Friday, April 30, 2010

A Blog Savasana

"she was just resting, a career savasana."
-New York Times on Demi Moore AR 11, 4-18-2010

I was thrilled to read the above in the paper recently. Apparently, the term "savasana" is considered mainstream enough to be used casually in the Sunday paper. How cool.

Dear Readers, I'm writing to let you know about a planned blog savasana. For the month of May in 2010 I will not be blogging (but I will be teaching.), and you can expect that I'll check back into this blog with a new entry on June first.

Years ago, when I worked for a digital printing company that offered variable data printing options we talked about the new Online business. There was a part of a store that might be Web-based (it was all new then). And there was a part of the store that was referred to as bricks-and-mortar. This was the warehouse or the part of store that was housed in a building. I find myself needing to focus on the bricks-and-mortar, and flesh-and-blood part of my life.

Blogging has been so fun. I love it! It feeds the expansive dreamy part of my passionate being. Hopefully, I'll come back to this in June as a more balanced blogger.

Cheers! And enjoy the voluminous content already posted here.


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Constant and Determined Practice

"According to him (Patanjali) abhyasa (constant and determined practice) and vairagya (freedom from desires) make the mind calm and tranquil. He defines abhyasa as effort of long duration, without interruption, performed with devotion, which creates a firm foundation."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, second half of the 55th paragraph of the Introduction.

For me, the concept of 'Abhyasa' or 'constant and determined practice' means staying with myself at all times. This practice means that I am not abandoning myself and the reality of my situation in favor of what I think.

Years ago, when I saw Eckhart Tolle speak at the Congress Theater, here in Chicago, there was a long delay before Mr. Tolle came on stage. Then he came up to the podium and didn't say anything for a long time. He looked at us. When he started to speak, he asked if we had been waiting to meditate. This got some laughs. And then he said that we really should have already been doing it. So I tried to understand. There is this unspoken thing about us, I think, we tend to want to be told what to do. And actually I am of two minds when it comes to the message of the moment I just described. A part of me thought at the time that we had all paid to hear something from him, so we were most certainly waiting for him to guide an experience for us, and rightly so--this is how these things work. And another part of me, more firmly established today, sees something in that observation that I perceive in the actions and words of Mr. Tolle. It has to do with the concept of practice that is most meaningful to me.

Practice, like a yoga practice, can be a set schedule. This person practices yoga three times per week by going to classes is an example. Or perhaps someone else practices for about an hour every morning before breakfast using videos or podcasts for inspiration. And another practices using a book or by discerning what the body needs today. All of these examples are about a discreet amount of time set aside, apart from the flow of life to practice.

Another way to look at practice is as a commitment to conscious living at all times. This is a herculean-style of practice. This is big-time. This is real life.

So the way I see it is that Mr. Tolle was gently and playfully suggesting that what he was talking about isn't something we do only at a special event like a talk or discreet practice times, but something we might be doing all the time.

Constant practice.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting really good at the everyday stuff...

Now that I know my stories--better than most people (I am sure)--it is time to ignore those meanings that past events bring to my current reality. I have taken the time to write and know myself to a point that is either extraordinary or selfish. And what I see right now is the need to "just get really good at the everyday stuff," as a friend recently said about her life.

I have flown high. I have gone far into the previously uncharted terrain inside myself. Admittedly, I have been more introspective than most. And it seemed so important to do this and to honor my own life.

A friend who recently got back from India showed me a picture that was taken inside a little dark room, like a cave. Just discernable, there was a man there who was apparently, according to my friend, well over 100 years old. Someone, a seeker I suppose, had placed their head in the man's lap, and the man was stroking the persons hair. How beautiful, I thought, and so different from things here. I thought of Amma, the hugging saint. People stand in incredible lines to wait for her hug. And that's it. So simple: a hug, stroking of hair, and this fills a need for people. And I think I get it. In looking at the picture, I found myself thinking how wonderful it would be to place my head in his lap and feel my hair stroked by those wise hands...

I have fears that hover around certain things that sometimes prevent me from doing what needs to be done, giving birth to unhealthy habit patterns. So now that I understand a good deal about why this happens, it is actually time to let go and move forward. ...and accept the hugs where I can get 'em!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's in a gaze?

In Tadasana at the yoga workshop this past weekend at the Yoga Circle, esteemed Iyengar Yoga instructor, Lois Steinberg said something like: Gaze forward, just above the horizon line of your eyes.

And I was set free... It was after the numerous backbends. I was standing upright!

She also mentioned how some of us (like me--I thought to myself) have had a habit of looking down, and that cultivates depression. You don't say...

In fact, I have said to a class of yoga students: Do not look down. Do not follow me in this regard. I have a bad habit of looking down. I have known about it as you can see, but hadn't been able to correct myself in a way that has lasted. Until now...

I guess a lot of things were going on for me at this workshop, and one of the things I gained is my self respect. I am holding my head high.

As I am walking around I am looking forward, just above the horizon line of my eyes. I feel effective and competent with this directed gaze. I've taken this gaze into the classes I'm teaching, and into conversations I've had. It feels good!

A fearless gaze.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Detachment or self-abandonment?

How my misunderstanding about detachment in yoga may have helped me give myself permission to temporarily abandon myself

This weekend I went into a yoga class and the teacher was talking about "detachment": an accomplished yogi doesn't react to heat or cold, praise or ridicule. A yogi maintains psychological evenness in the midst of the varying circumstances in life.

I still found myself wondering what are yogis striving to detach from? It struck a chord with me because I think that I may have found myself sidetracked down a blind alley of false detachment because it is really abandonment that serves the imbalance in my personality structure.

"Detachment" is really abandonment when I tell myself I don't care about something because I don't want to feel the hurt. Or when I tell myself that "such-and-such won't like me" rather than giving the situation a chance to develop. I abandon myself when I fall short of exploring a situation that might be fun.

To maintain the status quo inside myself and avoid change I adopted a yogic concept and warped it to serve the needs of my own unrelenting ego. "Detachment" is not a withdrawal from life. Isolation only deepens the yearnings of a person who hasn't opened up to their worldly potential, yet.

Detachment through hardening onesself is not true detachment. True detachment happens through trusting a deeper sense of the process of life. ...and I had been hardening myself, stubbornly trying to live my life the way I thought I should be living it, instead of trusting the process that life naturally offers.

Hardening squeezes sensation out. A hardened state is not an aware state. It is contracted. Small. ...even when someone has a high aim or good intentions.

Acceptance and respect for the natural process of life unfolding is boundless. Huge. It allows for the "x" factor, the unknown blessing, a miracle...

I can be non-reactive by protecting myself, putting up a protective shield, but behind that barrier I am shakin' in my shoes! Fearful or an asshole!

I can perceive the same situation with my eyes, mind and heart open, looking to see what is happening. In this case I am not reacting because I am looking to see, interested in what is going on. If I don't like it I can disengage. But my primary aspect is one of courageous care and curiosity. Compassionate.

I have gotten into trouble when I have used invisible understandings of things, either spiritual or solipsistic, to ignore things actually happening in the moment. These invisible understandings create mental hardness and can prevent me from seeing the truth in a situation.

Over the last week I have been trying out the notion of "respecting the process" of whatever is happening. Totally enlightening... Rather than resisting or controlling, I am allowing.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Did the Thai food terrorize my shoulders?

While practicing the second sequence in the Asana Courses section in the back of Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, I found it helpful to focus on how my shoulders were working in the poses.

Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Parsvakonasana
Virabhadrasana I & II
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Prasarita Padottanasana I
Salamba Sarvangasana I

When I focused on moving my shoulders into all the poses, seeking excellence there, it made Salamba Sarvangasana, shoulderstand much more open and easy at the end. That said, there was one morning where my shoulders and rib cage seemed to be glued together. I just could not seem to move my rib cage toward the vertical position for the inversion. My upper body didn't move: it was terrorized by the onslaught of Thai noodles I had eaten late the night before, I told myself.

Parivrtta Trikonasana, twisted triangle was added in to the sequence, and I was so surprised that it came right after Virabhadrasana II, warrior two. Parsvottanasana came after the twisted triangle which seemed weird. Usually in the Iyengar Yoga classes I've taken, Parsvottanasana has elongated the torso in preparation for the twisted triangle. So it was cool to switch it up and see just how flexible yoga sequencing can be!

It was also an enlightening reminder to read in the description of Parivrtta Trikonasana, that it is a counter pose to triangle. When I practiced with this thought in mind I noticed how the triangle pose strengthened my low back and how the twisted triangle stretched it.

I have been practicing in the morning, which is quite a commitment considering that I teach at seven a.m. four days a week. But it always pays off. The one early morning I missed my early practice this week I noticed a big difference in my teaching. I wanted to spend more time in the poses, myself, when I was teaching.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Heart is Home

Body is the Home provided by the Nature of our situation.

Psychological structure is the Home first established by the sacred souls who were in our lives as children, and continues through the relationships we nurture now.

Residence is the Home we create for ourselves. (Is it a creative out-picturing of how we see ourselves?)

Friendship is a Home that we create with others.

World is my Home.

Heart is my Home.

I am Home!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Am I a Rescued Chicken?

"Although the Siva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika mention the period of time within which success might be achieved, Patanjali nowhere lays down the time required to unite the individual soul with the Divine Universal Soul."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, first half of the 55th paragraph of the Introduction.

Over the last several years, step by step, I have been walking in the direction of myself. Prior to this part of my life I think that I was mostly buffeted around by the forces that delivered me to the moment where I could start to look for “myself” within all the activity of life. “What do I want?” has not always been a easy question for me to answer.

I remember this story I heard on NPR quite a while back. It was about some really nice-sounding people who allowed rescued chickens to live in their yards. I think one open-hearted lady was from New Hampshire. She said that when the chickens first come to a real yard with sunshine and grass they are confused. They have lived their lives up to that time in close confinement with other birds, and they are disabled because their legs are barely strong enough to carry their enlarged breast-flesh around. But the miracle is that over time they begin to see themselves as individuals, when at first the person being interviewed for the story had the sense that the chickens were unaware of themselves in that way. …something about the close confinement with so many other birds in the artificially lit or darkness of factory farming conditions… In a yard environment with caring human friends they began to show their individual, unique personalities and to enjoy their new lives. How inspiring!

This story stays with me because I wonder if I see a parallel with my own development here. Having been raised in a family and society of people with so much already in motion, I didn’t have a chance of understanding everything even though I tried to. And after a time I learned to look to myself to see what I wanted and needed out of life. I found environments, like yoga classes, that supported this, and started to feel happier even though it wasn’t always an easy road.

In the above paragraph from Light on Yoga, Mr. Iyengar talks about the individual soul being united with the Divine Universal Soul, which is of course a definition of Yoga. When I read this a part of me recognizes that I have just started to know myself! I think I have initiated a friendship with my soul, and that feels good.

It's been hard enough to try to see my own soul, but in yoga we are looking for a union beyond that, and when that happens we might find ourselves going for a real ride! Cluck! Cluck!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Details in Alignment with Beliefs

I've been thinking about some words I read recently on Yogic Dancer:

"When my life's details are in alignment with my beliefs, I am at peace."

In asking myself the question:

Are the details of my life in line with my beliefs?

It is clear to me that some details are not in line. And I also can imagine myself more in synch even though I recognize areas that need work in my life situation right now. So I can also imagine that different people will have different answers to this question.

I can also see areas where the details of my life ARE in synch with what I believe.

I am without conflict when it comes to my work life as a Yoga Teacher. And I don't mean that it's all easy, because it's not always that way. It's just that I know that I am doing this for the right reasons, and it is something I want to do. Doing Yoga has been a special manna for my soul, feeding me in ways I didn't even know I was hungry until I had the experience. Then it became clear that it was something I needed. So being in a position where I can share this technique with others is a great blessing, and excellent alignment with something I believe is helpful and important.

I don't own a TV. This situation is in line with my belief that the television is a big distraction, and I like to be available to think in other ways besides "programming".

A really interesting thing about beliefs is that they can also change. I haven't been TV shopping or anything... But, I was thinking earlier this year that I might like to watch the Oscars (I did watch a lot of movies last year) or part of the Olympics. So if my belief changes enough I'll make the change to be in line with my new belief.

Because beliefs can change, there might be some momentum behind things that are no longer true for someone. And in a case like that a person would need to consciously start doing things differently to be in line with who they are today.

I used to think smoking pot was cool, even though I didn't enjoy it that much or all the time. But it was important to me to have a "bowl" in the house to smoke it when it came around. It was a cherished object that spent a lot of time hidden. So it seems that I believed it important to be prepared for potential smoking in my house. Several years ago I finally threw it away. It just wasn't important to me anymore...

Now, this might be sad for some readers, but things can always change...

I just want my mind and experience to be as clear as possible, so I'm prepared to continue taking steps towards this belief. I believe that seeing clearly is what I want. There are details I can attend to that will support my aim.

It's always a work in progress, I think.

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