Loving from soul

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Love begins at home and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action.

– Mother Teresa

Love is a very pure form of energy but when filtered through the prism of ego, it can become distorted and even contaminated. While great harm has been done in the name of love, it had nothing to do with love.

Love is the ultimate energy of the universe. It is like a sun that always shines and we can choose to bask in it or we can go inward to a place of darkness and shadows. When ego chooses darkness, it blames others for lack of love, which is like going into a windowless basement on a sunny day and complaining of the lack of light.

In relationships, what we call love might well be lust, neediness or dependency coupled with affection, rather than a high form of unconditional love, characterized by acceptance, compassion, forgiveness and a sense of the eternal.

For ego, love is very different than the love soul knows. Ego gives itself broad powers when it loves, including unlimited expectations, a need to control, manipulation and withdrawal of love when its needs are not met.

What this looks like in practical terms is the partner who holds the other responsible for his/her happiness. He really wants to play golf, but instead of wanting him to be happy, she pouts, gives him the silent treatment or otherwise makes him feel guilty. He either stays home and is miserable and resentful or goes anyway, carrying guilt along with his clubs. Neither one of them ends up happy.

She signs up for a yoga class because she needs to de-stress and the time to herself will feel good. Rather than encouraging her to tune into her needs and validating the importance of self-care, he is resentful because he thinks she should be home with him in the evenings. She goes to class but can’t really relax because she keeps thinking of the grumpy greeting she will get later.

Ego often twists and distorts love in the realm of parenting as well. If ego gets caught up in feeling the child is a reflection of the parent, the child is not free to be his or her natural self. Ego sees a child as a blank canvas upon which to create the image it would like to see. What emerges is a constant power struggle between ego’s will to shape the child and the child’s tendency towards individuation and creative evolution. Sadly, the child often gives up the fight because the child’s ego cannot tolerate withdrawal of love. The child, therefore, lives a life that is not his or her own.

Another compulsion of ego is to have the child meet its emotional needs. This can manifest as hurt feelings when the toddler wants Mommy to read the story, not Daddy. Later, it shows up as resentment when the teen would rather go out with friends than spend time with Mom. Regardless of age, the child feels the parent’s displeasure and feels guilty for not pleasing the parent. This is the beginning of the pattern of living life according to what others think, rather than expressing one’s authentic self.

Clearly, for ego love is as much, if not more, about meeting ego’s needs as it is about fulfilling the needs of the other. Ego will even go so far as to say, “If you loved me, you would do things my way.”

When we connect with our higher soul selves and see the souls of others, the quality and experience of love becomes quite different. To love another is to want what is in their highest good. It is to treasure the fact that our two souls have connected in this lifetime and to honour that connection. It is to realize the primacy of that connection and to see that the particular roles we play – husband/wife, child/parent – are secondary. We must not get so caught up in the ego drama that we forget each soul has its own journey, which we are blessed to share, support and respect.

 

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For articles and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

Higher education just got higher

by Naseem Salila Gulamhusein

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.

– Mohandas Gandhi

While finishing a degree at UBC, I dreamed of a curriculum that included yoga and wellness. I had already completed a degree at Langara College and I was well aware of the stress and pressure placed on students to succeed. I also questioned the logic of having to take some of the classes deemed “mandatory” to obtain a degree and I thought colleges and universities would be wise to include a six-credit course in yoga and holistic health. This way, when students got into the “real world,” they would have some valuable tools to deal with the changes and challenges of life.

In 1999, I was heading down the path to depression; life was taking its toll on me and sadness consumed my heart. I remember leaving campus one day after seeing a psychologist who had recommended I go on Prozac. I knew this was not an answer to my problems. Walking away from the institution, I was aware that I needed to make a choice between a path of suffering (where I was getting great marks) or embracing a path towards peace. In that moment, I remembered a quote my uncle had written in a yoga book: “When you surrender to emptiness, you will find happiness.”

The Centre for Holistic Health Studies at Langara College states its purpose as follows: “…to re-evaluate how health is created in the mind, body and spirit by expanding a client centred healthcare model that awakens the body’s innate healing potential and opens the path of the Heart.” After selecting the centre from a long list of potential workplaces that would be a good fit for my skills and passions, I was called in for an interview for the position of program coordinator.

During the interview, we talked about a number of things in relation to the programs. I spoke about wanting to share my passion for teaching yoga, and the interview changed into a larger discussion about creating a yoga teacher-training program at Langara. It would be vital to create a balance between the art and science of yoga and program development; and conversations with the Dean and others helped clarify how we could accomplish this in a college setting.

Spirituality and religion have always been a part of my life. Growing up, I was exposed to a diverse cultural and religious background. My father is Ismaili Muslim, born is East Africa, and my mother is Catholic, born in Northern Ireland. As a little girl, on Friday nights I would accompany my father when he went to the mosque. On Sundays, I attended church with my mother. Hearing the words of God, Allah, Jesus and Mohamed, I would think to myself how similar they all sounded; the meaning and message were about living by one’s virtues and helping those in need.

My mother and father struggled to find a balance and I soon came to understand why people fight over religion. Because of their interracial marriage, my parents were on the fringe of their own religions, providing me with a rich, cultural experience. In my teenage years, my father took me to my first yoga class, where I met my first teacher, a woman named Joy who suggested that one day I teach yoga. In saying that, she sealed my destiny.

My yoga-training journey brought me many blessings and the honour of studying with four great teachers: the first of which are my parents, who have taught me patience; the second, Yogi Bhajan (Kundalini yoga), taught me courage; the third, Gurumayi (Siddha yoga), taught me to follow my heart, and, to this day, Baba Hari Dass (classical Ashtanga and Raja Yoga) teaches me selfless service and devotion.

In 2001, I ended up in New Mexico with a backpack and a small tent, which would be my only possessions for the next six months. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What am I doing?” but I knew there was no turning back. I had a strong desire to burn off the karma of sadness and suffering and my days consisted of chanting every morning at 4 AM, yoga, meditation and working in the gardens and the office. On the first day of our yoga teacher-training, Yogi Bhajan advised, “You are going to work through your stuff now!” and he made us hold our arms in the air for what seems like hours. After I completed my stay there, he admonished me to go and teach the world.

After travelling and teaching yoga full time for several years, my life took a dramatic turn. Having just spent more than a year in service at the Mount Madonna Center in Northern California and the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in BC, I received news that my beloved mother in Ottawa had breast cancer. The prognosis was not good – she had three to six months to live. My reality crashed around me as I fell to the ground in deep sadness. Only a few days before, I had talked with a close friend about what it would be like to lose a parent. I was not prepared, but bolstered with the support of community, I headed home to do my duty. Initially, my duty to my family took me to Ottawa, but it was my love for my mother that kept me there. Hospitals, chemotherapy, painkillers, nausea, cooking, laughter, forgiveness and tears became our day-to-day reality. Having lived independently for so many years, I was once again a daughter, living at home.

I have heard that the greatest test of anyone’s practice is to move back home with parents and continue to remain in a state of shanti (peace). Three to six months turned into 18 months and I was honoured to be by my mother’s side during the process. In the summer of 2006, the cancer consumed my mother’s body, the battle was over and all that remained was to surrender. In the face of death, all I knew to do was chant. Both the Catholic priest and the Mukhi Kamadia from the mosque gave the Last Rights and I chanted the shanti mantra so that peace would prevail.

I was graced by watching my mother live and die without fear. She offered all of her suffering to God and forgave those who had trespassed against her. In her final hours, I watched the true meaning of life unfold. We come into this world on an inhale and we literally leave on an exhale. Everything in between is an experience that brings us closer to our inner truth and divine consciousness. Life is pairs of opposites seeking balance and union (yoga). Balance arises when we give up suffering, negativity and fear.

In the face of fear, there is always love and this is what guides me to live in the world. I choose to live and love through the path of devotion and action. After my mother’s death, I travelled with my beloved teacher Baba Hari Dass to India. For two months, I lived at Sri Ram Ashram, an orphanage for 68 destitute and orphaned children and school for 500 children. It is also a charitable medical clinic. It was there that my feelings of gratitude for having the love of a mother became more than I can ever express.

All these experiences brought me back to Vancouver in the fall of 2007, where I was led to Langara College to follow my dream at the Centre for Holistic Health Studies. Langara College is the first college in Canada to offer a 250-hour, experiential yoga teacher-training certificate program, which offers students the opportunity to study and practice these ancient teachings, which can bring about personal transformation, as well as allowing them to develop a daily at-home yoga and meditation practice.

One of the foundations of yoga is a regular daily practice (sadhana). Through meditation, self-affirming thinking and developing a positive approach to life, students learn how to solve personal challenges and promote peaceful change in society. They also gain the knowledge and skills to effectively teach mindful yoga classes and deliver workshops to diverse groups.

It is our life experiences that make us great teachers. We can only teach people from where we have gone before. Teaching yoga is a life journey, which begins with cultivating awareness of one’s mind, body and soul and a strong desire to free oneself from the bondage of suffering. When we are free, life becomes a joyous dance with the divine. The heart opens and blossoms, providing beauty and light to all.

Naseem Salila Gulamhusein is the Yoga Teacher Training Program Coordinator and Teacher Trainer at Langara College. She has taught all levels of students internationally and has instructed for yoga teacher training programs in Canada and the US. ngulamhusein@langara.bc.ca,
www.holistichealthstudies.com