Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wait, How Do I Say It?


You've secretly been wondering how to pronounce it,  right?

You're not alone.

Don't worry--I've got you covered.

It's like this:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Do You Love?

In case you missed it on Facebook, here's a clip from the Anusara Grand Gathering featuring some of our Anusara Illuminati and our very own Douglas Brooks talking about yesterday's autumnal equinox:

Erm, as far as embracing my own dark side, I think I may already have that box adequately checked.

Still, last night's thunderstorm was the perfect excuse to open the window, curl up in the dark, breathe in the storm, watch the sky light up and listen to the thunder rumble

I'm so much better than I used to be at opening to my own darkness without being overwhelmed by it or devoured by it.  Practice does that and I've been studying and practicing Rajanaka Tantra with Douglas for a long time now. It has made me stronger and more capable of containing the infinitude of darkness and light within me.

I remember being introduced, years back, to the wisdom goddesses:  that group of goddesses that contains both the benevolent goddesses and the ferocious ones, both the light and the dark, both Sri and Kali.  The study of tantra has given me deities I can relate to, deities who show me more of myself than I would otherwise see.  In true dorky fashion, I can't wait until the SV curriculum gets around to teaching a course on these wisdom goddesses.  I'm all geeked out at the prospect.

First things first, though, and Ganesha always comes first, so we must begin with him.

I'm not complaining.   I love Ganesha.  Seriously, are there any yogins who don't?

February seems a long way off.

Which deities would you most like to learn practices for?  Who do you love?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yours, Mine, Ours

This story doesn't belong to me but I'm going to tell it anyway.

About thirty-three years ago, my teacher Douglas Brooks was living in South India pursuing studies with his own teacher, Dr. Gopala Aiyar Sundaramoorthy, who shall henceforth be referred to as Appa. 

I never had the opportunity to meet Appa; we lost him far too early.  I have, however, over the course of roughly ten years, kept Douglas up too late on many an occasion, after a long day teaching, like a child begging for a favorite bedtime story.  Tell me, again, about Appa?  Please?  

You see, the current of our tradition flows through him and so in some ways Appa is mine, too.  Sometimes I almost forget that we never met in person. 

What you read here isn't meant to be read like a biography.  Forgive the broad strokes I paint with.  It's the essence of the story that I'm after and it goes something like this:

Appa's niece was attending a nearby school.  Now, in India access to education is imperative.  Life without it would look pretty dire to most of us. Appa was a great man, a powerful man, a gentle man, a generous man and a man who valued education.  That's why, when that local school did not obtain the accreditation it had promised to, and his niece's ability to attend college was hanging in the balance and her future along with it, he took matters into his own hands.  

With his family fortune, Appa purchased the school in order to save it.  His wife, Amma, sold the gold bangles right off her arms.  "They disappeared into the place," Douglas tells it.  Under the wire, the nearly impossible was accomplished.  The school was granted accreditation status and its students, all of them, not just Appa's niece, were given not only an education and an opportunity to continue on to college, but also a classical Sanskrit education, which was almost unheard of by that time.  

Appa named his school Srividyalayam after the wisdom that is auspicious.  

Later, in 1984, Douglas won the Fulbright and with that money they built the buildings that currently stand.  

Many children who couldn't have otherwise afforded it had their tuition payed by Appa and Douglas.  Not only were these children saved and given a real chance at a real future, they were given lunch, too, which may have been even more important to some of them just then.  It's hard to focus on multiplication tables with an empty belly.  I hope that's something you've never had to worry about.

According to Douglas:
"the original school was two buildings, one a thatched roof divided into little sections for the classrooms but no real dividers, just open.  Children, as I recall, did all their work out of these two outbuildings." 
Today the school stands at a modern two storeys. I know because I have been there.  I have seen, for myself, the late afternoon South Indian sun spill over the little desks in the classrooms; I have breathed in the scent of that chalk dust.  Somewhere, in one of my countless journals, pressed between the pages, are tulsi leaves from the tree in Srividyalayam's schoolyard.  If you ever travel to India with Douglas and company you can see it for yourself.  

The current of our tradition, which has flown through Appa, and flows through Douglas and now continues to flow through me and you, is one that honors and values education.  To be a yogin is to enter into the conversation of the education and evolution of consciousness. 

We think it matters.

In keeping with that tradition, Srividyalaya is the endeavor to provide an education in yoga history, culture, philosophy and practice to those who seek it.  We are the namesake of that original school, Srividyalayam (which is the Tamil spelling.)  It's an honor to be a part of that tradition.  The plan is to give lots of proceeds back to the original school, and continue to pay tuition for children who wouldn't otherwise have the chance to receive an education.

(In addition to that Fulbright money all those years ago, I happen to know for a fact that Srividyalayam has already received more recent and generous donations, both from and through Douglas.  As he reads this, he's probably cringing and regretting telling me that I can write whatever I want here.  Let's all hope I don't go mad with power.)

I like to joke around and to kid myself that I've got people fooled into thinking I'm cooler than I actually am but the truth is that my heart swells with the geeky, goony pride of belonging to this tradition.

It's incredibly meaningful to me. We are a tradition that keeps and honors the commitment to an auspicious wisdom, whether in a thatch roofed schoolhouse in South India, or whether via online course in your very own living room.  We are a tradition that chooses to raise the bar on education.  

This tradition belongs to the past, to the future and to the present.  It belongs to Appa and to Douglas, and now it belongs to us, too.

It's yours, if you want it, and it's mine.

It is ours.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Srividyalaya Amrta: What the Hell?

Hello, Yogin.

You have navigated yourself to the home of Srividyalaya Amrta.  Welcome.  Take your shoes off.  Come inside.  We're so glad you're here.  Would you like something to drink?

Srividyalaya Amrta.

It's sort of a mouthful, isn't it?  

Don't worry about pronouncing it just yet.  We've got plenty of time and plenty of smart folks on staff to help with that.  They are at your disposal. 

What is this all about, anyway?

Srividyalaya is on online spiritual university.  There will be courses on teachings and practice.  Douglas and a faculty of scholarly types and adepts will be offering teachings from which you can participate at home.  I'm pretty sure the world of yoga will never be the same.

Srividyalaya Amrta is the name of this companion blog you have just clicked on.  Allow me to introduce myself:  I'm Bernadette Birney.  I'm a student of Rajanaka Yoga and a certified Anusara Yoga teacher.  I'm, um, not one of the academics you'll be hearing from.

I write a blog that lives here.  I'm no genius; I can't read Sanskrit.  I'm never the most accomplished yogin in the room.  There's nothing particularly noteworthy about me other than my love for this tradition and these teachings.  I'm just sort of...normal.  Y'know--in my own strange, quirky and weird way. 

I've studied these teachings for the past ten years and I think about them a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  They are one of the great loves of my life.  They've permeated every part of me and changed my life for the better.  I talk about them.  I teach them.  They have made me so much better at being me than I used to be.  I try really hard to live them.

In my own way.

That's key, you see.

I'll be writing about the teachings here, and the way I apply them to my life and what they might mean to you.  I'll be doing it from my own peculiar, none-too-earnest point of view.

I've made these teachings my own which is sort of the point.

If I can do it then pretty much anyone can.

I can hardly wait to see what happens next.