Category Archives: devotion

"Develop a strong desire for liberation!" Dharma Mittra

Yoga For Trying Times

By Sri Dharma Mittra 

In terms of the world today and what the new (U.S.) president may be saying or doing, some people have a lot of fear or concern. What would you recommend for the people who are afraid or worried?

Many years ago, I asked my guru: what about the president now? He said to me with a smile: “Don’t you worry, my son. Everything is just perfect. If the majority of the people chose him, that’s just what the people deserve — are ready for.” So, everything is perfect. Not even one blade of grass moves without the will of the Almighty One. Do you think that the Almighty One is allowing something that is not right? Everything is perfect. We do our best to help, to influence him, but whatever is happening: perfect! People who get hurt in this process: they have their karma. Perfect. Everything is Divine. Don’t worry: there are Celestial Beings that went before us. They are watching the planet, allowing all these people to assume their positions. Everything is just perfect. Let’s do our best and pray for the president. Remember: he is our brother, too. In reality, he is doing Divine work. That’s what I think.

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Indaba Recap

by Adam Frei

It has been four days since we returned from London and somehow it seems to have taken place a few months ago. Sri Dharma said to me at the start of our trip that in a moment it would be over. On our way back to the airport, he said: “You see? Already finished – like a dream.” It was, for all of us that went, a very pleasant dream.

Sri Dharma travels less these days than a few years ago, but he still travels quite a bit and his teaching takes him around the world. For the last couple of years, he has been saying that he really wanted to take the Dharma Yoga Kirtan Band along with him. As the London workshops seemed like they were going to be large and some of the band members had the dates available, we were able to make it happen. Although my position at the Center means that I get to work closely with Sri Dharma, it has been a while since I’ve been able to travel with him. It was, for me, a very special opportunity.

The venue was part of the Lords Cricket Ground in North London. It easily accommodated the 250 plus people that were part of each session. The presenters, Indaba Yoga, did a great job managing every aspect of the weekend. Most of the classes were two hours long. Somehow, Sri Dharma managed to include a full practice of Asana as part of each one, a brief, but focused spiritual discourse, an introduction to basic Pranayama techniques, recitation of mantra, Kirtan with the band and a full experience of Yoga Nidra. The classes never felt rushed, yet he managed to include so much. Spiritual discourse treated such topics as compassion, the Kleshas and the Koshas. What particularly impressed me was how Sri Dharma gave us a full experience of Yoga Nidra, sometimes in as little as twelve minutes, but that included complete relaxation of the body, visualization and autosuggestions. Truly extraordinary. The enthusiasm of the students was wonderful to observe.

Some highlights from Sri Dharma’s teaching as part of and outside of the workshops:

Indicating a small, cube refrigerator: “You see, that’s the perfect size for a Yogi.”

“I’m going to add some extra sugar to all the sessions this weekend.”

“We are doing Rabbit (Pose) here now. I bet if I look around the room, I see many Camels. If I catch any Camels, I throw them out.”

“If G-d come here right now and catch you not singing, that would be a catastrophe!”

“The action of compassion is to see yourself in others.”

“The orchestra is going to come and play now, so leave your mats and come close.”

“Move together like in a parade. Then we share all the knowledge psychically and become one.”

“I have an old car (body). The brakes don’t work so well anymore and some of the systems are starting to shut down. That’s why I always try and put the best quality fuel in. In about 10 or 20 years, I’ll be back with a new car.”

“We’re going to do Spiritual Breathing now so you feel spiritually inspired.”

“If you are interested to go deeper into yoga, you should read The Yoga-Sutras and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. For those just interested in living a more ethical life, there’s The Dammapada.”

“From the Hubble Space Telescope, we know that there are millions of blue planets. Some are ahead of us. Some, still with dinosaurs. The reason the aliens never come here, is because when they look through their telescope and zoom, zoom in on McDonalds, they see us eating animals, and then they never come here. They are soft and their limbs are tender. They are afraid that if they come here, they get eaten.”

“In one generation, it is predicted that there will be harmony among all the people of the earth. Then no need for the first step of yoga – the Ethical Rules – what for?”

“Do you know about the Koshas? These are the sheathes that cover Atman. It's good to know about them so you can negate them.”

“You become one with G-D at this moment. One with the Supreme Self.”

Special thanks to Kenny Steele, owner of Idaba Yoga, Olga Asmini, Indaba Yoga’s exceptional manager, her wonderful team, Mark Kan, our main Dharma Yoga teacher in London who really established Dharma Yoga there, Andrew Jones who did much work behind the scenes in advance of these workshops, Pam Leung and Yoshio Hama for beautiful demoing throughout the weekend, to Andrew and Yoshio for playing until their fingers bled, for the dedicated students who came from all over Europe and America to be part of this weekend and to Sri Dharma Mittra who somehow seemed fresher, funnier and more energized by Sunday night than he had at the start and who at almost 77 years of age continues to devote his life to sharing what he knows with all of us that are fortunate enough to learn from him.

 

Adam Frei is the director of the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training programs at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.

Effort as Offering: Changing the way we approach our practice

headstand

by Eileen Lorraine

My life has gone upside down many times; in my yoga life though, inverting has always eluded me. I came up with many viable reasons for this, blaming my gymnastics teacher who denied me my beloved balance beam until I learned to do multiple backward summersaults on the mat. Yawn. I blamed my thick thighs which I felt were far too heavy to lift higher than my hips. Gravity’s got me like. I blamed my unwarranted fear that kept me rooted to the ground no matter how many people kindly attempted to show me their way of going upside down on their heads. Feeling somewhat defeated, I eventually came to accept it as fact. I cannot do a headstand. There, I said it. Let others do it, let others teach it. It just won’t be me.

I suppose all along there was something deeper inside me that wasn’t fully buying such a definitive statement, and what didn’t come as a surprise to those who know my rebellious spirit, I applied to do the Life of a Yogi 500 hour teacher training with the man who dubbed the headstand, the “King of Poses”. In August 2015, I took a micro-sabbatical from my corporate gig and teaching classes in Las Vegas to join 65 other yogis from all over the world in New York’s Dharma Yoga Center (DYC). Feeling much like my first day at a brand new school, I entered the temple thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?” During our first practice together as a group, Sri Dharma Mittra called sirsasana ten minutes into class. Ten minutes into class?! So I sat while the rest of the room went upside down, all the while trying to fake a look of serenity and confidence in my “watchasana”, when inside I was crumbling. “I want to do that,” I thought. “I should be able to do that! I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be a teacher. What am I doing here?” And on and on and on the internal dialog went until sweet relief came when I heard Dharma-ji say, “Ok. Now break the pose.” (Holding self-chastising-asana is remarkably exhausting.)

Soon after, we were paired off into small groups of six. These were to be my peers for the two contact modules during our training, led by my first of two mentors, Andrew Jones. Being paired with Andrew, a senior teacher at DYC, was a gentle gift from the Universe. His soft British accent and kind demeanor invited me to share my dark confession with the group, “I can’t do headstand. And I want to. I really, really want to.” I expected to be met with instructions to go into a headstand and then feel the familiar shame of not being able to go any further than a deep version of dolphin pose. But that’s not what happened. Instead he simply said, “So you can’t do headstand. Its ok, you don’t have to.”

Wait, what?

Four words were all it took. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO,” and I was suddenly set free. Andrew continued, asking if I could consider removing the goal of conquering the pose, to take if off of my to-do list and to remember that asana is not the yoga I was after. That it wasn’t what pulled me away from my life in Las Vegas and called me to spend this time with Dharma-ji. He reminded me that our practice is an offering, and in that sense no matter how little or how much I invert myself, it is enough. For God, it has always been enough. And it was then that I gave myself permission to release the white knuckle grip I had on this pose, to slow down, to open my mind in a way that could finally absorb the technical hints my mentor and peers lovingly shared with me. And little by little over the course of the next eight days, my legs began to go up. It wasn’t until I returned to the security of my home did I fully invert away from the wall, but let me just say, it was an amazing feeling. I’m up, I’m up! I had a huge sense of pride, not for conquering the pose but for being able to let go of my ego enough to make my all my efforts an offering. And let that offering be enough.

Self-realization happens in subtle moments when we witness ourselves for whom we truly are, made of our strengths and our limitations. It happens in the moments when we release what is outside of us and instead go quietly inside, gently encouraging ourselves (with a sweet English accent if possible, it bloody helps!) to experience the moment, not the result. Without bringing compassion to our practice, there is no yoga.

shirshasana1 Shirshasana2 Shirshasana3 Shirshasana4 Shirshasana5 Shirshasana6 Shirshasana7 headstand

Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.

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Without Compassion, There’s No Yoga in Your Asana

By Garth Hewitt

I remember practicing once with Sri Dharma when I first went to check out his classes about six years ago. It was a Master Class, but there were all levels of students in the room. Some of the students were very advanced –far more advanced than I. Some of the students were quite new and finding the class really challenging.

Sri Dharma loves to hold twisting extended side angle pose for a long time. We were holding this pose for a really long time at this class and there was a woman in the class who was having a really hard time maintaining her balance. She kept falling over and she was getting really upset and frustrated. She looked like she was on the verge of crying. You could feel that she was becoming very overwhelmed. My first reaction was to judge her. I’m embarrassed to share that with you. That was my first reaction, though. I remember thinking that she didn’t have any business coming to a Master Class when she was clearly a beginner. I was being such a selfish &$%-hole and I didn’t even realize it at the time.

Something amazing happened after that, that made me feel ashamed and made me re-think what I was doing on my yoga mat.

The regular Sri Dharma students around the woman started to encourage her and offer kind words. They let go of any focus on “their practice” and they focused on her and gave her their energy and attention. One of the students, in front of her, who had a very advanced asana practice, came out of his pose and walked over to her and helped her to find her balance. I heard him say, “It’s OK. This is a hard pose. You’re doing great.” Several students offered her their smiles and encouraging gestures. It was really beautiful to witness. I was blown away by the community and how everyone reached out to her. It almost made me cry.

I remember leaving the class and thinking about this moment for a long time. There was so much competition in the classes I was taking back in Los Angeles, so much ego. There was so much competition in my own practice, too, so much ego. This pursuit of asana, pursuing these fancy trick poses and advanced transitions. What was the point? I remember thinking after this class that these things aren’t yoga. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten off track; we’ve missed the point.

What happened in Sri Dharma’s Master class that day was yoga.

Sri Dharma always teaches that the number one practice is to be respectful and to be kind to all living beings. I’ve made many trips to New York now in the past six years and I’ve completed 800 hours of training with Sri Dharma. I’ve met so many incredible people through this community. Sure, there are some really advanced asana practitioners. Many of the people are way more advanced than me. Sri Dharma is a really advanced asana practitioner. The thing that I love so much about the Dharma community is that Sri Dharma teaches that the asana doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t moving through the world with kindness and love. The practice is so much more than just being able to do a fancy pose.

I was talking about Sri Dharma the other day, about the space that he creates in his classes. No competition in the room. This really wonderful community of students supporting each other, growing as a community, practicing as a community. One of my goals over the past six years has been to create this kind of space in my classes and encourage this same idea of community. A group of students coming together, connecting, supporting each other, growing, helping each other along the way.

Last week one of my students in one of our awesome communities (Westlake Village!!) was having a challenging time in a pretty tough class. This student sometimes leaves class when it gets too tough for her. I’ve encouraged her to stay and just come down and rest, to not give up on herself, but this is a habit that’s been hard for her to break. Sometimes when the going gets tough, she heads for the door.

When she got up to leave in the middle of this class, due to where I was standing in the room, she had to walk right past me on her way to the door. She tried not to look at me as she went by. I stopped instructing the class. I smiled at her and said, “Come on. You can stay. You can do this. You don’t have to leave. Come on.”

She stopped and the whole class looked at her. There was a long moment where we all waited to see what she was going to do. Then something amazing happened. Everyone started to encourage her to stay. They started to smile and tell her it was OK. That she would be fine.

People said things like, “You can do it!” and “Stay, we’ll do it with you!” There was so much love in the room. It overwhelmed her and she smiled and went back to her mat to stick it out and finish the class.

This was one of the most special moments for me ever as a teacher. I watched this really strong group of students, mostly regulars, who’ve been coming to class for a while now together practicing yoga. I watched these guys, not just doing asana, but practicing yoga and I was so proud of them as a teacher.

After the class, I talked to my student who had given up on herself and asked her if she felt good that she had stayed for the whole class and she said she had never felt so much love from a group of people in a class before. Powerful stuff.

Be kind and respectful to others. Love. Open your heart. Help someone who needs help. These are the greatest things that we can teach to our students. Thank you, Sri Dharma, for teaching me about what really matters. These are the great moments we get to experience as teachers and why I love my job so much! Thank you for letting me hold the space and passing on the teaching of my teachers.

 

IMG_5642Garth Hewitt is a 500hr E-RYT, Teacher Trainer, Yoga Therapist, Certified Yogaworks Teacher, Certified Dharma Yoga Teacher, and has led classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings in Los Angeles and around the world. Garth taught for several years at the original Yogaworks in Santa Monica and at Exhale – The Center for Sacred Movement in Venice.  He led the first Pure Yoga Teacher Training, in Los Angeles, at Equinox, with Ashley Turner.  He has been featured in and contributes regularly to: Yoga Journal, Men’s Health Magazine, Mantra Magazine, Yoganonymous and LA Yoga.  He has spent time in Mysore, India, studying Ashtanga Yoga, with the Sri K. Patthabi Jois family, practicing with Saraswati Jois. Garth teaches integrated yoga classes, focusing on; alignment, breath and concentration. He also teaches: pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra and sees students privately for yoga therapy sessions.

 

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To Understand “Dharma” as Duty

By Diana Scime-Sayegh

We are a society obsessed with “fulfilling our dreams.” However, those dreams are usually ego based—ones of fame, fortune and “having it all.”  Yet many of these dreams cause great suffering when they are not achieved—feelings of failure, FOMO and not being good enough. This then impedes our ability to move forward in our lives and can result in depression and anxiety.

What if instead of fulfilling our dreams, we grew up excited and present with the idea of fulfilling our dharma?

Dharma is defined as duty, but it is not that simple to fully digest.

Dharma is what we were put on this earth to do for our soul’s evolution, to reach self-actualization, and perhaps most importantly to serve the rest of our community and Lord Shiva.

Beloved Sri Dharma will sometimes (lovingly and joyfully) say during class, “I don’t wanna be here! I wanna go home.”  But he understands his Dharma, and so he shows up and practices with us, teaches us, stays with us.

He left Brazil to follow Yogi Gupta, left India to come to NYC and fulfill his purpose handed to him by Shiva and his Guru, to teach and spread true yoga to as many people as possible.

Sri Dharma has been in the army and worked as a janitor, never feeling any job was beneath him, always willing to work hard, shed karmas, and offer all of himself to something much greater.

He opened one of the first yoga schools in NYC, and at his first class he watched as the one person who showed up left before he could even finish the Om. Regardless, with ego non-existent and no attachment to the outcome of his labor, he kept on going.  He understood it was not about “him,” but rather that this was his offering to the Lord and the purpose of his soul.

Now 76 years old,  he has taught all over the world and is an endless source of compassion and giving.  He is tired, but he knows he has a duty to fulfill (to such an extent his Guru gave him the name Dharma!) and he keeps going.

I have finally come to understand that “Dharma” and our dreams are not to be confused, and that a person must be fully established in a release of ego in order to truly hear their Dharma. I once thought my dharma was to be a world famous yoga teacher, a household name who was being asked to teach at Wanderlust and Bhakti Fest, leading Gwyneth Paltrow through practice.

How wrong I was, how wrapped up my ego was in these ideas! That was my DREAM, not my “dharma”.  As Sri Dharma says, “you might think you are very right, but really you are very wrong.”

As I sat in the garden this summer watching the bees tend to their work day after day I finally understood “dharma” and releasing the fruit of our actions. The bees show up to the flowers every day, busily working and ego-free, with no need for accolades, awards, or notoriety. They show up to the flowers because they must, because it is their dharma to the rest of the community—to nature, to us.  They fulfill their role joyfully, dutifully and with great discipline.

How much the bees have taught me about “dharma”.

I now understand in order to teach yoga in the way it is meant to be taught I must simply get a full time job like everyone else. In that way I can serve without a business mind, without the need to prove myself, without attachment to the workshops and the classes. But rather with the freedom and the joy of understanding that all of my work is actually done by Shiva anyway, and that all I do when I teach yoga and show up to my job are my offerings back to the cosmic consciousness.

All work is spiritual and all work is yoga when we understand all work is an offering.  Meditate, come to know yourself and the supreme teacher within, and be freed from the ego’s constant need for gratification, praise and attention.

Our purpose as yogis is to serve, and we cannot do this fully if we are serving our egos before our brothers and sisters, if we are more concerned with fulfilling our dreams than our dharmas.

 

DianaDiana Scime-Sayegh is the owner of Happy Heart Yoga Shala where she leads bespoke yoga for vibrant living, creating custom private practices to help release people of the blocks that keep them from living their most effervescent, joyful lives.  She received her 500-Hr from Sri Dharma Mittra and regularly practices with him. She is humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to teach yoga and is committed to serving, sharing her spiritual knowledge and transforming lives through yoga the same way she transformed her own.

 

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The Nectar of Dharma Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

 

Legs behind the head, stand on your forearms, head, and hands… backbend like the gods…practice with devotion…help others…reshape your body and mind…receive the bliss from the ancient psychic practices passed down by the sages to only those who are ready…then enjoy yogic sleep…30 minutes is like a full night’s rest.

We needed that because with 14-hour days like this, no one was sleeping for a full night. But still, I would get up excited for the next day, even before my 5 a.m. alarm went off.

Besides being physically and mentally challenging (as one would expect from Dharma Yoga,) the 800-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training was an amazing experience of the higher practices of yoga. The practices can change your life in this incarnation and the next. During the 500-hour teacher training, we students found ourselves eating a lot during the day and sleeping deeply when the day was done. There was a lot of asana during that training.

In the 800-hour, the trainees were pulsing with prana from so much yoga nidra and psychic development. We ate very little, and slept even less during the short nights and long days.

The room was charged at all times. Sri Dharma was giving us so much during his classes both public and private. One must be ready for these higher practices of yoga. A yogi on the first steps of the path gets a taste of how seasoned yogis can go without food or sleep, living off the energy of the universe.

“Go slow, but steady,” Sri Dharma said about developing one’s practice. This is how one becomes fully established and reaps the full benefits.

Before the training, I could not keep from slipping off into unconscious sleep during yoga nidra and I had no concentration for the esoteric practice of psychic development. But through the fire of the 14-hour days, practicing these techniques over and over again with the master’s guidance, I and others started to taste the nectar.

The asana is so alluring and such a delight to nail poses you thought you’d never get. But it is these higher practices that will reveal the deeper meanings of existence and how to be free from suffering. As Sri Dharma says, the asana is just a stepping stone. Enjoy it and work hard, but don’t stay there.

How fortunate we are to still have the ancient teachings available to us. May we all find our way to be liberated from pain and suffering in this very lifetime. May all the Dharma Yoga teachers preserve the integrity and power of the teachings handed down to us by our beloved and humble guru, Sri Dharma Mittra.

 

Jerome Blog

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga.

Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

 

Susan Craig

Dharma at Wanderlust

By Susan Craig

Reverence, obedience, self-discipline, vegan, being strict with oneself yet kind and compassionate towards all others, a strong desire for liberation. All of these are phrases that Sri Dharma Mittra uses to describe his no-nonsense approach to the Life of a Yogi. Being serious about yoga and teaching at Wanderlust may seem like an oxymoron, yet there he was, teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley!

Wanderlust is like an upscale, yogic version of Burning Man. It is a four-day festival of yoga and music in which participants play hard and party even harder. Celebrity yoga teachers and performing artists offer a variety of yoga and music experiences to choose from. There was delicious vegan food available and all things yoga for sale. Everyone was happy and friendly…and it was contagious. The collective consciousness at work!

Sri Dharma taught five classes at Wanderlust and I took four of them (due to a scheduling screw up I missed getting into one of his classes before it sold out) and filled in the holes in my schedule with a variety of classes with other instructors. While I thoroughly enjoyed the event, including the sampling of classes that I took from several well-known instructors, nothing at Wanderlust compared to being in the presence of Sri Dharma. He stood out both in his classical and technical instruction in the practice of yoga, and, more importantly, he was in a category all by himself with regard to his ability to guide individuals towards glimpses of God.

Sri Dharma was the only teacher I took class from who devoted time for the instruction and practice of pranayama, bandha, and mantra. None of the other teachers I took classes from devoted instruction to these important elements of yoga.

Sri Dharma personally modeled many of the poses, including demonstrating modifications for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, before asking participants to do them, in order to ensure that participants had options and could do them correctly. In addition, his assistant, Melissa, was at the front of the room demonstrating the asanas while Sri Dharma instructed. The other teachers from whom I took classes did little or no modeling/demonstrating of asanas. Sri Dharma devoted a generous amount of time for deep relaxation during savasana, whereas, in all other asana classes that I took, savasana lasted only about five minutes. Sri Dharma stressed the importance of a long, deep savasana in order to settle into silence.

Sri Dharma began and concluded each of his sessions by discussing the importance of observing the ethical rules, yama. He was the only teacher I experienced who told participants that they should not eat animals, and further, recommended veganism. Sri Dharma made it a point not to miss any opportunities to impart spiritual knowledge to his students. He neither teaches nor lives in a casual manner.

Sri Dharma spoke about how one cannot truly settle into meditation if one is eating animals, he repeated that one “must stop eating animals.” He described how the spiritual heart, located at the right center of the physical heart is there in all of us, “subtler than an atom.” Sri Dharma also spoke on the tremendous pain and suffering that we experience due to attachment, and how a serious practice of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher can help free us.

As soon as I saw Sri Dharma, I relaxed and dropped into a silent space. Sri Dharma’s classes at Wanderlust, in which there were 200 or so participants, were the only classes that felt peaceful and meditative to me. Sri Dharma says, “Seek out a person through whom God manifests a little more clearly and make such a one your teacher.” Sri Dharma is “such a one” to many of us. There is something very subtle, yet extremely powerful, that one experiences in Sri Dharma’s presence. To be near Sri Dharma, to look into his eyes, to observe his humility, is to experience a living yoga master who freely shares his spiritual knowledge to all who are interested. He lives this commitment from the bottom of his heart. He knows what he is doing, he is sincere, and his approach and presence are uniquely ego-less. To have Sri Dharma as a teacher is to have entered into a spiritual love affair with this humble man who manifests God more clearly. It is Sri Dharma’s commitment to share and promote spiritual knowledge to all; he says this is the highest form of charity. Whether at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, or at Wanderlust, Sri Dharma is the same… he is a rare true Karma Yogi on an urgent mission to impart the truth to us at every opportunity.

 

Susan Craig is a Berkeley, California native who participated in the transformational June 2015 LOAY 200 hour training. Susan strives to practice Karma Yoga each day in her job as a school district administrator where she oversees support services for marginalized youth, as an advocate for animals through vegan activism, and as a teacher of a weekly donation-based yoga class. She resides in Napa in the home of the four cats and a rabbit who rescued her. Susan is most grateful to have found Dharma Yoga and to have Dharma Mittra as her yoga teacher and spiritual guide.

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The Fountain of Wisdom Has Many Spouts

By Jerome Burdi

 

Honor the man who is awake and shows you the way.
Honor the fire of his sacrifice.
-Lord Buddha

 

The summer satsangs have been powerful in New York City with Amma and the Dalai Lama coming to visit. All sorts of spiritual seekers and socialites filled their rooms for divine hugs or holy words of wisdom.

There’s much deserved fanfare over their visits and deep appreciation for their loving contributions to humanity. I love it when the holy step foot into New York City, a place that can always use some holiness. But when all the saints and buddhas come to visit, I never feel an urge to go see them. We have Sri Dharma Mittra, the man who I’ve come to love as much as any of the famous gurus. And he’s here all the time! I’m at home in his yoga classes and satsangs and feel full. I do not have any room for another great teacher.

I respect them all, and they all pretty much say the same thing. It comes from the deep fountain of human wisdom. The way Sri Dharma said it recently: “Yoga is this: See yourself in others.”

The way some others put it not so recently:

 

“See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?”
-Lord Buddha

 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
-Jesus the Christ

 

It is wonderful to find teachers who help us express this power and spread it in the world. Then we too become teachers. It is nearly impossible to walk the way alone, without a teacher who can show you the way. They help us by making it easier to trudge through difficult times of doubt and they inspire us to move forward and know that it will all be alright.

I’m always thinking about things Sri Dharma says when I’m alone and the darkness creeps in. His wisdom is like a rope thrown to me at the bottom of the well. The rope is there but I have to use my own strength to pull myself out of the deep and into the light.

Doubt is so strong, so seductive, it’s easy to lose the way. That’s why it’s so important to have great teachers such as Sri Dharma close by and accessible often. Eventually we will have to walk the road ourselves; Sri Dharma is always warning us to enjoy everything but not to be attached, perhaps the most difficult lesson of all.

Thanks to the masters who have come before us, we too can fill ourselves with bliss and learn to circle through samsara, with a smile.

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

Adam

An Interview with Sri Dharma’s Modern Handyman, Adam Frei

By Hannah Allerdice

 Sri Dharma has often referred to himself as the handyman to his Guru, Yogi Gupta. My heart swells to think of Sri Dharma as a disciple, lovingly shaving Yogi Gupta’s hair, preparing his vegetables (slowly taking all of the sides of the mushrooms off), and preparing juices for Satsang.  Although he’s not fixing electric wires, or serving Sri Dharma’s personal needs, in many respects, Adam Frei is Guru-ji’s handyman, lovingly serving him with full dedication and love.

Most of us know Adam as the director of Sri Dharma’s Life of A Yogi teacher trainings and for his stunning devotional kirtan. Indeed, many of us swoon ourselves to his chanting. But Adam is behind the scenes for so much of Sri Dharma’s beautiful interviews and writings. He edited the comprehensive LOAY TT manual (soon to be published!), and has been instrumental in conveying Sri Dharma’s messages within his interviews and other writings. He also spreads Sri Dharma’s messages throughout the wild world of social media. In his direct teachings, in New York and when he travels, he is a bright, clear channel of Sri Dharma’s teachings. This might be why I’ve heard Sri Dharma say, “Next life I will be Adam and Adam will be in my place.”

Last year, I interviewed Adam to learn more about him, and from him. We talked about his spiritual journey, meeting and developing a relationship with Sri Dharma, common obstacles and tricks for staying on the spiritual path, and what it means to be a yoga teacher. His messages bring out the qualities – the virtues – that Adam embodies: love, strength, clarity, humility, cheerfulness, kindness and devotion. May you learn and cherish this as much I have!

 

Q: Can you talk a little about your own spiritual journey?

 

Adam: Yes. I started singing when I was very young. One of the places that I sang from the time I was young was in Synagogue. So, I always had a certain experience that was more experiential – than anyone telling me to think a certain way or feel a certain way. That sense of connection, and that experience, was something that I looked to find other ways and tried to understand, especially as a teenager. I actually served as a cantorial soloist for three years starting from the time I was thirteen, so I was the person leading the service, which is mostly song in a synagogue. And, there was a difference between that and regular performing – dealing with people’s energy. I was thinking about those things.

I went into yoga because I liked the idea of something that was integrated. It was ethical rules, breathwork, it was meditation, it was the asana to help to maintain the physical. I just really liked the idea of something that was comprehensive because to just meditate, I don’t know– I always had the ability to just sit and be completely still. I really liked yoga. It was one of those things, when, from first times I practiced, I felt like it was exactly what I was looking for.

The [Sri Dharma Mittra] poster for me was a very important part of my yoga journey. No one I ever spoke to at Kripalu, where I used to look at the poster, had any idea of who Dharma was. No one could ever give me information other than, “Yea, it’s a great poster, we sell it. We have it in two sizes.” When Dharma’s DVD’s came out, I had this advanced copy of the Level 2 that I was sent. I remember practicing it and being like, “Whoa, this is awesome!” And, realizing, “Wait! Dharma is alive, this is the same guy as the poster!”

Coming and taking class with Dharma for the first time – it really blew me away. For me, it was everything that I was looking for in terms of a teacher. It’s funny because everyone has such a different experience with Dharma. You know people often say that he never tells them what to do. Dharma always told me what to do. From the very first time I met him, he would always say things to me like, “you need to do this, or do this.” I found that to be very helpful.

I never used to ask Dharma anything, but Dharma always, like so many people say, used to answer all of my questions as a part of the teachings. I’d be thinking about something riding the subway in, I’d go to the class and then he’d talk about that exact thing and answer the question. I remember at some point Dharma saying to me, “You are like Arjuna, you’re always asking questions.” But I never asked him anything! In fact for the first year and a quarter, we never even spoke, directly, other than him teaching me within the class.

It’s exactly what I think I was looking for. And as much as anything else, certain things that I thought, or realizations that I had. Dharma at different points, if I ever asked him a question, would say to me, “You already know the answer.” And I’d say, “Oh, he’s right.” Or, he would say to me, “Why are you asking me, you know just as much as I do.” And I am not saying this from a place of ego. He was validating and helping me to have more confidence.

 

Q: Some people talk about when they meet their teacher, they are overwhelmed. Did you have that feeling when you met Sri Dharma?

 

Adam: No it really wasn’t like that. I think I came to the first class with Dharma in a certain way, almost having given up. At that point, I’d been actively looking for a teacher for about seven years. I was planning that that summer to go to India. My thought was that I wasn’t finding it here and in different places I’d gone in North America. I thought, since that was where yoga came from, it could be a place where I could find something. I already had a schedule when I was going to take my shots. It was really far into the planning stage.

That first class – in those days the noon class was the most popular class. The place was completely jammed full. It was a lot of yoga teachers who would plan their day so to take that class. And they were teaching before and after. I set down my mat, I went toward the back of the carpet, assuming, like everyone else, that Dharma would teach at the front of the room, and Dharma came in and put his mat right in front of where my mat was. There were 60 people in the room, all the way back to the bathroom. There were people in the hall down there. Almost in every pose he adjusted me. He had all these things to say, it wasn’t about the adjustments, it wasn’t like fixing, it was about showing me how to go deeper, or “this is another way to do it, or try this way.” And always, “open your eyes, look at me, I am right here. The reason I’m doing this is for you.” That, in and of itself, was amazing. That someone had all this information and was so generous to share. Then, just the experience I had in savasana, which was just very different than any kind savasana experience I’d ever had which then meant that the meditation was so different.

I talked to Dharma briefly afterwards. He was so uncomfortable. I tried to thank him. So often teachers are usually like, “come to my retreat. Would you like to buy my book?” And here was Dharma saying, “I didn’t do anything, you don’t have to thank me.” I was thinking, “What?” And there were people stacked up to talk to him and he got out of there as fast as he could and almost ran down the stairs. I was just fascinated by the whole experience.

I rearranged my entire work schedule so I could be at those classes at least twice a week. In the summers I was there four or five days a week. I just made it a part of my life. A big thing for me also was when Dharma came back from his first trip to Japan. He came in that day, about a half hour early. I always went early, so I could warm up so I could do the class. He sat down, and instead of going through his own practice, like he always used to do in those days, he sat down he started talking to me. “So, I was in Japan.” He started telling me about Japan – the students, the experience of teaching there. And he said, “some day you’ll go to Japan and you’ll teach there.” We literally had never spoken a word outside of him teaching in the class and all of a sudden it was like, oh, okay… It’s always been a really good thing for me – and I just I feel so fortunate, I feel so blessed to have the experience of being able to learn from him. He is so generous. To this day, he still has things to tell me. Even though he insists that I know all his tricks. There is always something else. I just love it, I love being around him.

 

Q: How has your relationship with Sri Dharma changed?

 

Adam: Basically after I had been there a couple of years, around New Years, Dharma had started saying to me, “Why are you still here? You’re done. You don’t need to be here anymore.”  He’d say that in class, in front of everyone. I felt a little embarrassed about it. We were at Kripalu, He said this every time he saw me at Kripalu. I said, “Dharma. You may think, and I am sure you are right, because you know better than I do, that I am done, but I feel like even if I am done, if I stay maybe I can help in some way. And, in some way, for everything you have done for me and everything you do for everyone else, maybe I could somehow help a little bit, and I’d like to stay around.”

There are things that come up. Like, about six years ago, I asked Dharma, “Someone asked me, since you weren’t there, if I could charge their malas for them and I don’t know if I am comfortable.” Dharma got angry at me: “What do you mean? You do it. If someone asks you, you do it.” I guess too, I think this was a long time ago, actually, Dharma said something along the lines of, “Let’s just be friends.” He was sort of trying to not have me be so reverent – or insisting upon reverence all the time. “Lets just be friends- treat me like you’d treat your friends.” For me, sometimes its hard, because I feel an enormous reverence for Dharma. But also I have the sense that because this is what he asks, I’ll be obedient. To the degree that I am able to because that’s the way he’d like it to be and that is what is comfortable for him.

 

Q: What have been some big obstacles for you? Can you share what kinds of things you learned to overcome them?

 

Adam: It sounds kind of ridiculous to say, but I feel like some of the biggest obstacles that I have had are not as recent. I used to try more to do things, try to make things happen. The more I have been able to go into the surrender, the fewer obstacles there are. It’s not to say there aren’t obstacles. It’s always this thing of being patient until things work themselves out in whatever way they work out. I used to think, particularly when I was more interested in singing opera professionally and was doing that a bit- that I am going to prepare, that I am going to do, and based on my preparation, and based on everything, this is going to be the result. If that wasn’t the result, I’d have that feeling that I have to work harder, I have to do, and I have to make. I started to understand over time, there is no “do,” no “make.” There is making your best effort, but being unattached. The less you are attached, the less you worry. I could say something completely asinine as part of this interview. But in a certain way, I can’t help that because that is what I am supposed to say.

I used to get very nervous, I’ve noticed in recent years, I don’t get that nervous. I think it is because I am not attached to the result. I mean, I cannot say that I am not at any level, I am not perfect, I am not perfected. I try to make the effort and offer up the fruit, whatever it ends up being.

 

Q: Do you feel like that this is your work — this is your internal, personal work?

 

Adam: I don’t feel that way at all. It used to be internal work. There were certain things, certain experiences I had where I thought I needed to put names to them or I needed to categorize them, to be able quantify them. Because of the way this brain and the body is, I needed that for my own development. I don’t think of anything in terms of myself. I don’t mean that I have no ego, no personality. It’s not to say I walk around, and if someone spits on me I say thank you. I don’t know how to explain it. I used to have a lot of goals, I used to have a lot of things – I don’t feel that way anymore. I have an obligation to my family, to take care of them, having brought two children in the world. I want to do everything I can for their life – to set them on the right path, and be the best husband that I can, and support my wife and our household and the rest of my family. I don’t really think in things for myself. Lately, I gained some weight as my metabolism has slowed down in recent years, and I am making an effort to lose it at this point, because there are some asanas I can’t demonstrate and it’s good for the students to see certain things. It was something I let go of for a while. But, I feel like I want to do something about it. I feel like this is the house I am living in and it’s a very comfortable and nice house. Everything works well and I am grateful.

It’s not like where Dharma will say, “I already have my diploma.” I see there are a lot of things I could still do or achieve. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just not something I think actively about.

 

Me: That sounds very peaceful!

 

Adam: It wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, I was very competitive. I used to ski race, so I was competitive about that. I used to be interested in jobs, careers. At this point, it’s just different.

 

Q: What are some tricks that you have for staying on the path, and remaining useful on the path?

 

Adam: I don’t know if they are really tricks, per se. One of the things is first to have the courage to have the experience – and to try. Because, if you are willing to go into places that sometimes seem a little dangerous, scary, and certainly unfamiliar – that’s where you grow the most, where there is the opportunity to experience the most. Moving toward enlightenment, in psychological terms, is uncoupling the thinking processing mind from the part of our being that just experiences –that just sort of records and witnesses. If you went to that place, and stayed at that place, you’d stay insane. To be willing to go to that place, but keep that thread to come back. People think, or they look at enlightenment like it’s going to be a life changing experience, they are going to be a different person – like everything that is broken will suddenly be fixed. I don’t personally think that enlightenment is anything about that. It is coming to see something that at a certain point you already know, but you are not willing to accept with every fiber of your being. I think, once you accept it with every fiber of you being then everything is different, everything is just changed. Everything you experience, you perceive, you see and experience from a different place, a different perspective.

For me, seeing Dharma and the way he lives his life is helpful. He still has a family, and things he has to deal with. Like, his basement flooded. He drove all the way to the city and had to turn around and drive back home. What are you going to do? You have to take care of it. It’s that whole Zen thing: before enlightenment the laundry, after enlightenment, the laundry. Things have to be done. I think of it and feel it in a different way. I am not saying I am enlightened, but a lot of people think that something is going to fundamentally shift, that they will become superman, or super woman. I think all that stuff is all expectation, all attachment. It is all imposing a form on something that is not about form.

Dharma talks about the part of us that is not affected. Something happens, someone cuts you off in traffic, you get that flash of anger and it is gone as soon as it comes. That flash of anger, it’s gone – it is just body and mind going through whatever experiencing it is having. It’s not that you don’t walk around without the body and mind living out the karma of this lifetime – the prarabdha karma. It’s going to be whatever it is going to be – sometimes you are going to be good, sometimes it is going to be bad, sometimes you are going to be hot, sometimes you’re going to be cold, it doesn’t matter.

 

Q: Do you feel like there are any other lessons that would be helpful for our spiritual community – more messages emphasized?

 

Adam: There are two things. One is that I think it’s really important for people to stop confusing that asana and yoga are synonymous. And, it’s very hard, because where we are with yoga in the West, it is mostly a physical practice. But by looking at yoga in that way, you are stuck with just 1/8th. I think there is so much more to the system – if people are able to see the other parts as just as important, then yoga has the potential to change everything.

The second point is one Yogi Gupta always made: You have to discover your tendencies, your dharma. What works for you, you have to do a lot of it. It is certainly true that there are things we don’t like to do. But if you are a person to sit and sing and that’s something where you have a strong sense of connection – you should do that a lot. And just because everyone else enjoys these punishing asana classes — that may be helpful at some level, but it won’t help you make the most progress. The body and the mind have their tendencies and those are built-in. Figure out what those are and work with that. I think that is something that can help everyone make progress.

 

Q: You are the director of the LOAY teacher training program and you see the development of teachers. What are some things to consider when wanting to be a teacher?

 

I always go back to something that one of Dharma’s senior teachers said in response to the question, “What it is you want to do as a teacher?”

They said, “You want to be someone who helps someone find God.”

I thought, “Wow! How many people approach teaching yoga like this? I think about that answer daily. There are some people who teach parts of yoga- and that can be helpful. But, if they are really wanting to be someone who wants to share the full Ashtanga yoga with someone else – that is a big thing – a big level of responsibility. When we go through it, we don’t necessarily understand what we are going to be involved in.

When you go to teach the public classes, sometimes people are there for the workout, and that’s wonderful and great, and there are people who are really doing something devotional. You teach all of them. You try to help all of them. I think the biggest thing about being a teacher is that people have a fantasy that they will become famous. That people will be interested in what you have to say. Teaching is service – you try to do whatever you can to help people make progress. I always echo what Dharma says, teacher training is here to help you make progress so then, over time, you can help others make progress on their way.

 

hannahHannah was born in Manhattan, NY, and raised in Florida and Georgia. She came to practice with Sri Dharma Mittra in 2007 after learning under Saraswati Om in Syracuse, NY. Hannah completed the 200-hr and 500-hr LOAY in 2008 and 2011 and is honored to be a mentor in the LOAY Teacher Training programs. She teaches yoga and stress management, leads kirtan, does energy healing and cares for her growing family in Washington D.C. She feels so grateful to be a student of Sri Dharma Mittra and a part of his loving Dharma Yoga family. You can find more at hannahabricker.com.

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Removing Desires and Rising to Raja Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

Of all the yamas, brahmacharya is the greatest struggle for me. It is, however, possibly the most important to really taste true freedom –freedom from desires. Even the gods admire the one who is free from desires.

Swami Sivananda mentions the importance of brahmacharya time and again in his book, Raja Yoga, detailing the Yoga Sutras. I read the book in preparation for the 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Training in August.

The other yamas — non-violence, not stealing, non-greed, and truthfulness –are much easier practices for me and many other yogis. Curbing desires is the toughest and if it’s not done successfully, all the other yamas can be tainted.

Only when desires are quieted can one progress along the spiritual path.

This is also the essence of Lord Buddha’s teachings: Desire and ignorance are the root of all suffering.

I enjoy Sivananda’s technique of destroying the evil vrittis, or thought patterns. It’s a sort of meditation, an awareness that one must maintain to have success on the path of yoga.

When an evil thought arises, think of its opposite and all the benefits of the good vrittis. When the thought of lust arises, think of brahmacharya; when anger rises, think of love; when pride shows its ugly head, chop it down with humility.

Desires will keep you in a rajasic, overactive state of mind, always unsettled. One must work properly, from a calm, sattvic state of mind.

“When sattva increases, the mind becomes steady like the flame of a lamp in a windless place,” Sivananda wrote. “He who is sattvic can do real concentration and meditation, and can enter into samadhi easily.”

The difficulty is how to find that sattvic mind and finally concentrate.

“Have perfect trust in God and be steady in your sadhana,” is the advice Sivananda gives. “Faith sustains the yogi like a kind, affectionate mother.”

Faith is a crucial component as one moves along the path. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere in my practice, but then come those moments of holding a difficult asana or having a steady stream of concentration. And that’s it! There’s the bliss! It may not last long, but it’s enough to get me through to the next episode. There’s falling along the way, but the faith gets us back up again and back on the path. We can’t beat ourselves up over the past. We get up and keep moving forward.

“Everything is present for the yogi,” Sivananda wrote. “Everything is here. Everything is now only.”

When the mind is filled with passions and desires, you cannot sit still to do your sadhana. The mind is always moving. The asana comes easily for many, but we must remember this is only a preparation so we can sit and work on the higher limbs of yoga that lead to the goal, samadhi, complete union with all of creation.

When I read about the states of mind a yogi can reach, I am reminded of how much work I have to do to reach the goal. The distractions are always coming like hurricane rains, like waves in the sea, or wind atop a mountain. But with practice, the yogi finds stillness. That’s why we do our practice, why we have our faith, why we stay on the path despite the digressions.

Stillness.

In those blissful moments we are mountains. Desire cannot touch us. We are truly free.

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.