The Awakening Heart Intensive with Sianna Sherman is about deepening one’s yoga practice. One Sanskrit word for practice is sadhana. Sianna defines sadhana as a spiritual journey and she explains that everything on that journey (every encounter, every circumstance, every twist and turn) is food for the individual on the journey. Every experience, both “good” and “bad.” Everything!
The journey is unique to each individual, but the name of our path is Tantra. Sianna describes Tantra as purification, revitalization, self-inquiry, and transformation/deification.
1) That which touches the heart
2) Spiritual texts
5) That which expands and grows the self
It’s a big word getting bigger!
The roots of the word are: tan- expanse or extension, and tra- a device, tool, or instrument. The idea being that the body is a vessel of embodiment of Maha Shakti or Great Mother. Life is a gift to be savored and this physical experience is not something to escape or run away from, but can lead to spiritual liberation in this life if we are mindful of how we live it without becoming overly attached. “Bhukti” means enjoyment or worldly fulfillment. “Mukti” means spiritual liberation. Tantra is the bridge between bhukti and mukti. It is a way of reconciling the apparent opposition of spiritual and worldly fulfillment. The message here is that in the tantric practices it is possible to enjoy a “worldly” existence and discover full spiritual liberation in this life.
I fully resonate with this definition and interpretation of the word Tantra. We can be spiritual without taking a vow of chastity, poverty, or solitude. And we can enjoy life and this physical existence in a mindful way without threatening our spiritual development. What I see in the Yoga Union community are many people living in this way. They exemplify this by doing the work on themselves and within the community. Being fully engaged with the world around us with a realization that there is something bigger that we are all a part of is key to living a fulfilling life. Having fun and doing the work. Using this life not only for our own enjoyment, but also for the upliftment of others. I have found healing, liberation and enjoyment in my yoga practice and as a teacher. Helping others to find this same fulfillment is equally as rewarding, if not more so.
I was feeling inspired by the Awakening Heart Intensive and about a week after the first part I felt my heart awaken and I asked the love of my life to marry me. She said yes and it feels like I am living in a dream. Practice and theory are great, but the real test is in our personal relationships, community, and family life. Finding a balance and blending the mukti and the bhukti is a dance for sure. To be able to see this worldly life as spiritual practice and to see spiritual practice as this worldly life is what tantra is about. I feel it was only after doing the mukti, the inner work, finding self-love, and being in service of others and my community that I was ready for the bhukti, the joy that I am now feeling with another. I found the love I was looking for within myself and shared it with the world and this is what my fiance fell in love with. She was on a similar path of self discovery and self-love and had been single for a while before we met. We both had some less than ideal experiences in past relationships, but feel those experiences were essential for us to be as thankful and appreciative as we are for what we have now. I don’t want to imply that finding another compatible human being to love is some kind of reward for austere spiritual practice, but rather that love can strengthen that practice and not be a hindrance to it. Incorporating time to practice yoga (asana), meditate, teach, do the work, and spend time together is challenging. But by cooperating, communicating, being flexible, being able to compromise, and practicing honesty with each other I am finding that everything can be integrated together. A spiritual life doesn’t have to be so austere or strict so as to not actually live the life you are living, but discipline and self-inquiry are important to live the life you aspire to live with an awakened heart.