It's useless to reach freedom by yourself. Every living being in all three realms Is your father and mother. Pity the man or woman Who thinks only of their own happiness And leaves their father and mother Smothered in suffering. --From Freedom from the Four Attachments, as taught by the Holy Lama Drakpa Gyeltsen
October is a time for settling in. Fall is in full swing and we are firmly planted in a new rhythm following the warmer months of the year. Harvest time reminds us of the bounty of Mother Earth and cooler weather spurs us to return hOMe, spending more time inside than out. Colder weather, a frenetic feeling in the air, crisp winds and damp conditions can leave us feeling raw and exposed, driving us to retreat inward. Adding restorative elements to our asana practice and utilizing props more often help us to soften and release, letting go of resistance and allowing us to embrace the unique gifts of autumn from a place of stability, humility, and gratitude.
Balasana is the perfect pose to embody this inward shift. A resting posture, practiced in the fetal position, child's pose brings us into the back body, a reminder that it is the season to "fall back." We experience a full-body gravitational pull which brings us closer to Earth; grounding, nourishing and nurturing us through the safety of the shape. The inward fold elongates the lower back and opens the hips to counteract hours of sitting and is useful for relieving back, shoulder, neck and hip strain.
With our forehead to the mat we stimulate the Third Eye, Ajna Chakra, sometimes referred to as our inner guide, conscience or "Mother's Intuition." This innate knowledge is what helps us to navigate through the world with grace and compassion for all beings. Sparking humility and surrender, Balasana helps us to embody the idea of Seva (selfless service). "The English word humility is derived from the Latin humus, which means 'earth, ground, soil.' When we place our forehead on the earth, on the floor in front of an altar, at the feet of a teacher, when we bow to the circumstances of our life, we humbly offer something of ourselves." Seeing ourself as the lowest, literally prostrating on the ground, inspires us to investigate how we can serve others through all of our actions--the true path to liberation, freedom, enlightenment.
We must always take care of others, it is the only way to ensure happiness and freedom for ourselves. Sooner or later you must come to this conclusion if you want out of suffering or samsara (sam means “same,” sara “agitation”). Don't be generous only when you have money; don't be nice only when you are happy. If you want the same result, do the same thing. If you want a radically different result you must do something extraordinarily different. This may be difficult to accept but is beautiful once you have surrendered. It is so simple yet so far from how we've been indoctrinated.
When we begin to "fall back" more, to surrender to the inter-connectedness of all things, to the causal nature of reality and the consequences of our own actions, our eyes open to the incredible power we possess. Interestingly enough, it is usually when we are faced with a situation in which we feel most powerless that we understand the fragile nature of our egoistic identity. As colder weather approaches, counteract feelings of isolation by returning to your sangha whole-heartedly. Through connection with and support from our cOMmunity, we can practice selfless service and loving kindness even when the outside world seems cruel. Through surrender, we find humility and through humility we are able to soften toward the truth: that only through thinking of and giving ourselves fully to others can we experience the impeccable joy of freedom.
The Prayer of Serenity God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.
When I'm with another, wherever we are, May I see myself as the lowest. May I hold the other as highest, From the bottom of my heart. ... In brief may I give all help and joy To my mothers, directly or some other way; May I take all the hurt and pain of my mothers In secret upon myself. --From Eight Verses for Developing the Good Heart, written by the Kadampa Geshe named Diamond Lion, from the Plains of Langri
Contributed by Allison Joy Phillips
Author's note: I pulled from teachings received from my teachers, Hector Marcel, jackSun sLaughter and Rima Rani Rabbath in preparing this 3JFOM.