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Drawing on Tantrik Teachings during times of difficulty

It is my hope that all of you are managing to draw on yoga for support, healing and hope during this really difficult time. Our country is experiencing utter despair, division, coersion, the stripping of personal choices, censorship and fear and emotions are raging.

The state of tension and recalibration was somewhat released last week, when Mother Earth in Melbourne sent us a timely reminder that no matter how much we try to control outcomes, we are always living in uncertainty. Emotions are high and the path of Tantra has a lot to teach us about how to manage all of these experience with openness and awareness! Now is not the time to let go of your practice, eventough lethargy and heaviness may be reigning over you. 

My heart-teacher reminded me last week in one of our private sessions, that I am a yogini Tantrika and learning to manage my emotions that are currently in over drive is the path and the fruit of Tantrik practice!!! Just re-read that line again and take some time to contemplate it.

The reason that I am here today writing this newsletter is becasue, no matter how much destruction, censorship, and stripping of personal freedoms that the Tantrikas experienced in India upon the muslim invasion 1000 years ago, their teachings and practices have survived and are floursing in far away places like Melbourne!!!!

Here are two things I have been contemplating and grappling with from transmission teachings I have received from my heart teacher this year and I would be keen to hear how other people would approach them:
1. Transmute Anger (superiority- there are a few expressions of anger) into the higher virtue of essential humility
2. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Chapter One Verse 15 states:
“Overeating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules, being in the company of common people and unsteadiness (wavering mind) are the six (causes) which destroy yoga”.

The transmission teaching I received regarding rules was this:

  • Don’t adhere to rules. Better to have precepts (guidelines). 
  • People don’t have a strong psychology. They shame and guilt themselves too much when they break the rules. 
  • Sadhana is not dependent on social morals nor are its effects promoted by religious practices. 
  • Adhering to rules makes one narrow-minded. Yoga is meant to expand the consciousness, not limit it. A yogin should have a free and open mind.

Hari Om Tat Sat

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Shiva Sutras

Contemplation from the Siva Sutra’s
The Siva Sutra was revealed to and written down by Vasugupta around 875-925 CE. Vasugupta was not a guru. He was an ordinary man who, through deep devotion and practice, was gifted this divine revelation.

There are 77  sutras and the text, which acts both as pointing out instructions and as view teachings, describes our true nature beyond mind- our Sva Svarupa. The sutrasinspire us to work with the mind and open up its boundaries.

Here is the first verse from the Siva Sutra for you to contemplate!“Caitanyam atma”Caitanyam means: consciousness, intelligence, pure awareness
Atma means: self, self-experience, principle of life, nature, essence, sensation, character

My teacher describes the self  as not being a soul or spirit, an attribute or a thing! The self, he says, is best described as being a capacity or a function of the ultimate that comes through as energy and is not a discrete object. This means, that the individual exists as an emanation of essence (see translation of caitanyam above).

In non-dual Tantra, one of the powers of consciousness is its power for reflective self-awareness.  As an emanation of essence/consciousness, this reflective self-awareness means that we have a knowing in us that something is happening. This self-knowing is extremely important, and is not an action initiated by an individual object towards a subject. Rather, this self-knowing is inherent in the subject and is an integral aspect of it. Given that the atman is not an attribute, then this is what makes our atman not a discrete object. And, my teacher goes on to explain that this verse is what destroys any sense of an ego!….phew…..this takes a lot of contemplation and some basic understanding of the view of non-dual Tantra to really understand. So I encourage you to sit with this verse and use it to contemplate in your meditation practice!

“Consciousness is my self” “
Consciousness is my essence”
“Consciousness is the principle of life”
“All we have and are is awareness”

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Mantra Japam

Repeating mantras in yoga is called Mantra Japam. In its literal meaning, mantra translates as an ‘expansion of the mind’ or“a seal of the mind”.
Through repeating ceratin mantras, we can transform the mind from it’s usual discursive (moving from topic to topic without order) ramblings, to the mind of Shiva (in Tantra, Shiva is our essential nature of spacious, expansive equanimity).

In Tantra, we can practice mantra for our own enlightenment and/or to effect our external circumstances. Tantrik mantra practice includes both deity mantras and bija mantras, which we will explore in our monthly satsangs thoughout the year.

You can practice mantra japam with mala beads. I recently purchased a beautiful mala from a wonderful Tantrik Yogini named Kendra. If you are interested in purchasing one, you can contact Kendra through Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/mala.kendratoothill/posts/

For now though, here is a way of getting you started in your mantra japam practice:
1. Repeat any public domain mantra (yes there are mantras that should only be given through direct initiation with your Guru/heart teacher), in particular chakras. For example, chant the Maha Mritjunjaya Mantra at the ajna chakra).

2. Using a mala, repeat 108 mantras in the following way:
a. 1-25 out aloud
b. 26-50 whispered
c. 51-75 lip synced
d. 76-108 silent

The first one hundred should be chanted for your own liberation and the last 108 for the benefit of all beings!

When repeating the mantra, really hook your mind onto the mantra and drop into the pure potential (the parashakti) experience of the mantra before it becomes audible sound.

Tat Astu Shivo’ham!

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Purifying the 5 elements

Have you ever done an elemental purification practice in yoga, but have never fully understood them? From a non-dual Tantrik perspective, the five elemenst of earth, water, fire, wind and space elements aren’t just aspects experienced in nature. They are considered phasic energies of pure light that press into this world to have visual appearance of reality arise,. And all of this happens within the space of he mind.
What the hell does all this mean????

One of the most pragmatic ways to understand the five elements is to think about the qualities of each and how they are expressing through our emotions and ways of being in the world. When we engage in elemental purification practices, we want to purposefully invoke the karmas of each element so that we can resolve them and transform.
Consider each element in the following way:

EARTH qualities: associated with the continuity of experience and the continuity of awareness, immobility, grounded
Purified earth: stability, persevering, security, confidence in your own psychology
Unpurified earth: subborness, inflexible, holding on to emotions, attachment, close mindedness.

WATER qualities, it is moist and binds things together, it gives cohesiveness.
Purified water: Generosity, compassion, sensuality, nourishment
Unpurified: not strong in conviction, neediness (way too much cohesion), greed and craving

FIRE qualities: Luminous, clarity, dynamism
Purified fire: optimisim, inspiration, enthusiasm, warmth in life, courageous
Unpurified: over ambitious, destructive, always angry, too abrasive, over joyous

WIND qualities: movement, strength, the mover of all elements
Purified wind: Powerful, animate, reciprocal, fast, being able to sense things
Unpurified: anxiety, paranoia, weakness, too much thinking

SPACE qualities: it holds and hosts everything that can arise within it, expansive, undisturbed
Purified space: equonimous, expansive, unconditional
Unpurified: lonely, dissociative, disorientation, confusion

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Emotions & Feelings

Part of the trauma processing work that I support clients through in therapy sessions involves helping people understand the difference between feelings and emotions.

Feelings are mental associations and reactions that arise from thoughts. Some times these thoughts are in our conscious or subconscious awareness. Feelings are subjective because they are influenced by our own personal experiences, memories and beliefs unique to us.

Emotions on the other hand are biochemical reactions associated with the nervous system, usually triggered by neurophysiological changes associated with feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Emotions are generally universally experienced. Helping people understand that our emotions can be physically felt and held in our body as a result of trauma is part of the processing work. That’s why I find it important to draw on the wisdom of both psychotherapy and somatic therapy when supporting clients manage the often unmanageable emotions, feelings and sensations. If you are interested in working with me, I have current availability and I am also a registered NDIS provider. I offer a free 30 minute consultation to see if the support I offer is what you looking for. Contact me here:

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Nose Breathing

As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I was always taught to breath through the nose during asana. In fact, in our everyday natural state, awake or asleep, we should always breathe through the nose. There are many benefits for nose breathing as opposed to mouth breathing and here’s why.

The nose has an innate immunity and eliminates airway pathogens. When bacteria is inhaled into the nose, exosomes are released that directly attack the pathogens and shuttle the protective anti-microbial proteins from the front of the nose to the back along the airway, protecting other cells before they get too far into the body. So nose breathing can act as an early warning and defence system for the rest of the body.
Did you know that when we mouth breathe pathogens such as dust mites enter the lungs and can live within them for up to three or four months. When breathing in through the nose, the nose can kill these dust mites in just fifteen minutes!

Nose breathing also slows the airflow movement, which comes in through the nose and down in a circular pattern due to the inside shape of the nose. This slow movement is beneficial for the lungs. Lung tissue is sensitive and when cold air comes in through the mouth it can stress and damage it. If lung tissue is damaged it affects the whole nervous system.

Nose breathing allows air to move deeper into the bottom of our lungs due to the vacuum that is created within it. The air is sent deeper into the lungs where there are more alveoli and more efficient air exchange within them. Alveoli are tiny air sacs in your lungs that take up the oxygen you breathe in and keep your body going.

Nose breathing also produces nitric oxide, which is a natural gas of respiration. It is produced in the paranasal sinuses and if you don’t breath through the nose, you aren’t able to take that nitric oxide into the body. Nitric oxide is something that our body needs, and it does a lot of amazing things. Firstly it is a vasodilator, which means that it regulates blood pressure by dilating and opening the arteries. Nitric oxide is also a bronchodilator, meaning that it opens the bronchioles, the little branches in the lungs that allows airflow movement through them. And interestingly, nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter regulator, helping to regulate serotonin, a key hormone that regulates our mood and feelings of well-being, glutamate and GABA. So by breathing through your nose you are:
allowing better blood flow
allowing better air flow
Helps regulate your mood. WOW!!!

And the best bit of all, did you know that humming increases nitric oxide by 15%. No wonder we feel so good after chanting long OM’s and practicing Brahmari pranayama (bumble bee breath)!!!!!!

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Feelings & Emotions

Part of the trauma processing work that I support clients through in therapy sessions involves helping people understand the difference between feelings and emotions.
Feelings are mental associations and reactions that arise from thoughts. Some times these thoughts are in our conscious or subconscious awareness. Feelings are subjective because they are influenced by our own personal experiences, memories and beliefs unique to us.
Emotions on the other hand are biochemical reactions associated with the nervous system, usually triggered by neurophysiological changes associated with feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Emotions are generally universally experienced. Helping people understand that our emotions can be physically felt and held in our body as a result of trauma is part of the processing work. That’s why I find it important to draw on the wisdom of both psychotherapy and somatic therapy when supporting clients manage the often unmanageable emotions, feelings and sensations.

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The Alchemy of Yoga

Over the last five years deity yoga has been a big part of my sadhana and I have been observing how my relationship to it has gone through different phases.

Kali Ma is the Mother Goddess of transformation, and I know that you are familiar with her. She is that part of you that expresses as that deep primal yearning within you that longs for change, destruction and transformation. Although you don’t know it yet, this deep yearning is your innate desire to truely know who you are beyond all the ego and labels/stories/roles and conditioning attached to your identity.

This deep yearning for transformation is none other than Goddess Kali herself. She is that emanation of consciousness that expresses as powerful transformative and destructive energy/shakti!!!

Your initial awakening to the power of Kali Ma (Mother Kali) of Mahakali (The Great Mother) initially awakens as your desire for change, for something to shift, for something to transform in your life or circumstances. Something may not be working in your relationships, your work, or family and you just know that you have to do something about it. Often you just don’t know how.

But for the sadhaka on the yoga path, and through the power of grace, you become curious about who these Goddess of yoga are, and why deities are so revered. You are thirsty to know more! And so begins your journey with deity yoga!!!

With enough self-reflection, you acknowledge that change is necessary even though it may initial cause pain and suffering! You look to which yoga Goddesses/powers of consciousness you can call on to support and hold you through this destructive stage. So you choose Goddess Kali- a powerful transcendent energy, a mighty force so big and replete. An energy much bigger than you, that could only exist outside of your “tiny, powerless self”. This way of working with deities is a necessary stage because you simply don’t have the personal power or agency to get through this on your own. Your conditioning is just too strong and binding.

As you call on Kali Ma’s power by invoking her through meditations on her form and visualisation of offering all her limitations, inner blocks and fears into the fire of her body, you slowly begins to feel and notice shifts both within and without you.

As Kali Ma’s power ripples either forcefully or gently through your life (she can be experienced as both) those necessary hurtful shifts happen, and you begin to see how new things blossom at the feet of Kali’s destructive and transformative power. These positive changes drive your yearning even deeper and you want to get to know Kali Ma more intimately. So you begin to chant her mantra and offer your prayers as part of your regular sadhana. Wow…now you notice how much your yoga practice has changed…less asana…more meditation…more mantra repetition…..more devotion…. Your yearning becomes so palpable that it is physically felt in the depths of your heart and you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with your physical heart???

As your practice with deity yoga becomes stronger, you begin to realise that the more devotion you give to Kali Ma or any deity, the more you feel held in life and the more your begin to relax and surrender into its embrace. When this transformation happens, people begin to notice and tell you…”you’ve changed”…”you’re different”…. And you know you are, and when this realisation dawns there is no going back. You’ve been drawn into the lure of her embrace and your spiritual practice becomes even more devoted to knowing her.

This is when you notice the third phase of deity yoga and you begin to embody the Goddess herself. You feel Kali Ma’s immanence- that the transformative power lies within you and that all you needed to do was invoke it. The power of destruction and transformation is within your very own being- you are destruction and transformation. And FUCK…when you have an embodied insight/experience of this, even if it’s only for a few seconds or it last for a few days, that deep yearning eases a little. Your perspective on life shifts. You become less fearful of life’s uncertainty and impermanence. You even begin to revel in it!!!! Making decisions is easier, you stop expecting and blaming things on others and you realise that you are the creator of your own reality.

You realise how far you have come in your sadhana and you approach your practice with Kali Ma on a new level…seeking to know more…asking is there more for me to know…..and her lure draws you back to your mat or meditation seat day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out….. Then you really begin to question, if I am this powerful force of transformation, what else lies within me….and you question…who or what am I really…..the yearning hasn’t gone away, but multiplied in force. And even though you didn’t know it at the beginning, you really start to get it know and to understand what that deep yearning is all about!

Your sadhana eventually becomes the goal of yoga….knowing your true nature!!!!

This is the alchemy of yoga!!!!


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The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra

I’m deeply indebted to the beautiful work of Christopher Wallis, Tantrika and Sanskrit Scholar for this translation.

The Maha Mrityunjaya is the Death Conquering Mantra
This is a healing mantra for overcoming fear and pain, fear of death or death. It is found in the Rig Veda in the 7th mandala. It is approximately 4000 years old and is one of the oldest mantras in unbroken continuous use throughout the world and as such has accumulated a lot of devotional shakti.
Vedic mantras are also used in Tantra

Om tryambhakam yajamahe
Dugandhim pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva bandhanam
Mrytor muksiya m’amrotat

Maha Mritunjaya- is another name for Shiva who was a conqueror of fear. This form of Shiva is also known as Amrtesvara as taught in the Netratantra. It is not a specific form of Shiva from a Vedic point of view, but in the Tantrik lineage it gets associated with Amritesvara- Lord of Nectar. He holds a pot of nectar and his consort is Lakshimi- the Goddess of abundance. This form of Shiva is no longer worshipped.

Tryambhakam- the three-eyed lord- another name for Shiva
Yajamahe- we worship you
Sugandhim- who is fragrant and sweet smelling. This is referring to the fragrance of awake consciousness
Pustivardhanam- he who increases abundance, wellbeing and prosperity
Urvarukam- like a cucumber. This is referring to a cucumber being separated from its vine
Bandhanam- from bondage
Muksiya amritat- liberate us
Together this means: liberate us from bondage like a cucumber separated from its vine (you can’t reattach a cucumber to its vine once it’s picked.)

The Tantrik version includes a couple of bija mantras at the beginning and reads as such:
Om jum sauh tryambhakam yajamahe……..

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Psycho-therapy, spirituality & kundalini

When we see ourself through the lens of our wounding, our challenging life experiences and our traumas, it’s hard to progress in our spiritual practice. Now the word trauma all too often gets thrown around very lightly, especially in spiritual circles. In my humble opinion, those that use the word in this sense are generally referring to the the challenges and ups and downs that most of us face in learning to navigate embodiment. When we refer to trauma in this way, we minimise the experience of those who have experienced on-going complex trauma and the deep impacts that these traumatic experiences leave.

Now either way, if we are stuck in seeing the world, people and even our own bodies as an unsafe place, then we will never be able to open up to the possibility of even experiencing the true goal of yoga- the experience of our own essence nature- free of any mental construct, poised in equanimity, peace, the ability to express compassion to self and others, and yes I’m gong to say it-joy!!!

As long as we stay stuck in the limiting stories about ourself and life, the stories that we have about others and even the stories that others have about us, then we inevitably stay stuck in the blame game and self-loathing- two big obstacles on the spiritual path!!!

The inability to look into our deep wounding and stories creates dis-integration of our whole self, and severely limits our capacity to open up to the deeper experience of the real yoga. Understanding how our challenging life experiences and traumas shape our beliefs and actions expands our awareness, which then allows us to see patterns and motivations that keep us stuck in the unintegrated state.

Psycho-therapy or any other form of healing practice that gently guides you to intentionally address these woundings and traumas in a safe way, is absolutely necessary on the spiritual path.

Some of you may be interested to know that in the oral practice tradition of Tantra, as I’m currently studying with Dharma Bodhi, there are two movements of Kundalini…yes two, not one as most people are taught! The first movement of kundalini is called “sva”- meaning self and is a downward movement into “the dark night of the soul”. This is where you go into deep reflection about your life, look at yourself with honesty, face your wounding or traumas and deeply question whether all there is too life is what you currently have?

On the spiritual path, this “dark night of the soul’ is an absolutely necessary path in order to get closer to your essence nature. The downward movement of kundalini hurts- it hurts like hell! And during times like this, you can’t really see yourself and life clearly. That’s why engaging in some time of therapy can be useful. If you want to know if you are progressing on the spiritual path, then observe your self carefully. Notice if there has been any changes in your character. Are you different in some way- big or small? You will notice these changes and other will too!

If you are interested in either generalist psycho-therapy/counselling or are interested in exploring the intersection of traditional psycho-therapy with spirituality and progress on the spiritual path you click the enquire now button.

Shanti, shanti shanti
Peace, peace, peace