Standing Rock is Yoga. This is your invitation to practice.

When I sit and journey to the center of my heart, I find there a deep and absolute love. In this place of deep intimacy—within the stillness and nectar of hiradaya, the Spiritual Heart—the intuition of who we are is said to reside. It is there that we can realize the presence of the ultimate Witness. The limitlessness of the Spiritual Heart is mostly beyond comprehension. It contains totality.

And it is there that I discern that I must stand for Standing Rock. The struggle at Standing Rock has entered my heart in a way undeniable, creating a sharp pain where previously there was peace, and bringing tears as I witness what is happening there. The message is clear: Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I must stand—with resolve for those who protect our water, and for those who unite against oppression, injustice, and greed.

And so, heeding the message of my heart, I traveled to Standing Rock in November.

Standing Rock, North Dakota, is the frontline, opened up by the indigenous youth of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. What is happening there deserves both your attention and your action. In spite of the Obama administration calling for a halt to all activity in the land that is in dispute, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—the company pushing for the pipeline (and standing to profit from its development)—has issued a statement saying they will continue to drill, and that this changes nothing. Standing Rock has been called a protest and a fight, and indeed it is. Far more than that, however, the elders at Standing Rock are standing in nonviolence, asking that all action be grounded in prayer and ceremony. As yogis, we may recognize this as the observance of ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence toward all living things. Standing Rock is a call to those who would protect our water, our earth, and our people against violence.

A Brief Timeline

In May of 2014, the proposed route of the Bakken Pipeline (the name of the entire length of the pipeline that will move millions of barrels of crude oil), was on a trajectory that passed 10 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota. Due to widespread opposition from Bismarck’s 95% Caucasian population, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the proximity of the pipeline to municipal wells and protected wetlands and grasslands would pose too great an environmental threat in the event of a spill. The Bismarck route was determined by federal regulators to be a “high consequence area,” and the plan was rejected.

By September of 2014, the Army Corp of Engineers had re-filed their application to cross the Missouri river—with that section of the pipeline, and the portion currently at issue, now known as the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. ETP kicked off their public relations campaign for the new route with a press release citing their own in-house study that claimed that the DAPL could have positive economic and fiscal impacts across the four-state region of this section of the pipeline.

The rerouting of the pipeline places the water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe at perilous risk in the event of a spill. The tribe was quick to point this out in their response to a February 2015 letter from the Corps that initiated the permitting process. The tribe also pointed to recently discovered and protected sacred burial grounds that pipeline digging would disturb. The Army Corps of Engineers did not respond to their letter.

By September of 2015, neither independent archaeological study nor the Environmental Impact Study required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been initiated.

Then in December of 2015, the Army Corps hired a non-tribal consultant and published their own “environmental assessment.” The EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the American Council of Historical Preservation all sent letters to the Corps critical of that assessment.

Other tribes then began voicing their own concerns, stating that they had not been appropriately consulted about the presence of traditional cultural properties, sites, or landscapes vital to their identity and spiritual well-being that the pipeline would disturb.

On April 1, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux established Sacred Stone Camp at the mouth of the Cannonball River, a few miles from where the pipeline proposes to cross the Missouri River. They erected tipis in the snow, and prayed for allies to help them defeat the DAPL.

On April 22, 2016, the Army Corps determined that no historic properties would be affected. In response, young people—native and non-native alike—ran a 500-mile spiritual relay from Cannonball, North Dakota, to the district office of the Army Corps in Omaha, Nebraska, to deliver a unified statement of resistance against the construction of the pipeline. Despite this, in July the Army Corps proceeded to issue the majority of the permits required for the construction of the entire pipeline project, and construction began in all four states. The Standing Rock Sioux immediately filed an injunction against the Army Corps asking for further environmental impact studies and archeological assessment. ETP responded with notification of their intent to begin drilling at Lake Oahe, despite lacking the permits for that particular section.

It is important to note that the American government has a long history of seizing native lands when valuable resources are discovered there. Because the scope of that history is far too great for this article, I urge you to inform yourself about this important part of America’s history. Particularly relevant here is that the land in question was granted by the Treaty of Fort Laramie (ratified in 1851) to the Ogallala, Miniconjou, and Brulee bands of the Lakota people, as well as to the Yanktonai Dakota and the Arapaho Nation.

Fast forward to the present day. Despite a pervasive nationwide media blackout, news of the native struggle against Big Oil’s DAPL has spread—throughout the country and around the world. The Standing Rock Reservation has quickly become the largest gathering of indigenous peoples in the history of our nation, with more than 300 recognized tribes represented—from Hawaii to Alaska and around the world. With non-native participation, including the arrival of more than 2,000 veterans during the weekend of December 4, it is estimated that the population of the camp is now close to 15,000.

Most of these individuals, I would imagine, have looked into their own deepest hearts and heard the call to stand against the violence of both a multinational corporation and our own government. I understand, of course, that those who would perpetrate this travesty need our compassion and our love. It is only because our species has so lost touch with nature that it can do what it does to the earth and to each other.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, was asked this month to address why he believes this particular issue at this particular time has attracted attention from all over the world. He responded:

“It’s very basic and very simple. Water gives life to everything that has a soul or a spirit. And if you are standing up for water, there’s a lot of people that will stand beside you. We know that there’s a shortage of clean, fresh water. We see states—California or Nevada—where there are water shortages. We have countries where they do not have clean water. What we are trying to do is protect our water for future generations, and this pipeline poses a threat… so we need to do what we can to protect what is precious to us, and that is the water and the land.”

When he was asked how people could help, Archambault went on to say:

“Follow your heart. If you want to be here, you’re welcome. If you want to pray from home, pray from home. If you want to send a letter of support, send a letter of support. If you want to send a contribution, send a contribution. I would just say whatever you want to do to make you feel like you’re contributing comes from within, that it comes from your heart.”

[Chairman Archambault’s statements come from an interview by Sarah van Gelder published in Yes! Magazine on November 10.]

Perhaps I stand in the minority, but I have always felt that the essence of our practice of yoga, meditation, and contemplation is an invitation to awaken to our deepest and truest nature—an invitation to step onto a path where we walk as the highest embodiment of personal and universal love, kindness, and compassion.  

In discerning what I felt my heart was telling me, I turned to the Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads. What I found there—the imperative of personal and public morality—is also echoed in the Ten Commandments of Judaism, the Five Precepts of Buddhism, and the Eight Beatitudes of Christianity.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” I believe that to refuse to protect the water, and to abandon our Mother Earth and our relations, is to turn away from my own deepest heart and more than 25 years of yoga and meditation.

Standing Rock is yoga. This is your invitation to practice.

 

Photography: Thibault Palomares

Photography: Thibault Palomares

::: Giving : the alchemy of love made visible :::

Giving : the alchemy of love made visible

“By giving from the heart, we elevate our soul and fulfill our destiny”                 ~ Yogi Bhajan

We have arrived to the magical process and place of transformation of self, to the alchemy of love made visible through giving. Every single one of us has an amazing, unfathomable ability to give in countless ways that will only reveal themselves by meeting life head-on and heart-on. And in beauty: we need each other, both to discover our capacity to give and to witness and receive the light we carry.

The wheel is turning and the energy is shifting, from the golden warmth and abundance of autumn to the slowing and contemplative energy of winter. In sync with Nature, we find our ability to be in communion with others deepened and the gold of giving is the light. For many traditions, this time is calling us to a celebration of the presence of spirit and the power of faith and hope that our dreams of unity and harmony will manifest. This time beckons us, in so many ways, to give.

In giving, we empty, allowing the soil of our being to renew, to replenish and to receive anew. In giving, we become the light.

Inspired by all the wisdom ways I have been gifted with so far, I invite you to join me. Using the ancient technology of Kundalini Yoga, the deep knowledge of my maha teacher, Yogi Bhajan, the insight of the poets and the mystics, we will continue the journey of the heart, the way of the true self ~ giving, becoming love made visible, all that is, all that ever was, all that ever will be.

Offered: Mondays 10:00 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center & Fridays 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Center.

Week 1: 11/28, 12/1, 2          Strength to glow in all directions        

Week 2: 12/5, 8, 9               A container from which to give

Week 3: 12/12, 15, 16           Balance & the sanctity of experience

Week 4: 12/19, 22, 23          Saying yes          

Week 5: 12/26, 29, 30         Hearing the cries of the world

Week 6: 1/2, 5, 6                 Stepping Up                 

Week 7: 1/9, 12, 13               Always Beginning

Week 8: 1/16, 19, 20            If just for a moment      

Week 9: 1/23, 26, 27           The courage to give      

Week 10: 1/30, 2/2, 3          Becoming like angels

 

Come or don’t come ~ no need to rsvp ~ there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to share these teachings.

Always with so much love, Sierra

 

 

 

 

understand through compassion or you misunderstand the times

“Understand through compassion or you misunderstand the times.”

        ~Yogi Bhajan

The sutra above is one of 5 that Yogi Bhajan shared with us to guide us through the Aquarian age. This year, 2016, the global sadhana (practice) is devoted to this sutra, the 4

th

sutra.

Clearly, this sutra is incredibly timely. From the degradation of earth and atmosphere to the unending flow of Syrian refugees, from the debacle of American politics to North Carolina’s recent House Bill 2, compassion is our only way forward.

To be compassionate is to allow our minds to be guided by our hearts, to allow our perspective to be ever informed by love. If it were as easy to practice as it is to write, the world would be a profoundly different place. As it is, the practice of compassion involves serious commitment, a relationship between head and heart and reconciliation between thought and deed.

This sutra is a bridge, a channel from what we have been to what we must be if we are to be the light. Compassion implies a singular relating to a whole, a core way of being, and a constant remembrance. Committing to compassion means that we will bow our head to our heart in any given situation so that our heart may rule.

To live this sutra, to take the guidance of this sutra is to experience oneness. Join me for our next curriculum, a 9 week series to support body, mind and soul in perceiving another way to be, another way to relate, to ourselves, each other and the world.

Offered: Mondays 10:00 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center and Fridays 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Center.

Week 1: 5/2, 5, 6     Pituitary & the neurobiology of Compassion

Week 2: 5/9, 12, 13         The Sun shines on all of us

Week 3: 5/16, 19, 20       This body is beautiful

Week 4: 5/23, 26, 27       Apana & the art of letting go

Week 5: 5/30, 6/2, 3       Release, no room for fear

Week 6: 6/6, 9, 10           Balance, as Compassion

Week 7: 6/13, 16, 17       Synchronization, as Compassion

Week 8: 6/20, 23, 24       The head & the heart

Week 9: 6/27, 30 7/1      Infinity is a foundation

Come or don’t come ~ no need to RSVP ~ there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to share these teachings.

Always with so much love, Sierra

free the heart

In recognition of love, in hopes of celebrating a love that is accessible to all, I thought I would share one of my favorite meditations. As a child, I did a similar meditation to the one I am sharing- never knowing that it was a meditation and also not knowing that the flower I imagined was a lotus flower. Years later, when I began to practice yoga, one of the many delights was understanding that the flower of my childhood imaginings was a lotus flower and that the lotus is symbolic of our efforts as yoga practitioners. I was pleased to find this much better version of my childhood efforts in Yoga Journal quite a few years ago and just as delighted to find that Shiva Rea was the author. I share this as it originally appeared in 

Yoga Journal

.

Dwelling in the Lotus Heart: A Meditation by Shiva Rea

By visualizing your heart as a lotus flower, you can begin to create a safe, comfortable place for your mind to settle.

In yoga and 

meditation

, the heart can be visualized as a lotus flower unfolding at the center of the chest. Like a lotus that contracts and opens according to the light, our spiritual heart can be awakened through various 

yoga practice

s from asana practice to Pranayama, chanting, and meditation.

The following meditation focuses the awareness on the seat of one’s lotus heart. For some, this will be a very natural sanctum to rest the awareness. Others may observe that the restless nature of the mind does not subside so easily. This meditation serves two purposes: First, to learn to focus the mind on any object as an internal seat, and second, to receive the healing benefits of being connected to the heart as a place of unconditional love.

To begin, find a comfortable posture for meditation (seated on a cushion or blanket, in a chair, or against a wall). You may find it helpful to set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes so you can deepen your meditation without wondering about the time. You may also want to gently ring a bell at the beginning and end of your meditation.

Place your hands on your knees in Jnana Mudra (index and thumb touching), with palms facing up to open your awareness or palms facing down to calm the mind. Scan your body and relax any tension. Let your spine rise from the base of the pelvis. Draw your chin slightly down and let the back of your neck lengthen. Now plant the seeds for meditating on the lotus of the heart.

Meditation Practice

Step 1

Begin by quietly reading this passage from the Upanishads:

“Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self-the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now.”
—The Upanishads (Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1987)

Step 2

As you inhale, draw your awareness from the base of the pelvis to the center of the chest. As you exhale, concentrate on the sensations that you feel in your chest. Stay with those sensations and allow your awareness to deepen. Do you feel heat, tingling, lightness, density, tightness? As you inhale, breathe into your heart.

Step 3

Begin to visualize a lotus flower inside your chest that is gently spreading its petals open with each inhalation. And as you exhale, just dwell inside the lotus flower. (

Note

: If visualizing a lotus flower is too poetic for you, an alternative is to focus on a cave in the heart with a flame in the center, or a fire illuminating your heart.)

Step 4

You may choose to stay with visualization of the lotus or you may focus on the sensation of an expanding heart. When feelings arise, allow them to pass through you like the changing light of the day, or imagine them resting on the flower like water on its petals. Dwell inside the lotus of your heart, feeling the qualities of unconditional love emerge.

Step 5

When you are ready, bring your hands together inAnjali Mudra (Salutation Seal)and complete your meditation with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to integrate the energy of your meditation into your life. You can bring your awareness to your heart anytime throughout the day to come back to the seat of unconditional love.

~And, always there are reminders of how connected we are, how magical this world can be. As I searched for an image of a lotus to illustrate this post, I found another blog with the same image and same offering of Shiva's meditation. Clearly a friend of the heart, you can find more about 

Natalie and her Lotus Flow Movement

 here.