It starts with listening. Listening to the ceaseless display of sounds. Listening to others and their unspoken words.  Listening to our mind like a patient parent listens to a child’s silly stories. Listening to our body, respecting its rhythms, limitations and innate intelligence because the body knows what to do while the mind gets in the way.

In listening we touch the silence that takes us to the core of the heart. Here we can drop our head filled with imagination and skepticism.  Like the Sufi mystic Rumi we can become gullible and mad as wisdom and madness are one and the same.  Shams Tabrizi, Rumi’s teacher, says that the chemistry of mind is different from the chemistry of love.  The mind is careful, suspicious and advances little by little, whereas love says “let yourself go!”  Can we then become crazy enough to be an unconditional listener rather than a man, a woman, a parent, a student, a leader, a teacher?

Meera Bai, the Rajput princess, says: “If you want to love be prepared to cut off your head and sit on it.” The Buddhists cut the Buddha’s head in a famous Zen koan because, after all, can we find Him in temples and churches or questioning philosophers and scientists? God is love and love is God. Is the highest love then spiritual or can it be material and physical as well? Kabir reminds us to not discriminate because love does not.  Love IS, and we are either in, at the center, or out. But even under the illusion of being in the periphery, who is the one yearning for love? It’s in the yearning and in the fear of approaching the flame that we remember… and then we can rip our heart out and scatter it like smoke in the ten directions.


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There are many styles of Yoga and even within the same school each teacher develops her own style.  Each offers opportunities for bodily, emotional and spiritual insight and all have the same point in common: holding a posture passively. As the student becomes more proficient in her practice the period of holding increases allowing the muscles, ligaments, joints, bones, organs and connective tissues to lengthen and become flexible.

While a more active Yoga style calls upon strength and stamina, holding a posture allows the body space to do its work.  Connective tissues do not respond to quick movements or short holds, rather they require patience and a slow steady pull. By improving stretching we open up our energetic channels, unblock obstructions and clear stagnation, the breeding ground for disease.

On your mat it may look like you are not doing much but there is intense activity going on inside your body as well as in your mind.  Frantic thoughts might be racing through your mind: mental list making, doubts about the practice and a constant struggle dealing with discomfort.  In holding a pose we have a profound meditative opportunity to move past our countless distractions and surrender to the present moment: the breath, the stretch, the twist…  resisting constant shifting and looking at our discomfort. Gently recognizing our aches (not our pain which should be avoided right away!) and accepting them as they come and go. And as we hold the posture patiently, we settle into it, our breath becomes calmer and balanced, our muscles relax and our mind becomes spacious.

This approach to Yoga helps us then to acclimate the body and mind to meditation. By paying attention to where and when we feel movement or stillness, effort and rest, heat and cold, we become more in tune with our energy, how to replenish or use it and how to  detect stagnation or over stimulation. Understanding these fluctuations and acting skilfully to restore balance in our body and mind will help us achieve greater wellness. But the ultimate benefit of concentration is to be aware of any inner or outer movement – pleasant or unpleasant, comfortable or uncomfortable – in order to acknowledge and accept it in a non-judgemental space.  It’s only when the doer becomes the witness that he spontaneously knows what action to take. Then he lives in Yoga and as the Zen masters say, “he can walk into the market place”.

into the marketplace

“Barechested, barefoot, he comes into the marketplace.  Muddied and dust-covered, how broadly he grins.” (The 10 ox-herding pictures)


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This is the view from my Yoga studio in Puerto de Pollensa, Mallorca, Spain.  Come and join my classes any time from October 6 to November 30 in this enchanting sea-side village. Why not combine your yoga practice with the discovery of this beautiful island. In the Fall the weather is still be very pleasant to cycle, hike or swim in lovely “calas” or coves.

There are many types of accommodation available in Puerto de Pollensa and surroundings, from hotels to private houses and pensiones.  Please, do not hesitate to contact me for further information.

I am not a travel agent (although I may sound like one! )but I am passionate both about yoga and Mallorca so it will be a pleasure to share these passions with you.

Hope to see you again in Mallorca!

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When we are struck by a personal tragedy we try to understand the cause of our misfortune and ask the question “Why me?”  We see others going about their apparently normal lives and we feel bewildered, isolated and alone in the midst of our confusion and pain. We ask ourselves “Is there a reason for this or I am the victim of cruel bad luck?” According to yoga there is no such thing as blind chance or accident and if our finite mind is not able to find the cause of an event, it does not mean that it is accidental.

Swami Vishnudevananda says: “The word ‘karma’, from the Sanskrit root ‘kri’, signifies action or deed, whether physical or mental.  Karma is the sum total of our acts, both in the present life and preceding ones. Karma means not only action, but also the result of the action… Wherever there is a  cause, an effect must be produced.  A seed is a cause for the tree, which is the effect. The tree produces seeds, and becomes the cause of the seeds.  The cause is found in the effect and the effect is found in the cause. This is the universal chain of cause and effect which has no end. Everything in nature obeys this law of cause and effect. The laws of gravitation, cohesion, attraction and repulsion, the law of like and dislike… From the vibration of an electron to the revolution of a planet, from a mango falling to the ground to the powerful willing of a yogi… all these are the effects of invisible forces that work in concord with the law of cause and effect. No event can occur without having a cause.  The breakout of a war, the rise of a comet, earthquakes, floods, diseases of the body, fortune, misfortune, all have a definite cause behind them.”

From this perspective nature or God neither punishes or rewards.  No one is to be blamed.  It is just the unceasing precision and scientific accuracy of this law at work. However, if we take an individual life as an isolated event that begins with the birth of the physical body and terminates with its death, we cannot find any correct explanation or solution to the affairs of life. Swami Vishnu again reminds us that our present life is momentary, a mere fragment, when compared with our whole soul-life.  Life does not end with the disintegration of the physical body. There is reincarnation. There have been countless previous lives whose imprints (DNA?), if we could decode and understand them, would give us a perfect, satisfactory answer and solution to all the intricate and complicated affairs of life; then there would be no room for grumbling or lamenting.

There is nothing chaotic or capricious in this world. Things do not happen by accident or chance in a disorderly manner.  They happen in regular succession.  There is a certain definite connection between what is being done, thought and said by us now and what will happen in the future. This knowledge gives us a strong sense of responsibility and makes us creators of our destiny: “You sow an action and reap a habit. You sow a habit and reap a character.  You sow a character and reap a destiny.”

But are we to suffer passively the results of karma? Just as rainfall is not under the farmer’s control, yet he continues ploughing the field under unfavourable weather conditions exercising self-effort.  Similarly, yoga practice is self-effort to neutralise negative karma which concerns the past but also allows us to shape the future with our own hands. “You are the masters of your destiny!” Swami Sivananda exhorts us to arm ourselves with discrimination, discernment, cheerfulness and undaunted spirit. “Do not give up hope and do not say ‘my karma has brought me to this’, do not become a fatalist, do not yield to inertia, you can change the unfavourable circumstances into the best possible ones.”

The suffering we are experiencing now can become the prod to go deeper within, to get to know ourselves better and awaken our potential of wisdom, love and compassion.  There is nothing like suffering to empathize with others and open our heart. The Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross wrote his most beautiful enlightened poetry after undergoing his own “dark night of the soul”.  May his words be a soothing balm that give you strength and inspiration:

… Oh, night that guided me/ Oh, night more lovely than the dawn/Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover/Lover transformed in the Beloved…

I remained lost in oblivion/My face I reclined on the Beloved/All ceased and I abandoned myself/Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

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On August 9-10 join me for a workshop on “Healing the Emotional Body” at the Sivananda Yoga Camp, Val Morin, Quebec ( Here is a post I published last September that will give you an idea of some of the contents of the workshop. (Simultaneous translator – English to French – available) 


Originally posted on suryasanmiguel:

You may have asked yourselves, as I have, where the emotions come from. When I feel the heat of anger or the heaviness of sadness the energy of these emotions can be so overwhelming that they seem to have a power of their own. According to Yoga, just as we have a physical body, we have an astral body (Pranamaya kosha) and within this energetic body made of prana there is a mental/emotional sheath that experiences thinking, anger, exhilaration, depression, doubts and delusions. But the emotions or the thinking do not limit themselves to this sheath, instead their energy affects the physical body as well. When these mental and emotional patterns are very deep and have been with us since birth they are called ‘samskaras’, deep ingrained patterns that we have brought with us into this incarnation.

Emotions have often had a bad ‘rap’. For example, women even today are…

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As I finished writing my previous post on Agelessness and the words of Master Sivananda still resounded in my mind reminding me that I am the immortal Self and that in the ultimate sense there is no death, I came across the story of Jayne Smith, told in Patricia Pearson’s book Opening Heaven’s Door.  Jayne, a retired teacher from Pennsylvania, had a NDE (near death experience) in 1952.  For 25 years she kept it to herself to avoid being told she had had an hallucination.  In any event, the NDE took place during the birth of her second child after an overdose of anesthetic which provoked a cardiac arrest. Even 50 years later, when Pearson met her, Jayne’s voice took on a musical sense of wonder as she recalled the moment:

“I felt myself rising up out of my body.  I thought, this is not right, I should be unconscious but I am still awake.  I know what it is, I’ve died.  And I was overcome with joy because I had not been annihilated.  I thought, I am still here, and I felt so grateful.”

What is striking about NDEs is that there is coherence and consciousness in what ought to be a blackout.  According to  Pearson, about 2% of patients hallucinate briefly before surfacing from general anesthetic, but the content of their hallucinations is disjointed and random. Unconsciousness during anesthesia, as measured by EEG, is associated with an immense quieting of brain activity.

Far from feeling disconnected, Jayne’s response was a rapturous experience of love, so intense that she worried she would shatter. An intense light displayed colours she had never seen before and on what appeared like a ridge in a luminous landscape she saw some figures that wordlessly communicated. “There was a block of knowledge”, she continued, touching again on an element that seems to feature in deeper NDEs, “or what I later suspected was a field of some kind, and I suddenly knew that I was eternal, that I was indestructible, that I always existed and I always would exist.  There was no end. There was no end.

Jayne recovered and delivered her baby and today she participates in conferences as a NDE “experiencer” or perhaps we should call her an accidental mystic.  She is not alone and since there are more and more survivors of cardiac arrest due to advanced techniques of ressucitation, doctors and nurses are the first ones to hear more often such stories from their patients. Some doctors report them and most don’t as this is a nebulous area where not many scientifically educated people want to go into.

This is why reports of NDEs experienced by doctors themselves are very interesting. Of course, we have Carl Yung’s own account and many others reported in Pearson’s book but more recently, last Winter in fact, at the Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas, I had the opportunity to introduce a series of talks by Eben Alexander, a very busy neurosurgeon in Virginia who, in 2008, came down with a rare bacterial meningitis so extreme that he went into a seven-day coma. He had  a 3% chance of surviving, much less emerging without brain damage.  But he did survive completely intact, not before being thunderstruck by a spiritual experience.  His number one bestseller Proof of Heaven tells his story in detail.  His message is again one of immortality and love.  In his case this knowledge came from a young feminine figure that stayed with him. He had never seen that being before but some time after he recovered he happened to locate a member of his biological family as Alexander had been adopted as a baby and had been looking for his family for many years.  That’s when he was shown pictures of a biological sister who had died as a teenager and that Alexander recognized as his  guiding angel.

In all cases of NDE, integration into everyday life is not easy.  “In the four years since my DNE”, said Alexander, “I have been trying to come up with a world view that makes sense. We need to take down the artificial boundaries between religions, and between religion and science”.  He also adds, “No one will ever have scientific proof of that realm, so the title of my book is misleading.  That realm is beyond our understanding. God is a tiny little human word. There’s no way that a creation can ever fully understand the creator.”

For more information on dying and the knowledge we can draw from DNEs I highly recommend Pearson’s book. Her exhaustive scientific research is not only informative but the numerous recent accounts of NDEs she has collected are extremely comforting.







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