Articles derived from yogacharya Sharat Arora (Anand Sagar) Teachings

8 Unearthing Abundances with Yoga and Permaculture

Permaculture and Yoga are two systems which give guidance for how to live integrated, balanced lifestyles. In this article I will explore how the two systems speak similar languages and what they can reveal to us on the topics of abundance and wealth.

Permaculture has it’s roots in farming. It’s pioneer, Bill Mollison, in the 60s began to explore holistic approaches to design for agriculture, many of which had been employed by our ancestors for years but brushed by the wayside to make space for industrial mass food production. The Permaculture approach recognises that humans are but one element amongst many, in a vast and complex system of life, and that for our survival to be secured we must understand and respect our place within it. Since its conception permaculture has become a design philosophy which has multitudinous applications, from land, to community, to the self.

In a technical sense Yoga refers to a far reaching range of ‘values, attitudes and techniques that has developed in India over the past five millennia’. The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the verbal root ‘to yoke’, implying ‘union’. Amongst many definitions yoga can be equated to a state of ‘ecstasy’ in which one becomes liberated. George Feuerstein, in his book ‘The Yoga Tradition’ succinctly describes how ‘liberation is not a technique but a way of being in the world without being of it’. This suggests having an understanding of the systems of this earth without being overly reliant on them. Yoga shares a common aim with Permaculture for finding unity in the world through a deep understanding of oneself, one’s environment and our higher purpose within it.

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To Be Free in an Unfree Society

Let’s first specify what is freedom and what is not. We have certain freedoms in our society. We don’t live in tyranny and we can talk freely. However, we are not talking about the surface, we want to go deeper. Let’s find out in our life whether there are some forces from society, but also within ourselves that push us into doing things.

Are we free? Am I free to do the things I want to do, to think what I want to think, to go the way I want to go? In society, there are certain norms I have to follow. For instance, if I belong to the Hindu religion, I am expected to behave in a certain manner and I am being judged if I do not act accordingly. If I am a Christian, it is the same. My neighbours are observing: is this person going to church? Is this person doing this or that? We have that social pressure on us. Of course, I can always claim to be free and try to live a life which I call freedom not doing what I am expected to do. Does this bring peace in me? No. It does not because now I have to face people who are surrounding me and I can feel their rejection. I am expected to follow a certain line and “I” decide that “I” want to be free so “I” don’t follow this line and this creates tensions within myself. Generally, this state does not last very long and little by little we start doing some things, some even that we do not want to do. We have to do things for our parents. There are things we have to do, some duties such as meeting with our parents at least once a year, and then on that Christmas or whatever meeting, there is fear. What are they going to tell me? I have been told that at Christmas there is often a fear of explosion; everyone will express all the things they are unhappy about and “I” have to take that shower. Have you faced something like this? If not from your family, from your friends or neighbours? Therefore, what do we do? We say that it is better to follow than to create conflicting feelings within ourselves. Hence society’s expectations on us, on every one of us is not allowing us to be who we are.

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How to Deal with Conflicts?

How to deal with conflicts? How to behave in a conflicting situation in which another person is being angry or aggressive towards me? I might be able to manage the situation within myself but not the other person; hence, how can I stop the other person’s anger?

To answer this question, I will tell you the story of the Buddha. There was an elephant who had become mad and broke his chains. In his anger, he destroyed the whole village and of course took some lives. When it approached the Buddha, instead of running away like others, He just stood steal, he did not react. There were no fears; He stood steal because from Himself there was no fear, only love and compassion. Immediately the elephant stopped and became calm.

Are there any ways that we can behave when someone is being aggressive? If you run away from your oppressor, he will think you are afraid. The Buddha just stood there and that calmed the elephant. The elephant lost it. Many times in life we lose it.

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How to be Present in our Lives to Find Freedom within Ourselves

What does it mean to be present in our lives? To understand what presence is, let’s first understand what being un-present means. We are often not in the present moment because we are driven by our fears and stay in our minds. Because our thoughts are not here and now, but somewhere in the future or in the past, we are missing incredible opportunities.

For instance, I am walking through a beautiful landscape but I am unable to see its beauty because I am having a conflict with my partner and I am arguing on how things should have been or should be etc. What a paradox! I am in a wonderful place but I am not in a wonderful place simultaneously. The view is breath-taking, and I am thinking, reviewing what I will say when I will be back from my walk and I have missed the whole opportunity of an amazing communion with nature. All this because I am unable to let go! Unable to be there! My mind, my fears are driving me away from the present moment. I am visiting a new city but I am not able to enjoy it because I am looking at how the rickshaw driver is driving; because I am really scared. Is that justified to be scared? My mind will find all sort of narration to justify my fears: “yes, it is normal to be scared, he is driving so fast etc”. In constantly doing so, I end up not knowing what it means to be there, in complete honouring of this moment. Even if it is not a fabulous view or an exciting place to visit, learn how to HONOUR THE PRESENT MOMENT, whatever it is, it does not matter how banal it is.
What matters is what is happening now. People are struggling to be in the present moment: Something very vital is happening, I need to attend to it, and I think that by being all in my mind, I am attending to it. But who is attending to it? A confused person. The person who has multiple desires that are conflicting with each other. Is that person really attending to the situation? And we go on like this. Attending, sort to say, to things which are “important” and the day is gone. And the next day again, we attend to other “important things”. Alternatively, I divert myself and I resort to amusement in which I am taking my mind away from the situation, from this present moment. I am taking myself purposely away. I am not saying it is bad. I listen to music, I go drumming etc. We all have our things and we never deal with the situation by learning how to be with the situation as it is, especially if it is not very pleasant. We try to avoid it, to put it aside. But is that the way? Is diversion ok? It is ok to relax yourself a little bit? You can convince yourself that it is ok and your situation will remain the same: days in and days out, your situation does not change and you carry on struggling with your life.

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Intensive Yoga Course is to Work on Awareness

Control is the next step; monitoring means to have the mind interfering with the thought or the world or your actions and I am asking you to just be aware that there are many things that happen with awareness. As soon as you become aware, you want to change something because you think that it is not right; and who is that is thinking? Who is thinking that this is not right? It’s your mind. The mind is useful but never in this sense where it guides our hand into everything… So, your two weeks of intensive, this is how this is intensive! Because you are going to immerse your attention into yourself. It is difficult in a place like Goa with all the distractions immediately as you go out of the centre. What to do... We are where we are, but if you want to work on yourself intensively, which I hope is the case. And you are going to ask yourself - is this the case? Then you are in the right place. Understand. You cannot do deep work just by being with the body; it’s gross. How deep will you go? But if you are willing to take on also the mind - this makes a change. Then what happens when we become aware? Things start to change automatically and it does not matter whether the results are positive; that does not matter: what matter is that I gave my total attention to it; that is what matters and we do not do that often. I am trying to make you see the two weeks ahead of us. I am not interested in pushing you around; why should I? I said the theme for this course; I am setting the theme; the rest is up to you. If you are honest, you go far, and if you are not, you stay where you are, it is up to you. I indicate, go this way, this is the way of the intensive work on yourself. So, let’s spend our two weeks aware.

Yoga Master Teacher Sharat Arora
Arambol Yoga Centre, North Goa, March 2012

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