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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Freedom in Spontaneity

Things at Spirit, Mind, Matter have been busy over the past month. While I haven’t been posting frequently, we have had friends from the states visiting for the past month. Posting should become more regular soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes:

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
– Victor Borge

Victor Borge was a combination pianist-comic who filled my childhood with laughter. I was thinking about this quote and how it relates to mindfulness. When we are living in the present moment we are free and flexible. Our openness allows us the opportunity to see spontaneous humor in life and respond to the little moments in life with wisdom, humor,  and kindness.

I had a moment with this the other day.  I recently accepted a job back in the music classroom. I was moving things into my new classroom when I saw a little boy (perhaps 2nd grade) hop out of the window on the ground floor to go to the playground. Don’t get too worried, it was a 4 foot drop, at the most, and it was after school.   The kiddo cleared that window ledge with amazing agility!  He landed directly in front of me and his face showed that he was certainly not expecting to see an adult standing there.

Earlier that day I noticed that I was rushing around.  I made a mental note to practice mindful walking from the school door to my portable classroom outside. This little incident happened as I was really dropping into the present moment. It gave me freedom.  Instead of yelling at him and dragging him to the office, I felt something different. Something inside tugged and gave me a different response. Instead, I was able to ask a gentle question, “is that a safe way to exit the classroom?” He clearly was thrown at my lack of yelling. After a moment or two, he said no, and I asked him to please go back inside and exit the classroom safely. He was relieved, we smiled, and we introduced ourselves to each other. He assured me that jumping out of the window wouldn’t happen again.

Ah, kids. 🙂

Here’s the thing. The same result happened as would have happened had I gotten mad at him and been “mean” about it. I think it’s important to think through our responses to things to see how we can get to the same end but using the freedom and spontaneity that mindfulness gives us. In my opinion, this is where the practice of ahimsa happens.

So, today, as we encounter people and situations, let us practice mindfulness to appreciate the kind spontaneity that can permeate our day!

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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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Addictive Doing

My favorite story was told by Tara Brach on her latest podcast

Hindu teacher Swami Satchidananda was asked by a student if he needed to become a Hindu to go deeply into the practice of yoga. Satchidananda’s response was, “I am not a Hindu, I am an undo.”

 

Meditation is a great way to de-condition the “doing-mind.”

If you’re anything like me, you notice the weather system of “doing” and how it permeates your day. I know, for me, the “doing” self often masks uncomfortable feelings and anxiety. I also notice that my ego can be hitched to getting things done. Thankfully, Tara Brach talks about this in her latest podcast. Take an hour or so and listen to her podcast. 

From her website: 

One of the core domains of egoic trance is addictive doing – chronic activity driven by fear and wanting that keeps us from realizing a wholeness of Being. This talk looks at how addictive doing keeps us in the map of time, identified as a separate self, always on our way somewhere else. We then explore ways we undo this conditioning by pausing and opening to the liberating dimension of Being.  

 

You can listen on iTunes, clicking here, or visiting her website

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Take a pause, arrive in the moment, and set the intention to un-do the conditioning of busy-ness. 


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Reiki Principles

Many years ago I  experienced the healing powers of Reiki. So much, in fact, that when the opportunity came, I received my Reiki level 1 attunement. Through my journey I’ve had times where I’ve practiced regularly and other times where I go into a period of forgetting. 

I’m currently in a processes of remembering.

I found the card that I received at the end of my level 1 class and I am working on remembering the principles in my daily life.  Even if you are new to Reiki, these principles are wonderful to live by.

(source)

I love the “Just for today” as it reminds us that all we have is right now. It’s the little moments and “todays” that make up our lives. When we focus too much on the future, it becomes overwhelming. Instead of focusing on tomorrow, we focus on today.

Namaste!


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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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Bending with Difficulties and Contradictions

(source)

 

Yoga and meditation teach us flexibility of the mind. We learn that we don’t have to react to every whim, thought, feeling, or impulse.  We learn, through these practices, how to become an observer of these things and then to ask, “Is this true for me, now?” I have found, throughout my journey, that there are ideas and beliefs that I have become attached to. Meditation and yoga have taught me to notice them, and then step away and look at the bigger picture. There have been some things that I have learned to looks at differently, now.

With flexibility of the mind, we are able to tap into more creative problem solving strategies when we encounter difficulties. We are better able to see things objectively and have an open mind and loving heart. Today, and throughout the week, I challenge us all to see where we can become more flexible with difficulties to see if it creates more ease and happiness in our lives.

 


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Helping Those Who “Make Us” Suffer

I know we all have people in our lives that are difficult to be around. We can usually be found saying things like they make us sad, crazy, angry, or whatever feeling you want to throw out there.  Yet, we all know that only we are responsible for our own feelings. We can’t allow every whim of another persons thoughts, actions, or feelings to dictate how we feel or act.  We seem to exist between these two ideas. Those of us on the path know about what Thich Nhat Hanh is saying in the following quote.

We understand that those who cause suffering are suffering. We can usually arrive to a place of compassion pretty quickly if we take a few moments to see where this person is coming from.  This doesn’t mean allowing the person who has suffering spilling over free reign to do, act, or say whatever they please. We can deal with the thoughts, feelings, and actions and set appropriate boundaries.

First, we must start with ourselves. We need to look at the suffering we are feeling. When we feel as though someone is making us suffer, we can first identify what feelings we are feeling. What is there, at the core. I’m not talking about what “they” did, but rather, what do “we” feel? Take “them” our of the equation and focus on what “we” feel.  After we come home to what we are feeling, we can offer those hurt feelings compassion. We must not forget to do this. We cannot be compassionate to the world without first being compassionate towards ourselves.  A time will come whenwe then can feel comfortable with digging a little deeper and questioning our feelings. We can ask ourselves if these feelings are true, where are they coming from, what would we say to a friend who was experiencing this? All of these questions can bring us to the hurt place in us, the place that needs attention. Once we have investigated our own feelings, thoughts, and actions. We can move towards helping the other.

When we encounter that other person and we recognize what’s happening in us as they spill their suffering, the first thing we can do is to stop, breathe, and offer compassion to the hurting place inside of them. It can stop there. Sometimes, it has to. If someone close to us says something hurtful or acts out their suffering, sometimes all we can do is to offer them some compassion with our hearts, and then walk away or change the subject. However, if there is some space, sometimes we can help them by asking questions about where they are coming from, or gently sharing the messages that they are sending us with their actions. I believe that in the quiet moments of pausing and listening, we can hear God, and when we are aligned with the Spirit inside of us, we can speak truth (or silence) that serves best. Let us all trust that the right words will come that can create a space for healing. Like Jesus says in Matthew 10: 19-20:

19) When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20) for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Dealing with suffering is part of life. We all suffer. We call create suffering. Our path is to show love. In times of suffering I like to quote something I heard on a Tara Brach podcast, “May this suffering serve enlightenment.”

Namaste ❤


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Wheel of Awareness with Dr. Dan Siegel

I came across an article on Psychology Today  (under the Neuroscience section) called Mindfulness as Integration by Dr. Dan Siegel. In the article, Dr. Siegel discusses the Wheel of Awareness that can be used to help mindfulness practice.  Please read the article.

 

Dr. Seigel has a few resources online that talk about the Wheel of Awareness.

 

(source)

I haven’t experimented with his method, but I am excited to try. Have you heard of this? Please share your experience!

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