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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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.

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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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“Tell” vs. “Allow”

Maybe it’s me, but have you ever experienced that moment in yoga class where a teacher tells you to, “just relax” or “let it all go.”  As if it were that easy! “Why, SURE, I’ll just RELAX! Easy!!”

(I know, that’s terrible, but it’s also kind of funny…)

Maybe it’s me, and I have a tendency to be all up in my head about things, but sometimes, when I hear someone say “just relax” it gives me the icks. I was thinking about this after I attended a yoga class a few months ago. The teacher was barking out orders in savasana (or at least, that’s what it sounded like in my head, I’m sure it was absolutely lovely and normal but my mindset wasn’t having it) with “relax your feet, relax your legs, relax your knees, relax your knee caps …..” fill in everything under the sun. By the time she was done talking, savasana was over and all I was thinking about was how I couldn’t get my thighs to relax.  I felt defeated. I felt like a bad yogi.  I felt like a failure.

I knew all that wasn’t true.  I know how to make peace with those thoughts that are very real, but not true.  I started digging deeper.  What was it about the perfectly normal savasana cues that gave me such a strong reaction?

I thought about it, meditated about it and realized that I felt invalidated. As if holding tension wasn’t allowed and I was messing up for something I couldn’t control.

So, what could give me the sense of validation that I needed?  Why did I need it?  I went directly to my favorite meditation teacher, Tara Brach, (please google her, read all her books, and listen to all of her podcasts).  I never have those negative thoughts  while listening to her podcasts or meditations. I started investigating why.  If you hear her speak, you will hear words like “soften, notice any residual tension, allow, let it be, allow it to be as big as it wants, give it permission to be there, give it permission to leave…” All of these validating words that don’t imply that there’s something wrong with me if I simply “can’t” relax in a certain moment.

Yoga is a practice of surrender. We surrender to the body and breath as we practice our moving meditation.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve started really watching my words as I teach. I too, am guilty of the occasional “relax” or “let it go” but I have set a very focused intention with language while I’m teaching.  I also noticed that using more positive, passive, and allowing vocabulary, has helped me ease up on myself. I’m not so hard on myself if I’m having one of those days, I’m more likely to practice ahimsa with myself. I can honor any sensations in my body and allow them to be, rather than trying to force them to leave.  Sometimes, that weather in the body, is trying to teach us something. Sometimes it’s best to allow it to be, and then allow it to leave- when it’s ready.  Did you get that? Not when WE are ready for it to leave, but when IT is ready.  The body doesn’t like being forced into what the mind/ego is creating, the body likes to be and live in it’s own intelligence.  It’s time to tune in.  I hope that the subtle change in vocabulary in class will help the type-A students tap in to a bit of kindness towards themselves and learn to surrender, rather than fight natural human conditioning.

There is a big difference between telling and  allowing.

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Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Notice your language to yourself and others. Are you barking orders at yourself all day then beating yourself up when your mind or body aren’t complying to your demands? Or, are you using gentle vocabulary with yourself that will carry over to others that you spend your time with?  Which will you choose?

 


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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.

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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.

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Namaste! ❤ 🙂

 

 

 


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Bending with Difficulties and Contradictions

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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.

 

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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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Look Around

 

“Every day, I stop halfway through my run for five minutes, look around, and enjoy the surroundings. I’m reminded of why I do this and why I love it so much.” -Anita Ortiz

It's the little moments that make life big. Beautiful.

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As we move through today and this weekend, let us all remember to take the time to stop, look around, enjoy our surroundings, and be reminded of all of our blessings.

Namaste! ❤

AsAnita Ortiz