A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining a Havan Fire Ceremony with our current yoga teacher training group at The Yoga Mat. One of my colleagues is part of the Dhyan Foundation which is a spiritual and charitable organization run solely by volunteers to spread awareness and knowledge of the path of yoga. Teaching many authentic practices involved with yoga, the Havan is a ceremony dedicated to aid the positive forces of creation. As human beings we commence in a Havan for the peace and prosperity of our home and creation as a whole. The ritual has been recorded and it’s practice is sustained in ancient Vedic texts which are important resources involved in forming our understandings of yoga today.
The Havan is a ritual where all aspects of the ceremony are performed and prepared for with intention. The fire is lit and Sanskrit chants are spoken to create the proper atmosphere for the spiritual intention. There is ghee or clarified butter used as an offering and it crackles the fire during chanting. It is at this time that fragrant medicinal herbs are spread into the fire. These are prepared specially at home prior to the ceremony for the purpose of offering. There is a conch shell blown as a horn before and after the ceremony. The hands are washed to purify before we begin. We sit with crossed legs and palms turned up to accept and allow the positive energy to flow freely around and through the group. The whole process serves as a meditation and a focus on creating a sacred and inclusive space for those involved to really connect with the intention but more importantly, with each other. As I sat and listened to our guide, Chaavi, chant, I could hear the Gayatri Mantra and pieces of other mantra which I have become familiar with through my own path of yoga. The Gayatri is a powerful mantra and is said to mean “May the divine light of the Supreme Being illuminate our intellect, to lead us along a path of righteousness”. It is a powerful mantra which is said to purify the chanter and also the listener, by the Rig Veda.
Above: Chaavi performing the Havan for us
When I went to Thailand to see Paul Dallaghan and Sri OP Tiwari almost eight years ago now, we did this very ceremony every morning before we began our pranayama and asana practice. I remember the ghee being spread over the flames of the fire and the grains being offered by students into the fire during the meditative chants that were performed by Paul and Tiwariji. The feelings I experienced at the end of our Havan back here in Canada with Chaavi were the same. I felt grounded, connected, soft and aware of something greater than each of us- our communal energy, when we ended the ceremony. It felt like we participated in something which drew up energy from within ourselves and from the one place with which we all exist. Such a peaceful and calming feeling overall. An experience which I highly recommend for yoga practitioners and non-yoga practitioners alike. At the end of the ceremony we were offered to place the ashes of the fire onto our third eye, the forehead as it is a way to connect our divine being. Of course I accepted this offering because, who wouldn’t want to experience that?
My Personal Deeper Reflections on Yoga
My reflections upon yoga are echoed with each experience I have had over these past 10+ years that I have been learning and practicing. The practices and the meanings are like a catapult for the mind into places of my being which lay in a sort of coma for much of my teenage to early adult life. As a child, I had no barometer for what was socially accepted and did what I felt was right. I painted my shoes. I participated in the science fair. I sang, danced and created art. I even earned a creative arts award on my grade eight graduation. I accomplished much in dance, I was accepted to a prestigious ballet school and won contests for art at local fairs. I followed my light. I did what I felt was right from within. As a teen, I became consumed by acceptance. There were some other disturbances as well. I turned inward, into my shell. I became insecure about socializing and fitting in. I lost connection with my internal knowing. I felt disconnected. I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peers. I had decorated my locker in grade 9 with a collage of cat pictures I liked. When some peers saw the effort I put into it, they thought it was weird. I was ridiculed by my local dance teacher when I came home from dance school. I didn’t want to pursue it because I wanted so much to be home with my family. I missed them and wanted more than anything to be with them than to follow my dream. My teacher couldn’t relate. I felt alone. I lost my connection, I became obsessed with perfection. I thought that if I did what was expected really well, no one would put me down. I could be invisible. If there was nothing to complain about, how could I be a spotlight? As I moved into adulthood, I was able to sort out many of the feelings I had as a teen. I mean, many kids struggle at this hormonal and changing time in life.
It was Yoga that really helped me heal from my disconnection. It has helped me to reconnect to that inner voice that I had shut down because it didn’t fit in. You see, yoga doesn’t care if you are fitting in with the trend or what is cool. Yoga is there to help you reconnect with what is important, with what really matters in life. I feel more confident in my own skin now that I ever have as an adult. I am rekindling my own fire with that unstoppable energy that guided me as a child to do what is right for my soul, what is right for me. I once again march to the beat of my own drum and don’t care if it’s not the same beat as anyone else. I am me. I am happy to be me. I connect to me. It is a beautiful feeling. When I think about how many years went by where I was a bit lost, I feel bad, but I don’t dwell on what I can’t change. I move forward and let my light guide me where I need to be. It feels wondrous and I think we can all find that place within ourselves. I wish this for every human being on this planet. I dream of the day where we are all Yoga and we are all truly aware that we are ONE ~ Samadhi.
LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU
Means~ May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Best wishes my beautiful readers,