spirit, mind, matter

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." – Ursula K. Le Guin


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Steadfastness

I subscribe to Heart Advice: Weekly Quotes from Pema Chödrön. You can subscribe by clicking here

The quote from this week:

August 27, 2014
STEADFASTNESS
We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.

 

Pema Chödrön in A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers, page 161

 

This teaching came at the perfect time. I have been mentally wavering in my practice. I still practice yoga and meditation daily however, getting started has been the hard part. I will dilly-dally around, play on the internet, do chores, or do any other stalling technique before surrendering. A minute or two in, I’m always so happy I did it, but something about getting started has been difficult lately. 

This is why this quote resonates with me. I know that sitting and practicing under this current weather system of the mind that I’m experiencing, will continue to teach me how to be compassionate with myself under all circumstances. It also keeps me honest in my practice of both yoga and meditation. 

So today, remain steadfast in your practice and continue to cultivate compassion. 

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Life is Asana

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am reading  Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, by Gregor Maehle.  I loved this quote about Asana.

On page 3, he writes:

“Asana invites us to acknowledge the past and let it go. This will in turn bring us into the present moment and allows us to let go of limiting concepts such as who we think we are.”

I believe this is the same with meditation. As we practice, over time, we start to see the different weather systems that move through our bodies and minds. We start to notice impermanance. We start to know, viscerally, that this too, shall pass. Good passes, bad passes, everything passes and each moment is an invitation and opportunity to let go of old ideas and patterns that keep us small and tight, and embrace love.

As we move through the weekend, let us remember that we don’t have to be in a particular yoga posture to explore the benefits of yoga. Let’s see what happens when we try to make each movement, conversation, and experience an asana in and of itself.

(source)

 

 


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Insight from Ashtanga

Although I have been practicing yoga since my teenage years and I am a certified and practicing  Hatha yoga teacher, I have recently started practicing Ashtanga yoga. I have found it to be a wonderful addition to my practice. I was talking to my teacher about any good books or resources she had on the topic and she suggested, Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, by Gregor Maehle.

I came across a paragraph from the introduction (page 3), that I’d like to share with you. I found it to be very helpful in terms of mindfulness practice.

Yoga is the middle path between two extremes. On the one hand, we can go to the extreme of practicing fanatically and striving for an ideal while denying the reality of this present moment.  The problem with this is that we are only ever relating to ourselves as what we want to become in the future and not as what we are right now.  The other extreme is advocated by some schools of psychotherapy that focus on highlighting past traumas. If we do this, these traumas can increase their grip on us, and we relate to ourselves as we have in the past, defining ourselves by the “stuff that’s coming up” and the “process that we are going through” “Asana is an invitation to say goodbye to these extremes and arrive at the truth of the present moment. (Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, page 3).

I see this in yoga, and in meditation. In meditation, we can get hooked on the practice. We may start to notice ourselves striving to be good at meditation and we also may start to feel discouraged at the perceived “lack of progress” we feel when we are having a particularly busy-mind sort of day.  It’s important in both yoga and meditation to approach them with a sense of ease, flexibility, and kindness. A, “let’s see what happens today” attitude can be quite helpful.

Just the other day I thought I was going to have a “bad” yoga day (meaning, I went to MySore practice sore, tired, and feeling low energy).  I knew that carrying that mindset in to the practice wouldn’t be helpful so I said to myself, “well, let’s just see what happens!” Turns out, I was more open than I thought and was able to do a bind that hasn’t been available to me before.  I’m not saying that the minute we let go that all of the sudden things will be available to us- because then that turns into yet another area of striving, but rather, it’s the “watch and see” attitude. That’s where the magic is. Observing the present moment as it is is where the power lies. We can’t live in the past “my mind is always so busy, I can’t ever stop thinking” or “I will never be able to do this posture.”  We can’t live in the future of striving, “I’m going to do this asana if it kills me” mentality.

Life is about finding the balance between the extremes. Life is about walking that razor’s edge. Yoga and meditation teach us how to find the path, allow us to practice the path, help us observe when we stray from the path, and allow us to return to the path.

(source)

Namaste! ❤ 🙂

 

 

 


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Planting Seeds

I’ve read quite a few books where teachers talk about planting seeds.  The Bible is probably where I’ve read the most. A quick search and I found these gems (certainly, not a comprehensive list):

2 Corinthians 9:6 – But this [I say], He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 – In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both [shall be] alike good.

Galatians 6:8 – For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” he talked about our thoughts being seeds that take root and grow in our lives.  He reminds us that we can chose which seeds to water, which seeds to nurture,  and which weeds to pull.

I find this to be such a profound, yet simple, idea.  When I stop to think about what seeds I’m proverbially sewing in my life, which seeds I’m nurturing, and which weeds are choking my spirit, it reminds me that I have a choice. While I can’t control all of my thoughts (I mean, thoughts are shameless, they will pop in and out of anywhere), I can control which thoughts I believe, which thoughts I nurture, and which thoughts bring be closer to a beautiful and full life.

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: When you catch yourself thinking, ask, “is this a seed I want to nurture?” If so, allow it to grow and blossom, and if not, then dismiss it and allow it to leave.

Namaste

 

 


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Needing Closure

I know I have at least one reader (ahem, Kacey), who remembers that episode of Friends…the one with the closure.  Ever since that episode aired, I remember my friends and I always talking about closure. It morphed from talking about ending relationships into talking about anything. It started being a term that my generation used for ending jobs, moving through different life stages, relationships, and pretty much anything ended up needing some sort of closure.

All of the sudden, it became clear to me that we all tend to keep looking for resolutions and closure to everything. When we live in that belief that we need specific markers to be an “end” to something, we get very attached to goals and the way things should be.  If we don’t get closure or a resolution, we feel uncomfortable!  We have learned that ambiguity is bad and wrong.

Yesterday, I got a quote of the day sent to me from my girl Pema Chodron.  You can click here to learn how to subscribe to her emails.

In her Book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön, page 54, she writes:

WE DON’T DESERVE RESOLUTION

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.

 

Did you catch that?  We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Did she just suggest RELAXING with paradox and ambiguity?  I’m certain that my conditioning has been to do everything BUT relax with those feelings but if it’s good enough for Pema, it’s good enough for me!  I will try.

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness:  Let’s examine our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings to see where we are missing the open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Namaste

 

 


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A Good Read

A friend of mine recommended a wonderful book that I’d like to pass on to my yogi friends! I’m only 25% through it (says the kindle), but so far it is wonderful. I’m learning so much.   If you’re looking for a great read about the power of yoga, changing limited beliefs, being happy, and loving yourself as you are, this book is for you!

Here is one of my favorite quotes: “Just as we can consciously practice developing the qualities we want to become, we can also consciously let go of whatever it is we don’t want to be anymore.”

I found this to be such a powerful statement and I can’t wait to get a little deeper into this book!

 

Here’s the link to amazon: http://www.amazon.com/May-Be-Happy-Memoir-Changing/dp/1469278278

Have you read this before? If so, thoughts?

 


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Thoughts on Non-Attachment

A dear friend asked me a question yesterday.  She asked how non-attachment and love work. I mean, when we love someone, like a spouse, child, parent, or friend, aren’t we attached?  I thought about it for a while because that’s a really good question. Attachment, non-attachment, and love are words that are thrown around in all of the spiritual traditions. First, I believe that we all will have different thoughts and opinions about this as our lives change over time. I can only speak from where I am at right now.

First, love.  I only know one great definition of love and it goes like this:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Second, non-attachment.

Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments,aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self. (http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-11216.htm)

I heard a great teacher (on a Tara Brach podcast) who was talking about his favorite chalice. It was beautiful. It was made of colorful glass and had jewels adorning it. He drank from the chalice every day. Some of this followers approached him and asked if he was attached to the chalice.  He replied, no. He said that it was because each time he took a sip from the glass, or saw it, he would imagine it shattered on the ground.

I don’t believe that love is necessarily being attached in the sense of vairagya.  I believe that when we truly love something or someone we allow it to be as it is, without grasping. Like, a butterfly landing on an open hand. We don’t then grab the butterfly and crush it! We let it be, admire it, enjoy it for the time it is there, and then when it flies away, we move on with an open hand because we know more moments will come. I do not believe that savoring the beauty, tastes, sights, sensations, smells, and feelings of the world around us is being attached. I believe that as stewards of this earth, that God has given us these things in order to see Him in everything and remind us of our true nature.

I believe that love can only be attachment when it gives us a false sense of self or we become attached to the outcome of the love. For instance, when we become attached to our role as husband, wife, partner, parent, or teacher. Yes, they are roles we have in our lives, but that is not who we are at the deepest being. Our purpose for loving each other is to remind each other how God loves us. God loves us unconditionally with an open hand. May we be free from the ego attachments in order to love God and others fully.

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Let the butterfly land in our open hands.

such gorgeous colours in this butterfly

Namaste.

 


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Home

After yoga this morning, I turned to a page in one of my favorite books, 365 Yoga, by Julie Rappaport.

Number 255:

Home

Experience has shown me that everything seems to flow well after yoga and meditation practice.

Connecting to my breath, moving through skin, I traverse muscle and bone and wash up on the shores of my own being. I find home.

~JR

This rings so true in my life. It is what keeps me coming back to my practice, and back to my mat day in and day out.  Practice builds faith and faith builds practice. It’s a wonderful cycle.

May we always remember where we can find home.


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The Power of Play

When was the last time you played? If you have children, you may have played with them (really, accompanying them in their play) but I’m talking about the last time YOU played; the last time you engaged in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Play is where children can work out complicated life situations in a safe environment. Think about how children play at different professions. Children try on doctor, teacher, fireman, and police officer. Play gives them the freedom to explore the world around them.

Recently, there has been an influx in research on play. A quick Google search can bring up hundreds of articles and studies that have been written over the past few years. I came across one wonderful one from The Huffington Post, The Importance of Play: It’s More Than Just Fun and Games.  I encourage you to read it!   In an article in USA Today, it discusses how play increases creativity, lowers stress, and helps us adapt to new situations and circumstances.

I know, it’s hard for adults to wrap their minds around playing. We have all of these daily obligations that get in the way of playing.  Perhaps it’s time to think about how we can work play into our daily lives through yoga and meditation.

Yoga is an easy place to play. You step on to your mat and set an intention to remain open, flexible, and curious to what may arise in your practice.  For me, playing in yoga involves experimenting with modifications of asana, trying new arm balances or balancing postures, or experimenting with new ways to connect one asana to another. It keeps my practice fresh and helps me stay unattached, and at ease.  Even when I’m practicing Ashtanga yoga, with a more specific asana sequence, I can still maintain a spirit of play and curiosity. Living in the moment, instead of believing past stories or worrying about the future prohibits a playful spirit.

In meditation and life, play can look very much the same. We can incorporate the elements of surprise and curiosity in to our daily lives! Instead of thinking about how the traffic is going to be miserable on your way home from work, you can take a playful approach with wondering how many new blooming trees you will see on your way home. Instead of having the same Wednesday night dinner, you can add a new seasoning or spice, or even sit in a new place at the table. Changing little elements in your daily routine and watching how you respond with a sense of curiosity can awaken new energy and life.

In his book, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar, Lodro Rinzer says, “The less we buy into our set version of how things should be, the more we can be available to things as they are.  When we are able to do this, our lives are not a battle, but a playground for us to enjoy (page 10).”

We get this one life. Let’s make it amazing!

Would you not like to be able to do what this little one is doing, being soooo playful and no cares in the world because momma polar bear is close by.


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Sharing your Practice

It’s inevitable, as we practice meditation and mindfulness, that we want to share our practice with our family and friends.  As we delve deeper into these practices, we see all of the possibilities that open to us and it’s only natural that we would want to share our experience with those closest to us.  It can be difficult to share this with family and friends. The thing that we need to remember about these practices is that, like yoga, it’s intensely personal. Not everyone has the same experience and often times, things come into fruition when we are truly ready to see and hear them. I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The  Art of Power, and I found these words to be extremely helpful.

The best way for us to share our practice with our families is through our way of living, not through our words. It is possible for us to drive our cars mindfully, enjoying breathing in and out, not letting ourselves be carried away by thinking about the past, the future, and our projects. And when we come to a red light, we smile to it as a friend, not as an enemy, because the red light says, “Stop! God back to your breathing, and enjoy it.” Before you open the door when you get home, you might pause and breathe in and out three times and smile, so that when your loved ones see you, you will be more pleasant after a hard day’s work. When you make breakfast, you can transform breakfast making into a practice of love and happiness. .. It is possible for us to be grounded in the present moment and live each moment deeply with the energy of mindfulness and joy. ..After several days of living like this, you will be calmer and more joyful, and your partner may ask, “darling, how do you do it?” This is your chance to share your practice with him. Don’t try to impose your practice on him. Just practice living deeply and mindfully, without any formalities. You don’t need to show anyone that you are practicing.

 

Choose to lead by example over words - especially when it comes to healthy eating and healthy living

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Actions always speak louder than words.  Share your practice with others by leading by example.