is impossible to create from a place of indifference. A friend of mine recently shared something that read “I sat with my anger for a long time until she told me her real name was grief.” You only grieve if you have loved.
“[Creation] is the love of something, having so much love for something – whether a person, a word, an image, an idea, the land, or humanity – that all that can be done with the overflow is to create.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D
By doing deep holistic healing work – that is, of the whole person, body, psyche, soul – we move from fear and indifference to love, a place of abundant creativity, vast intuition, and honest expression.
“Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it,” (Rumi). This is the work of healing. It is not to pretend fear, anger, pain don’t exist, and it is not to deny the experience of such aspects of life. It is to realize these are natural, valid, protectionary reactions to trauma. It is to bring light to the solitary rooms we’ve built around our hearts and emerge compassionately transformed by the experience.
It is through healing that we open our creativity. It is through creativity that we learn to heal. Guided by our intuition, we create to heal and heal to create. This is Faithful Intuitions.