I am welcoming myself back onto the blogger’s trail! It’s been too long since I have allowed myself the time to sit and enjoy the therapeutic process of writing. And yet every time there’s been an inclination to do so, life’s messiness has gotten in the way (some of you may be able to relate). But now there is no excuse.
My website is finished (after prolonging its completion due to the above mentioned messiness), and I have turned a corner. Finally!
As with so many others, this Year of the Monkey has been a heavy one. I have been feeling the heat of those around me, my work, my relationships, and certainly the planet. Everything seems to be percolating on medium heat with temperatures rising (just as those darn astrologers tend to point out at every new and full moon). So what to do? How do we respond to life’s messy encounters of disappointment, heartbreak, loss, over scheduling, all of which infused with the general busy-ness of daily life (like grocery shopping, picking up kids from school, and putting dinner on the table)?
Welcome to my blog…..
Love or Fear: Which Do You Choose?
Each morning when we awake, a new day starts. And the beauty is that we have in every moment the ability to choose. Choose what, you may ask? Whether or not we get hired? Whether or not we get fired? Whether or not we get stuck in traffic? Whether or not we are loved?
The fact that we have a choice is empowering, and therefore, the choices we make can either empower us or leave us feeling helpless and jaded (yes, victim consciousness is a choice).
Choice involves a mindset that is based on either love or fear. While we will never escape moments when things don’t go our way, we can choose how we perceive, embrace and respond to them. They are, in fact, the little treasures along the path that invite us to step up our practices of gratitude and kindness, compassion and acceptance, humility and forgiveness. So often it is our inability to accept things as they are that weighs our hearts down. We have the feeling of being stuck in what is an inevitable flow of movement and change.
When we embrace life in a much more phenomenological way, disappointments become less disappointing, relationships become more about relating, stress becomes less stressful, kids become our greatest teachers, and connection can be found everywhere. Forget about separating ourselves, pointing fingers and playing the blame game. It’s incumbent of each of us to see our part in the essential flow of things whether on a personal, regional, national or global level. We are all co-contributors to the current conditions of our relationships, communities, parks, oceans, laws, planet and more.
The recognition of the interconnectedness of all things is fertile ground for deep intimacy and love. Kinda like our unitary, three-dimensional web of fascia, eh? When one part suffers, the whole organism suffers. When one human suffers, all of humanity suffers.
It isn’t enough to sweat on our mat or breathe at different ratios or blog about mindfulness. It isn’t enough to vote. It isn’t enough to live our comfortable lives feeling good in our bodies, eating healthy food, and talking about peace and interconnectedness, or opening our hearts in a backbend class and experiencing a satisfying savasana. All for-what? What are we opening our hearts to?
We are at a tipping point, and we are all being called to wake up, get off the mat, and walk our yoga talk, putting words into skillful action. That is what lies at the heart of these teachings. It does virtually nothing to be a yogi extraordinaire on the mat if we don’t hold ourselves personally responsible for extending the essence of yoga into community for the sake and greater good of all. Otherwise, it’s what Chogyam Trungpa calls “spiritual materialism” and narcissism.
So my question goes back to the title of this blog. What do you choose, love or fear? And if it’s love, how do you express that both inward and outward? Are your words and actions steeped in kindness? Do you truly take care of yourself (in body, mind and spirit), are you of humanitarian service to others, and can you cultivate the balance between the two? If you are upset that Trump is now President-elect, can you hold up your own mirror and find where you’ve held ignorant, narcissistic, unkind and biased viewpoints?
How often do we stop and look a homeless person in the eyes and say hello? Is it possible to deeply connect to another individual with a completely different belief system than our own?
The human condition is rife with anger, jealousy, greed and fear. And yet it is also filled with love, kindness, generosity and compassion. We are being invited to wake up, rise up and choose love- to love ourselves, our families, our neighbors, sidewalks, parks, trees, oceans, soil, food, and anything else that sustains the quality of our lives.
We are all in this together. Truly loving means truly caring, and whatever our choice, this is our message. This is our offering.
What is your choice today?
The older I get, the more I appreciate the simplest things. Yesterday morning, Olivia and I took a walk on the beach sharing our mutual excitement for our upcoming trip to California. As we passed Ani, our favorite “coconut lady”, I remarked how I was going to miss her and the daily routine of chatting and fetching coconut water. In a comforting way, Olivia took my hand and said, “Mama, sometimes you just gotta let things go and keep on.” I wasn’t exactly torn up over it, but quite impressive for a 7 year old! We obviously speak the same language.
Our teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Be it in the form of family, the grocery clerk, your lover or the trash collector-when we wake up to the world around us there is so much to be gained. We don’t always have to get hit over the head with life lessons. “A-ha” moments don’t need to come from heartbreak or tragedy, or losing a job (maybe all you need is a 7-year old to mirror everything you say). Taking the small stuff to heart allows for our practice to steadily ripen in the softest, sweetest ways. There is so much we can learn (and re-learn) every day as long as we are paying attention.
Besides Olivia, Nature is one of my greatest teachers. She isn’t always subtle and often very matter-of-fact. When we observe long enough we see that there are slow, constant cycles of birth, growth, and decline everywhere. This is the ongoing nature of all things and all relationships. This is the Tao. Embracing this truth taps us into our own, ever changing and fluid existence. The “letting go and keep on” keepin’ on that Olivia refers to is a reinforcement of this notion of impermanence. The ability to truly go with the flow keeps us unstuck and very present.
However, this isn’t a license to wander aimlessly through life with our feet off the ground, running from things that challenge us and striving to always be in our happy place. Rather, it is a deep acknowledgement that nothing lasts forever, and that everything holds the qualities of arising and passing. Author Michael Stone mentions this in one of his teachings, noting that we would suffer less if we viewed things less personally, and more “phenomenologically”, (I love that word). It somehow lessens the importance of the me/my little suffering and connects us more humbly to the cyclical flow of Nature that we are a part of.
The formal practices of asana and meditation cultivate the ability to listen and become increasingly aware of our body and breath, the point being that we use this attunement in our daily lives. As T.K.V Desikachar reveals:
“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”
Look around your world today and find the simplest teaching. It could be when talking to a stranger who looks deeply into your eyes rather than their iPhone. It could be a toddler marveling at a seashell on the beach, or your dog contentedly basking in the sun, or a blade of grass that has grown one inch taller since the last time you looked. As Mary Oliver writes in her poem, “Mindful”,
“….it was what I was born for- to look, listen and lose myself inside this soft world-to instruct myself over and over in joy and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant- but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these-the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?”
No awakening is ever too small or too trivial. Marvel at something today long enough to smile, reflect and appreciate. Happy Friday.
With love and peace. Om shanti shanti shanti.
People often ask why I’m not on Instagram or Twitter (or those other social networks that I don’t know the name of), why I don’t indulge in posting endless shots of scantily-clad asana selfies (complicated arm balance only, by the sea or busy street corner, please), why my website looks so outdated (it’s finally being renovated), and why I don’t teach more retreats and trainings.
My answer usually goes something like this, “Because I am too busy living my yoga.” Trust me, I sometimes question myself and wonder if I should be keeping up with the (yogi-style) Joneses. But that lasts for about a nanosecond. Continue reading
Yesterday, when I opened up my signed copy of “Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff, his sentiments caught my attention, “Keep the space…….Leslie”. The words immediately jumped out at me and it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, a confirmation of sorts. Continue reading
When I ask students to define love, they journal about their direct experience of this often bittersweet emotion. For some, they recall falling in love for the first time with the boy or girl of their dreams. For others, their recollection includes two loving and supportive parents who were neither too dictatorial nor too permissive. Still, others share their fall out of love and the pain it caused (and still causes). Definitions of love are based not only on our direct experience with this core emotion, but also how we choose to learn about ourselves from these experiences. Continue reading
I can’t remember the last time I made New Year’s resolutions. The thought alone kinda drives me nuts, like I gotta figure out something that’s wrong so that I can fix it. But as we kick start 2014, there is often this need to find things in ourselves to change or improve. Instead, why not expend the energy feeling gratitude for our abundance rather than dissatisfaction from a sense of lack?
Here are suggestions that have helped my students:
Start a gratitude journal. It helps to jot down and visually see all that we can be grateful for: family, friends, community, a roof over our heads, a warm bed, central heating, clean running water, hot water, the ability to be selective in our food choices and the fact that we caneat any time we want, education so that we can read/write/communicate/improve our lives, computers/laptops/smart phones to stay connected, different modes of transportation that allow us to go beyond our local communities and have a richer life experience, income that affords us such comforts. Continue reading
Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. There are those who teach asana, some for a meager living, others are rock stars. There are those who fight the good fight, their lives deeply devoted to serving others, social justice or saving the planet. But the ones who have the greatest impact on humanity are those who are all too often under paid, under recognized yet over worked. The teachers I am referring to are those who have greatly impacted Olivia’s life. Continue reading
The first time I ever tried meditation was with my college sweetheart, Brandon, who coerced me into going to a workshop. It was led by a man who coached college athletes on how to mentally focus for competitions. I can’t even remember his name, however, the experience was unforgettable. For the first time, I felt actively in control of my mind and how/where I directed it. This was truly the beginning of my yoga practice. Continue reading
Rules, rules, rules.
Our lives are full of them.
But how often do we break them?
What good are they, really?
Why have them at all?
What constitutes an advanced yoga practice? Is it measured by physical strength, flexibility, or endurance? Or the number of years you have practiced? Or, whom you have practiced with? Or perhaps the knowledge you have of Sanskrit or spiritual texts?
Once when interviewing a woman for a course, I asked her what it meant to be an “advanced” yogini (this was in response to her telling me that she was, in fact, advanced). She replied, “That’s a trickquestion….”