Sunday, August 30, 2009

Notes about Yesterday

Yesterday I spent the day with yoga teacher and teacher trainer, Mitchel Bleier for his workshop at yogaview, and I am grateful for the experience.

In the afternoon practice, he taught a class using what I perceived to be a forceful voice. It worked for me because it got me moving. Also in the morning session he had reminded the group that the word "Hatha" in Hatha Yoga means "to force" so from this rooted understanding it made sense.

In yoga I do want to change something, and shake it up! In particular what I am working to shift is my relationship with myself. My self when regarded as my soul, or who I am, is without question because it is the mystery. What is suspect is my interpretation of myself, especially when I am trying too hard to tame my nature and hide my love.

What was so great about the afternoon practice is that the "force" of the practice brought me to a really open place. I felt insecurities and sadness that I've gotten pretty good at hiding from coming up midway through the backbend sequence. And then after doing tons of backbends we sat (actually lying on our backs) there for a while in that place while Mitchel said some words about the experience that included the word "doubt" which made me chuckle involuntarily. Noticing my reaction, I thought about how I do doubt my loving feelings. It was a realization.

I am left with a sense of how important it might be to be with that lovely openness--and not to counter-pose too soon. When I release that backbend high too soon with a comforting forward fold I might be missing out on an opportunity to experience myself in this expanded way.

I also admired the way Mitchel had the courage to hold the class for these kinds of moments. In my own teaching sometimes I think I might feel too much of an obligation to keep things moving and the group entertained when really each individual has so much to offer for their own experience of themselves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Technology and Breasts

Last night I was recharging my iPhone and I looked to check for emails about my blog and it was totally blank! I've had this little miracle for just a couple of months, but you might think that it was a vital organ by the way I was trying not to freak. I pressed the little button to wake it up, and all I got was the blank stare of a white screen! Was my lifeline in a coma? It had not fallen so it could not have been the dialated pupil of a concussion. I just plugged it in for it's nightly nourishment and it was over the next time I looked.

It was sort of like I lost a boob. I associate compassion and warmth with breasts, and I had temporarily lost something that was feeding me. I have thought about what it might be like as an infant receiving food from the cosmic breast. In the early feeding Mom has not been conceptualized yet, and there is just this wonderful experience that meets a need.

I have even been blogging from my iPhone. It feels so much more intimate doing entries from here than it does on my laptop. And I can manage comments from my iPhone... You got it: my iPhone, my iPhone.

So last night when it was out I was distressed and resisting that feeling. I did other things, like I showered and then I checked my iPhone. I kept doing that: I would do a little thing and check my iPhone. I checked the printed stuff that came with it and found nothing to help. Then I started pushing buttons until I heard some strange beeps I had not heard before. Then I did something else. Finally, I looked at the THING and pressed the buttons a little differently and the apple showed up on the screen: my nourishment was coming! And then after a long pause the screen showed what it usually does, and it looked like everything was fine. So far so good...

Am I proud of my behavior? No! I felt like an addict. I was unwell without this functioning communicator.

And yet it's here. It fulfills a need. a cosmic breast. Communications that come through this darling little interactive and glowing mini-brick fulfill my need to be heard and recognized for thoughts that don't always work in everyday conversation. These things are important to me! And through the blog and the comments I know that there are others who value these things too.

I guess what bothers me is that I might be suckling in ignorance. But hey, it works!

Okay, so the fear is that I am using a technology that is leading people into further physical isolation. Of course, at the same time our digital connection is getting stronger... So for now as I am enjoying my new tool, I will also commit to some quality time physically together and communicating with others. And it will be great to talk with you in person, too. There really is no substitute for that.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Conscious Worldview

Even though I live in a different frame of reality today, I remember the moment it dawned on me that life was empty and basically hopeless. It was a grey day just after OSU spring break of 1990 in Columbus, Ohio, and I was feeling blue. Hung over! 19! I think it was after I had that night (when my roommates were out of town) of drunken loud crying and deep despairing all alone, humiliated after a night out at the bars. Usually I did have fun, but not this time. It was about a guy who I had admired since freshman year. Now we were sophomores and he had been alone (without girlfriend) at a party during the break, and I just didn't ask questions... I couldn't really think because I was into him being into me. So we had fun during the break, but then on that night she was back. He had treated me like I was special, almost a girlfriend I thought, and I was hopeful. And so that night I had seen him and he didn't seem to really recognize me (he had recommend the show we were at: Laughing Hyenas) and she wondered why I had come over. So it hurt. And I felt bad because I didn't know at first because I had not asked and didn't want to know; I basically had wanted what someone else had--what looked like a perfect relationship. They were so cute and cool, with great music taste. Okay, I was shallow. And I was ashamed.

Around that time at Mean Mr. Mustards, my favorite bar of those days, I had been hearing a lot of a song with lyrics that said, "birth school work death" over and over. So on that wet grey day I realized that those words were an accurate representation of life's trajectory, and that I had been born and would be through with school pretty soon, so all I had left was work and death and "that sucked"-- to use the parlance of the times.

"Since a worldview is a lens through which to view the world, if the lens negates or trivializes the world, this clouds one's awareness of and action within the world."

-Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, 'The Passionate Mind Revisited' from the first page of the introduction.

So when I was 19 and I decided that "life sucked" I was trivializing life. I made a choice that devalued experience. It is hard to live this way, but it is a strategy to avoid pain and responsibility.

It is good that a person's worldview can change. Mine certainly has (and continues to). It has not been a quick process, but the value is beyond measure. And I credit yoga for supporting me as I have moved into a life of appreciation, richness of experience, and hope. Life doesn't suck.

I think I am creating my worldview with every thought and every action. It is an alive thing. I can think and do in the direction of hope if I choose to, and I do.

Morning Waterfall

The calming sound of falling water soothes me as I wait for the train. I am protected from the rain, yet benefitting from its falling, and collecting on the roof of the overhang that shelters, and channeling into slightly larger waterways that yield the gentle sounds I hear now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rain Nourishment

There is a glow in the grey hood of clouds in the light of day. It is concentrated energy that is steadily released in the form of rain.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm a Believer!

When I read 'The Passionate Mind' by Joel Kramer I remember my mind being blown over and over again. I ate it up. Delicious! Now, I've picked up 'The Passionate Mind Revisited' by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, and I can't seem to get past the first page of the introduction. It just seems so right on when it says:

"We (Joel and Diana) believe that to better use the faculty of thought, it's essential to understand the nature and effects of one's worldview--specifically, how morality and spirituality are embeded in it. To do this, spirituality needs to be "brought down to Earth" by collapsing the separation between the spiritual and the mundane created by predominant traditional worldviews. We believe that this age-old false and destructive split that separates the spirit from the world, and makes the world of lesser importance, is one reason we are a species at risk."

I really like that they specify who the "we" is in the above quote. They are speaking for themselves. And to "understand the nature and effects of one's worldview" is an amazing concept that seems to be particularly important. It is for me because I see that my actions spin out of what I believe. What I believe is not seperate from the life I lead and what I do. But beliefs can seem like they live in an imaginary world, and then there is a "real" world that shows the "truth". So it seems like people do think that beliefs are different and apart from the world. This is a scientific slant taken too far: you believe what you want, and I'll believe what I want and we'll "share" our divided world of measurable transactions. We need to communicate and understand more about ourselves and others than the currently dominant worldview seems to allow.

And to speak of how "morality and spirituality are embeded" in our shared world is a bold assertion. But, (dare I say?) I think it's true.

Warm Encouragement

I saw the sun rise today over the train. It's nice to see it there. Today I didn't make it to the water to see it, but I'm still inspired because I need to be.

The bright warm encouragement that the sun is offering, I am accepting.

The sun rises every day, consistently giving, and steady in it's support.

I'd like to ask the sun to be my mentor, but I suppose it already is. It has seen me as a baby, and reached tender rays into my cradle. When I understood that I could move my hands, I played with the golden light.

Of course the sun also sees the wider view, and sees explosions that kill.

I invite the sun to teach me all it can. I am a limited being, yet I strive to do good. I strive to understand. I strive to belong.

To the sun, my life may be meaningless, yet as I feel the caress of its warmth I remain encouraged to go forward and be the person I need to be.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gentle Warmth

As the great eye of the sun laid its first gentle rays of warmth on me, I asked, "How can I make the best of this blessing and maximize this day?" The reply seemed to come from a tingling activation of energy and a sense of spreading warmth from within my body.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bad Little Yogi

I wrote about the twelfth paragraph of the introduction to Light on Yoga about a month ago, and I've been thinking about the thirteenth (below) ever since. I've been resistant to writing about it. At first I thought that maybe I just wasn't "evolved" enough to do it. But, that's so not the point of what I'm doing. I am writing my thoughts about these yogic concepts from where I am because that's what I can do. And I know that where I am changes. There are certain texts like the Bhagavad Gita or poetry that I revisit from time to time and I glean a different meaning every time. So it is.

But there were other reasons... Like I didn't feel like doing "assignments" I had set for myself. And I set myself free, had fun, and experimented with some more poetic expressions.

Also there is a tone I get from this paragraph that turns me off a bit--the first sentence makes me feel like a bad little yogi who must be kept under control--but I intend to look into it anyway:

"Yama and Niyama control the yogi's passions and emotions and keep him in harmony with his fellow man. Asanas keep the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature. Finally, the yogi becomes free of body consciousness. He conquers the body and renders it a fit vehicle for the soul. The first three stages are the outward quests (bahiranga sadana)."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, thirteenth paragraph of the Introduction.

I find the last sentence of the quote VERY INTERESTING. He considers Yama, morality and Niyama, self-discipline to be outward quests. Asana, posture, I can more easily see as an "outward quest". However, Yama, Niyama, and Asana do come together to give form to how we present ourselves to the world morally, mentally, and physically. I just haven't been used to thinking of it that way. I had been considering the world I see when I open my eyes to be the outer world (Asana easily fits there), and what I perceive when my eyes are closed to be the inner world (my mental world and sense of morality would seem to go there), but clearly this is not what is intended here.

So the first three stages of morality, self-discipline, and posture, together are the outward quests. Okay so if my mental world (that I used to think of as internal) is a part of the quest outward, then what the heck is inward? This is a real mystery. I've heard it described by a story about a guy standing on another's shoulders to see over a wall and he can't really describe what he sees. He just jumps to the other side.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drops that Magnify and Bejewel

A water-encrusted bloom stands in absolute purity after the rain. It is very much like me after I've cried, sweated, or showered when I stand in blessed vulnerability and am able to feel without the usual protections, super-charged and glistening.

It was a small flower in a city garden with others, but its freshly-washed face decorated with tiny crystal globes that held the precious light called to me more than the others. It shown. The essence of courage and common beauty became infused with something special. It glowed, speaking of transcendence and the rain.

It silently spoke of being washed by the magic that fell from the sky, and also the cherished tears that were born there.

Knowing that the water-globes that magnify are only temporary I looked deeply into the expanded view they afforded. I saw the magnificent folds, wrinkles and separations I might not have been able to see otherwise even though it seemed natural and obvious in this moment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Appreciation of Light

I got up this morning to see the sun rise today. I was excited to ride my bike to the lake and see it. I gave my bunnies an offering of parsley before I left (which they appreciated).

As I was riding down to Lake Michigan, I thought about how seeing the sun touches an ancient part of me that is unclouded by thinking, and thought that my rabbits as well as all creatures (including cats and dragonflies) can probably appreciate the sun similarly to the way I do when I see it through my eyes and feel it on my skin.

Seeing the sun rise touches a primitive longing to connect, and the sun invites this with extending rays of light. These rays touch my eyes, my skin, my heart... I can appreciate this on a very basic level, like I might enjoy a drink of water when I am thirsty, an essential quenching.

I realize that the sense I have of this experience is how I sometimes explain 'Namaste' to students at the end of class. "Namaste" is often translated in yoga classes as "the light in me honors the light in you." I once heard a teacher say that it meant something like, "That which is inside me that is connected to all the living creatures in the universe says 'hello' to that part in you that is connected to all creatures." This explanation felt palpably relevant because I do feel connected to all life--the little creatures, too! I like the ones with wings, and fur, and scaled ones, and so on...

Well, today when I watched the sun rise, all the cells in my body responded to its light, and I'm not sure why, but I also included all of the cells in my bunnies, and even the smallest fly or crawfish; the sun in my sense of it was activating all of the living creatures. Later, I realized how like a "Namaste" the experience was. The light was literally activating all the cells of all the living creatures. So when I might say that the light in me honors the light in you, I can also honor that this light comes from a common source that connects us all.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Colorful Embrace

Today was a mix between darkness and light; one moment the sun was obscured by clouds that were sopping wet, and the next the sun's beam of summer warmth ran unobstructed. It was a great mystery to be doused, baptized, or maybe anointed by rain's tender tears or sometimes a furious slap, and then in the next heartbeat to be greeted with a blue sky and a humid sun-bath, as if it loved me too much. There was not a moment outside when I was untouched by the weather.

At the end of the day a different perspective arose, as if the darkness and light decided to hold one another. A brilliant rainbow shown across the resolute sky of evening, bringing with it a different understanding between darkness and light. It was as if the two had decided to come together for a while, and in the ordinary miracle of relationship an extraordinary rainbow arced across what might have otherwise been a dreary sky.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hazy Sunshine

I saw the freshly hatched sun today over Lake Michigan. It rises as an expression of hope.

Why is the sun hidden sometimes (like every night!)? I have the privilege of education so I get the earth spinning and revolving around the sun explanation... There might be more. This scientific understanding also says something about our consciousness. We are aware of the sun existing even when we don't see it. Or are we? Apparently this is an ability we get at a pretty young age. There is a time when Mommy has left the room, and we understand that she is not gone forever, and we "see" that she has only left temporarily. And then there's a time when someone dies, and even though they are not available to be seen like they used to be, they are still there in consciousness similar to the sun when we can't see it.

The weather forecast called for hazy sunshine... I guess this is it. I seem to have awareness without clarity.

I understand that the sun is hidden when I can't see it, but when it is gone from my direct experience it's almost like I forget to believe in it. Sometimes it is just a lonely, dark night.

There is also a sense of mystery about things that exist outside what can be immediately seen, and sometimes the joy cannot be held back. This often happens when I practice a yoga posture--joy starts coming out! I don't know from where, and what does it matter. I enjoy the joy! And I am thrilled by the rising sun.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gracefully Awarded

I got a MeMe award from Graceful Yoga and Simplicity! It encourages me to talk about myself and sounds fun, so here goes...

The rules to this award are as follows (...if you're into "rules"):
1) share 7 tidbits about yourself
2) share this MeMe Blog Award with 7 blogger friends

Tidbit 1. This is my bike:

This is my boyfriend (just kidding... You can see that he's a plastic dude, right?):

Tidbit 2. One of my students (a reader of this blog) gave me this Mary Poppins box set. She was revisiting these books that she had read in childhood, and found that I reminded her of the Mary Poppins in the books (not the movie).

Tidbit 3. I learned about taking on identity from Holy Fools, a Christian clown troupe, in Catholic grade school even though I'm not Catholic. The training was really cool. It included dance and yoga, too. After that we dressed up as clowns (actually we became clowns) and visited a nursing home and hospital to bring in some lightness. Random pic of me:

Tidbit 4. I love taking pictures. This is one I took the other night. I don't know what that frog was doing there during my nighttime walk. It was really dark and I used the "Night Snapshot" setting on my digital camera. The flash caught the enigmatic froggy, but the electrical post, illuminated by the alley light, shows up as a cross in the upper left corner. Amazing.

Tidbit 5. My blog has been a much-valued part of my life over the last year. I think of it as a great relationship. It has brought parts of myself out that I might not have seen otherwise. I have grown tons. I drank many lattes while working on posts.

Tidbit 6. I think Detox 4 Women is a really good book, but hesitate to write too much about it because I think I might be nuts about eating! Not sure if I have clarity here... But I've done other cleanses and fasts, and this book offers a solution that integrates into real life a bit better.

Tidbit 7. I share about my inner workings in this blog because I think that we have a lot in common.

A selection of a generous seven(ish) delicious blogs for the MeMe Award:

Yoga for Cynics--This blog is one of my favorites. I might like it so much because it honors my inner cynic. I also appreciate Dr. Jay's perspective on yoga and life.

Svasti: A Journey from Assault to Wholeness--Even though she doesn't share her picture or transactional-life name, I feel like I know her a bit and like her. She shares her life, healing, and yoga/spiritual journey.

My Itchy Third Eye--I like YogaDawg's blog. And I wonder why the "she" in the "He Said, She Said" series is always so down on yoga.

Linda's Yoga Journey--She's really doing her yoga, and shares inspiration and road bumps along the way.

YogaDork--I really want to know: Who is YogaDork? This is an indispensable blog for yoga news and stuff.

EcoYogini--Her blog is great for many reasons, but I particularly like her posts about "The Pill" and DivaCup. Thanks EcoYogini! These topics are important.

PurePotentiality Coaching--a heartfelt blog.

Now, This is Yoga--Michelle is livin' her yoga!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mind Ticks

When I was really little I remember sitting at the kitchen table at my grandparents house eating my breakfast, and I was observing a bug on my forearm. Nana suddenly focused on my forearm. “Is that a mole?” she asked. I must not have answered right away because I heard her ask again, “What is that?”

I looked at her and gestured with my other hand, “A bug,” I said as I was reaching for a bite of food.

Her eyes widened. “That’s a tick!” she said while reaching for my forearm. “Frank (my grandpa), she has a tick on her arm!” They discussed what to do and explained to me that we shouldn’t allow ticks to be on our skin. I think they might have heated up some tweezers and picked it off my skin.

They alarmed me, but the tick hadn’t. I thought bugs were really interesting. I played with them, but Nana and Grandpa weren’t playing around with this tick. It was bad.

In this case I hadn’t yet learned about ticks. And because I didn’t know that it wasn’t good for me, I was content to watch it and eat my breakfast.

The tick of my childhood is similar to judgmental thoughts in my adulthood. Ticks feed on blood, and judgmental thoughts feed on valuable mental resources. And picking out a vampiric, non-helpful thought may also rely on discernment. How might I see that a thought doesn’t belong? When it came to the tick, Nana showed me that it didn’t belong on my skin. But, how can I learn to discern where not to use my mental energy?

“In the Sufi tradition it is suggested that our thoughts should pass through three gates. At the first gate, we ask of our thought, “Is it true?” If so, we let the thought pass through to the second gate, where we ask, “Is it necessary or useful?” If this also is so, we let the thought continue on its way to the third gate, where we ask, “Is this thought rooted in love and kindness?” Judgmental thoughts, which are neither true, helpful or kind, falter at the gates.”
-Christina Feldman, Shambhala Sun, September 2009

These “gates” from the Sufi tradition support a growing awareness of one’s thoughts, and provide a framework for discerning non-helpful thoughts. …so we might be less likely to entertain mental “ticks.”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unseen Buds

"Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well,
Under the snow and ice, under the darkness, in every square or cubic inch,
Germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic, unborn,
Like babes in wombs, latent, folded, compact, sleeping;
Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting,
(On earth and in the sea — the universe — the stars there in the heavens,)
Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless,
And waiting ever more, forever more behind."
--Walt Whitman

"Unseen buds" is like the dream where there is another room in a place you thought you knew well. I think it is a common dream, and have had it (more than once) myself. In my childhood home, I dreamt that I turned a corner to where there was more unexplored space. It was also in the movie Moon (now playing at Pipers Alley in Chicago) where the inhabitants of a moon base discovered a vast underground space filled with clones that was previously unknown to them. This birth of space might represent new openings in consciousness, like unseen buds brimming with potentiality. Of course, it could also represent a fearful unknown, or confirmation of suspicions. And in fact it used to be that when I read the poem that I would feel a trace of dread because I had been holding fear about the unknown. And as I felt the dreaded feeling I would also tell myself that the poem was good--it could be, even though I didn't always experience it that way. So I guess this poem was teaching me more than I realized at the time... And even though it was a freaky realization in the movie, it also offered the characters a vision of the truth and it offered them a way out. We can embrace growth, or we can fear it. But it always offers more than we knew before, and in that there is hope. So when we think we are trapped, stuck or in a dead end it is just an illusion because there are aspects of experience that we simply do not know. We are literally being born for as long as we are living.

It seems helpful to know that there are infinite aspects of myself that are hidden well that I will become aware of as I go forward in life. I will continue to meet new aspects of myself along the way. And it is also relevant to consider, as I did in my last post, who I would like to bring forward to meet the new arrivals. It also makes it exciting to consider who is coming, and do I want to offer this new one a world of shit or a joyful attitude? I can do that for my future self. Just like most people want to offer their children and grandchildren a world of hope, shouldn't we also strive to offer this kind of hope to our own unfolding consciousness?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Choice and Integration

I have been asking myself, lately: What positive aspects of myself and good choices do I want to bring into the future? And at the same time I am striving for integration, integrity and wholeness which has seemed to require that I remember unpleasant things in my past. But I don't want to bring the woundedness forward. I want to remember and accept, but not reinjure or retraumatize myself as I look at past experiences that have the potential to make me whole, powerful and beautiful. So bringing the tools and maturity that I've accrued up to now to see the scary pieces from my past is important.

What I'm looking at here is: who is looking? Is it the little girl I still have inside me? The little girl I once was didn't think that she could control her environment, so she kept a meticulous dollhouse until friends came over and messed it up. She didn't know how to stand her ground and protect her territory. She was shamed into allowing them to do it. Nobody understood her needs, including herself. Or, is it the woman I've become who is looking at those past events with the intention of becoming healthy and whole? The woman I am today does have the ability to accept, integrate and the tools to let go of self-harming patterns of behavior.

The question of what to bring into the future is looking at the contents of my life experience and in the present moment choosing what I want to bring into my future. Do I want to bring the Brooks forward who eats sugar and coffee in the morning or do I want to bring healthier habits forward, supporting my ongoing physical health and mental well being?

Then there is the striving for integration which has to do with loosening the tight parameters of mind, and accepting aspects of my past that are hard to swallow.

So in choosing a path forward, I do not want to leave myself behind. The person I have learned to be up to now has something good to bring forward. It seems to come back to acceptance, which isn't always easy.

Yet there are things I want to leave behind, like automatic responses based on psychological fear and insecurity. I can stand proudly in my own feet.

I'd like to learn to stand on my feet in my life apart from yoga as strongly and as well as I've learned to on my yoga mat. I think that some might say the whole life is yoga, and I heartily agree. However, I am stepping into the next aspect of my own path which is looking to harmonize aspects of my life that appear to be off the mark, not working or not fitting with the vision or dream I have for myself right now.