Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flowing with Grace

My dog, Pumpkin must be an incarnation of an ancient yogi.  He has taken to waking me up at 4am to start his day. The ancient yogis say that 4am is a very auspicious time of day and suggest that sadhana be done at that time.   Maybe it's God's gentle nudge for me to get to the mat.  Okay, Okay, I get it. I'm up.

This morning I rolled out my mat, lit a candle on my alter.  Each item on the alter was placed there as a symbol  of each one of my teachers.  As I light the candle I acknowledge each one of them and their contribution to my practice and ultimately my spiritual journey.   This morning my eyes immediately fall on a small statue of the Blessed Mother.  I offer a prayer to the Blessed Mother, as I often do, that she be with me as I move through my day so that all of interactions with others come from a place of love.

I pause as I look at a photo of Amma, the hugging saint.  In the photo she is looking away and her face is full of love.  Like the look on a mother's face when she is watching her child.  Against the frame containing Amma's photo I have placed a small photo, printed from my computer, of a teacher named Betheyla. Betheyla passed away before I had the opportunity to get to know her but somehow I feel like she is still guiding me.  It felt that way during my sadhana this morning. 

I begin with some gentle opening poses. I come up to standing with the intention of doing a few sun salutations. Instead I feel like moving  back to the mat.  Okay, I think, I'll do a kneeling salutation.  I closed my eyes and let my body move through the sequence without my mind getting in the way.  I followed my breath and let my body move through the asanas.  I found myself flowing through Chandra Namaskar, moon salutation. A sequence I learned from Betheyla. This sequence is rarely ever done in a yoga class or even in my personal practice but for some reason, today, that's what my body needed.  I simply followed the flow of Grace that was obviously at work. Trusting.......

This flow of Grace was there as I sat for meditation.  I remember learning some pranayama that related to the moon but I couldn't remember the details and didn't want to take the time to look it up.  The left side of the body relates to the  moon (chandra) so I breath in through the left nostril and out through the right.  (I have no idea if that's right but that's what I did).  After a few minutes I pick up my malas.

I start out with the Gayatri mantra, Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha......... Om Som Somaya Namah....... Wait that's not it. I go back to Om Bhur Bhuva..... Om Som Somaya Namah....  Okay, I'm trusting so I go with it.  I chant this mantra which was suggested to me by one of my teachers after he looked at my astrology chart I had done. 

Was it the full moon affecting my practice or was it something else?   Who knows?

(Oh, I just found the spell check button that's been missing from this site! It is going to be a great day!)


  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thought for the day

I'd  like to introduce you to one of my spiritual teachers,  The Upanishads.   The Upanishads are beautiful spiritual teachings.  The translation that I read is by Eknath Easwaran.  I keep the book with me always (one of the many advantages of being a woman - carrying a hand-bag!)  I randomly open the book and read a passage. 

Today's passage:  O Lord of Love, revealed in the scriptures, who have assumed the forms of all creatures, grant me wisdom to choose the path that can lead me to immortality.  May my body be strong, my tongue be sweet; may my ears hear always the sound of OM, the supreme symbol of the Lord of Love, and may my love for him grow more and more.

Even if we don't understand the meaning of the passage the words are so poetic and lovely that if your mind in going to be thinking anyway, why not give it some sweet words to think about.

What were your thoughts as you read the passage? This little passage reminds us of so many important yogic concepts.  (remember that I'm not a vedic scholar - just a spiritual seeker and these are simply my thoughts and opinions and should not be taken as anything more)

I love that Easwaran uses the term The Lord of Love.  You can translate that to God, Krishna, Allah, the universe - whatever, or who ever your personal God is.   The point is to recognize God in EVERYONE.
(who has assumed the forms of all creatures).

Choosing the path that can lead me to immortality - The part of us that is immortal is the Atman, you can think of it sort of like our soul or spirit.  It's the part of us that is always connected to the Source - to the Lord of Love. The Atman always was and always will be.  We are seeking the wisdom that will lead us to Source (God)

Asana (yoga postures) are suggested to keep the body strong so that you can sit for long periods of time in meditation.  Sweet tongue refers, perhaps, to treating everyone you meet like he or she is The Lord of Love.  Would you speak harshly to the Lord of Love?  I doubt it, therefore, speak to others in the same manner you would the Lord. 

Hearing the sound of Om always.......  I used to play a yoga video for my son when was a toddler.  In the video the instructor describes  OM as the sound the universe makes when everything is in harmony.  -- I love that!  So let's go with that.  Let me strive for harmony.  When there is harmony we feel the connection of our Atman to the Lord of Love.  May my love for him grow more and more....

..........  In my humble opinion.  

Gayatri sadhana - day 1 take 3
Yesterday after my morning sadhana I felt so much more "in control". I feel like I started the day right and found myself making better choices all day.   I was able to get through my work with clarity and focus.  I had a great yoga class with my favorite teacher, Shiva Das, which left me feeling more calm and peaceful.   As I sat on the sofa with my little one after class,  I was able to be fully present, listening to him excitedly telling me stories about his day.   I feel grateful for this tool called sadhana.  When I don't practice it  feels like driving in the car without your seatbelt.  Coming  back to sadhana makes me feel like I've fastened my seat-belt.  Whatever happens, I can handle it.  I'm protected.  



 

Monday, April 26, 2010

If you fall off -- Get right back on!

I have once again fallen off the wagon! Here's the ugly truth:  My desire for sleep as been stronger than my desire for enlightenment over the past couple of days. 

My teacher, Ed Zadlo posted this on Facebook:  "The more one fails in life, the more one needs to love and be gentle with one's self." Shambhavi --- That's exactly what I needed to hear.

I'm going to try to remember to love and be gentle with myself  because honestly, I tend to mentally beat myself up when I feel like I'm not living up to my own self imposed impossibly high standards.  Every failure is an opportunity to learn something and this "falling off the wagon" so to speak is no exception.

I sometimes find myself wondering if having a daily sadhana is doing me much good.  After all, I still get angry  and impatient at times.  I still struggle with this monkey mind,  I haven't had any "spiritual awakening" (at least none that I'm aware of) so I wonder, what impact  all this yoga/meditation is  having on my life.

Having not done any real practice over the last two days I can tell you for sure that it has a huge impact on my life.   My mind has been running out of control. It's like when the teacher steps out of the class room for a minute and the students turn into wild animals.  That's what's been happening.   This chaos has made it difficult to focus.  My energy level is way down too.  I'm sleeping more but having much less energy.  It's like all my energy is being consumed by my restless mind.  Physically, I also notice the difference when I haven't done a full yoga practice.  My joints ache, my back feels tight.  And I found myself sitting on the sofa watching, of all things, Kirsty Ally's big life (I don't really know the name of the show) while eating Doritos!

Wow!  The slope is really slippery!  So back to the tool box I go. Dropping the Doritos in the trash.  Sorry Kirsty Ally - someone should introduce that woman to yoga!

 If I were my own student what would I recommend?  The first thing I'd recommend is a few sun salutations (http://www.yogasite.com/sunsalute.htm).  This dynamic sequence will get the heart pumping and generate some heat in the body.  After a vigorous yoga practice I would recommend Alternate nostril breathing before chanting the Gayatri 108x  and sitting for meditation as long as possible.

I think it's safe to say that at times we all fall off the wagon with our practice for one reason or another.   The key is to get back to the practice quickly.   Keep trying no matter how many times you stray from it. Keep coming back to the practice.  When you find it difficult to get back to your practice on your own the support of a spiritual community can be quite helpful.  It's one of the major reasons why I still take group yoga classes. The support of the group gives me the incentive to keep practicing on my own.  When I start to fade, I go to a class and my resolve is strengthened.

Come practice with me on Sunday morning 9am at Seva Retreat. (http://www.sevaretreat.com/) - Let's create a spiritual community to support one another on this yoga journey. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your magic carpet is ready for departure.... Are you ready?

Have you ever gone out for a walk with a friend and because you were chatting away didn't realize just how far you've walked? That's sort of what happened with me and yoga.

My husband wants me to teach him "what I know" about yoga/meditation. This request got me thinking. How do I explain what I've learned over the past 14+ years in words that someone who has no experience with these practices can understand? The thing is, just like when you're walking and chatting with your friend, you may not know the exact route you took to get to where you are. I don't actually know how I got here. My friend, Jon would say "my magic carpet" got me here and everyone's magic carpet takes a different route to this place we call yoga.

As I think about all the "tools" that I've collected over the years in my yoga tool box I wonder which one came first? Do you remember your first profound yoga lesson? If you had to pick just one yoga tool that has helped improve your life what would that be? That's what I'm asking myself. The answer, for me, is learning to cultivate one-pointed attention. With our mind focused on just one thing at a time we will notice that we feel calmer.

It takes practice and a strong will. Our minds naturally wander back into the past and races into the future. We're doing our work thinking about what we'll be doing when we get home. When we get home we worry about the work we left behind. We're not even done a sentence and our mind is already forming the next sentence with no regard for the other person's response. This creates chaos in our minds which translates into stress and chaos in our lives.

The first step for those of you interested beginning a yoga journey of your own is to practice, whenever possible, one-pointed attention. Whatever you are doing, give it your full attention. If your mind starts to wander on to something else, gently bring your attention back to what you are doing. "In the words of the compassionate Buddha, when you are walking - walk. When you are sitting - sit, don't wobble."

Another way to help with this practice is to watch your breath. Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed, bringing your attention to your breath. Don't try to change the breath at this point, simply watch it. A thought enters your mind; just let it come but bring your attention back to your breath. The thought will go. The next thought comes, bring your attention back to your breath. The thought will go............

Do you see the pattern? One-pointed attention - when you are doing something, focus only on what you are doing. When you want to calm the mind and relax, focus only on the breath. Try this technique of watching your breath when you have difficulty sleeping.

Yoga is a journey - not a destination. Enjoy each moment of the journey by giving each moment your full attention. Besides, it doesn't really matter how you got here just that you are here!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Non-attachment - harder than you think

Vairagya/Non-attachment is fundamental in living a yogic life style. Whenever I hear talk of Vairagya/non-attachment I think, "Oh, I got this" This is one principal that I feel like I've (dare I say?) mastered. After all, I have 3 kids and a dog. What better way to learn non-attachment? Every thing I own will inevitable be lost, broken, or chewed so I no longer feel attached to stuff. (not even my blinds)

But wait, you want me to practice non-attachment to the fruits of my labor? Okay, I admit that's a little more challenging but I'm still feeling confident that I can handle that too. I don't have an aversion to selfless service, I'm a mom!

Non-attachment to my emotions? Oh no! Maybe this lesson is harder than I thought. Some of us tend to identify with our emotions. When we feel angry, we say "I am angry". When we feel sad, we say "I am sad". This isn't really true is it? We are not our emotions. We know this because our emotions are always changing therefore, we cannot be our emotions so there is no use getting attached to them. In 5 minutes we'll be experiencing  a totally different emotion!

Non-attachment to people? Now you've lost me. I don't understand how Vairagya applies to our loved ones. I understand that there will be people who, for whatever reason, will eventually leave our lives but I don't know how  not to get attached to people. 

Maybe it's a co-worker of 14yrs who quit, the best friend since the 8th grade who no longer has time for you, your daughter who is spreading her wings and no longer needs you or a loved one who passes away.

How does yoga apply in these situations? Well, what comes to mind for me here are two things. First, staying present, in the moment, so that we can appreciate and enjoy the time we have with the people we love. The second is acceptance. Accepting others as they are without wanting them to be any different and accepting that even though we don't understand the reason why there comes a time when those we love may no longer be in our lives. At least not in the same way.  Maybe I haven't mastered Vairagya.  Maybe this requires more enquiry.  For now, I won't get attached to this "mental stuff" either.  I'll just practice staying in the moment and practice acceptance and let the rest take care of itself.

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra:

Om Tryam Bakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam
Urva Rukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Mamritat Swaha 

"We bow to thee - who is full of sweet fragrance, who nourishes human beings.  May he free me from the bondage of births and deaths, just as the ripe cucumber is separated from the vine, and may I be fixed in immortality"   

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Note to self

Growing up, my two sisters and I spend a lot of time with my three cousins. I am the oldest of the six. My mother tells this story about how when we were little I always wanted to play school. The story goes that I, of course, was always the teacher and had to set everything up just right before we could play. By the time I had everything set up the way they were supposed to be, the rest of the kids were bored and wanted to play something else.

This tendency has followed me into adulthood. Years ago, when I first started practicing yoga/meditation at home I remember wanting to have everything just right before I could practice. I would clean the living room where I would be practicing. I would pick up the kid's toys, dust, vacuum, etc. by the time I was ready to roll out the mat the hour was up. 15 years and 3 kids later, I've come to the realization that the only space that needs to be clear for sadhana is my own mind.

If we wait until the circumstances of our lives are just right we will never develop a spiritual practice. The point is that with consistent daily practice you will discover that our circumstances are already perfect.

I'm writing this post as a gentle reminder to myself to let go of my need to "arrange" things in my life to be the way I think they are suppose to be and to accept things just as they are. My life will never look like the life of the yogis that I read about. It's full of distractions, chaos, and responsibilities. Here's what I know for sure: anyone can meditate and find peace sitting in a cave in the Himalayas. What we ( I ) need to practice is finding peace in the midst of the chaos and challenges of our lives right now.

Every moment is the most important moment of your life. Are you living it fully or are you waiting? How does your choice feel?

Gayatri Sadhana - Day 14

After sadhana I took a yoga class with Shiva Das. What I love the most about his class is that the entire experience feels like moving meditation. The class became an extension of my sadhana today. It was truly a lovely experience.  Kapalabhati (rapid diaphragmatic breathing) was really powerful for me today. I could feel energy moving up my spine.  Balance was a challenge though. Perhaps it was because I was floating on a cloud and didn't feel like my feet were on the ground.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The power of words

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me".  Remember that from way back when you were a little kid?  I don't know who ever started saying that but I'd like a word with them!

Many of us get so caught up in the drama that's playing in our minds, and in our own emotions that we sometimes forget to consider the impact our words have on those around us.  Other times, we intentionally use our words as weapons to hurt someone. 

The problem with words is that they can never, ever, be taken back.  Whether they are intentionally hurtful or not doesn't make the words hurt any less.  I've heard my teacher say that the cut of a sword will heal but the cut of your words can last a lifetime. 

Having spent much time on the receiving end of hurtful words I have made a conscious decision to practice ahimsa (non-harming) when I speak.  I'm not saying that I never lose my temper and say things that I regret but  I find that when I am more conscious of my thoughts I can choose my words more carefully.  Choosing the words means that I'm less likely to hurt someone.   Like anything else, this takes practice and strength.

Every stone thrown into the pond creates a ripple in the water.  Every word spoken also creates a ripple in the hearts of others.  Do you want the ripple to be hurtful or healing??  Ultimately it is your choice. Choose wisely.

Gayatri sadhana - day 11
This morning I lost track of time. I rolled out my mat and the next thing I know 75 minutes had passed.
I also experienced a moment of clarity.  I'm not sure I have the words to explain this. I had a knowing that what was happening in front of me was not the reality.  There was something else that I was feeling that didn't match what I was seeing or hearing. The feeling I was getting was more accurate somehow.

On a practical note:  Since my primary meditation practice is Transcendental Meditaiton (TM) I don't  use malas (prayer beads) very often. But I have to say chanting the mantra out loud and feeling the beads in my fingers has been quite helpful for concentration.  Without concentration, meditation cannot happen.

   

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finding balance

“Now reach in all directions” I hear SD say as I struggle to find balance in Virabhadrasana III (warrior III).  I found this asana more challenging than usual yesterday. Could it be because I’m having difficulty finding balance in other areas of my life?? With the gentle reminder to ground down through to ball of right foot I begin to realize that in order to “reach in all directions” I need to stay grounded both in the pose and in my life.

You know when you are on a plane and the flight attendant tells you in the event of an emergency, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help others? It sounds like logically advice doesn’t it? Don’t all the parenting books recommend that you get yourself ready first in the morning before waking your kids up? Again, it makes sense right? Why shouldn’t the same advice hold true in other areas of our lives?

After all, how can we have the energy and patience to take care of others if we haven’t taken care of ourselves first?

If you’ve ever tried to balance in Virabhadrasana III or in any other balance pose you know that first you need to establish a sense of being grounded and focused. Then you can move into the pose feeling balanced and stable. Without grounding and focusing first - balance is impossible.

Let’s face it, we all have too many things on our “to do list”. We all have people in our lives who need and want our attention. How do “reach in all directions” and still maintain balance? -- In my humble opinion, it’s by maintaining a regular sadhana (spiritual practice). I’m referring to yoga/meditation here but it can also be praying or any ritual from your own religious tradition.

In one of his talks on meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said “ you wouldn’t take a vacation from brushing your teeth so you don’t take a vacation from meditation”. Sounds silly to compare meditation to brushing your teeth but I’ve come to understand that sadhana needs to be done as a regular part of your morning routine just like brushing your teeth.
 
Then, and only then, will we have the energy and patience we need to be able to take care of others.
 
Gayatri mantra sadhana - day 8
Some days a 30 minute meditation feels like a tease.  Other days 30 minutes feels like an eternity.
Today it was a tease.  I wasn't ready for the day to begin yet.  I could have used a little more time on the meditation cushion.  I shouldn't have slept the extra half hour. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oneness

How do you explain a kirtan with Krishna Das to someone who isn't a yogi? "I'm going to a yoga rock concert" I tell my co-worker. Along with what felt like every yogi in the city of Philadelphia, I was at the
Krishna Das/Deva Premal kirtan last night. I had no idea that so many people could fit into the Keswick.

I'm not going to write a review but I will say that I enjoyed Deva Premal's side kick, Mitten the best of all.

Whenever I have the opportunity to meditate in a group setting I'm always amazed at how powerful the energy of a group is. After chanting 108 mantras to Ganesha we sat for just a few moments in meditation.

The event was sold out - imagine 1300 people all chanting "Om Gum Ganapataya Namaha". As we chanted our individual voices seemed to join together and it was one voice chanting. One collective voice asking for Ganesha's blessings. There was no way to distinguish one voice from another.

It was a beautiful experience. (not so beautiful when 1300 people are trying to use the bathroom at the same time - word of advice - go to the bathroom at the restaurant next time.)

There's no doubt that group meditation is incredibly wonderful and honestly it's what I miss most about old yoga class. We always ended our asana class with a 20 minute meditation. So what's a yogini to do when there isn't a group to meditate with??

Do sadhana (spiritual practice) early in the morning. Early morning is the best time for practice. During periods of deep meditation or prayer our consciousness connects with that "cosmic" consciousness. We enter into a state where we have joined our consciousness with the consciousness of all others who are doing their own practice in their own homes at the same time and beyond. There's a better chance of this happening if you practice early in the morning - before the sunrise.

Ever have the experience of sitting in your favorite yoga class and the teacher is talking about something that you've been thinking about? This happens all the time for me. At first I thought he was reading my mind. When I asked him how he always seems to know the right thing to say he told me that maybe our consciousness is operating on the same plain. Like our minds are riding on the same wave length. I love when that happens!

You'll notice as you practice meditation, "sincerely, systematically and with sustained enthusiasm" over a long period of time that things like that will happen more and more. Rather your awareness of these moments of oneness with others will be more apparent to you.

This awareness that we are all one is fundamental. Nothing helps you to realize this better than meditating in a group. Even if it's only for a few moments. Once we have a glimpse of this reality of oneness our interactions with others will improve. It's not me against them - you against me anymore. You will know that my struggles are your struggles. Your needs are the same as my needs.

Imagine, 1300 people chanting "Om Gum Ganapataya Namaha". Imagine, the millions of people sitting on their meditation cushions each morning doing sadhana!  It's a beautiful thing. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

What brings you to the mat??

People come to the yoga mat for many different reasons.  Some come for challenging asanas (poses/postures), some come to reduce stress, some come to the mat as a spiritual practice.   The challenge, as a yoga teacher comes when there are all of these people in the same group class. 

Recently I was lamenting to my teacher that I was struggling with this dilemma.  Do I give the students what they want or what they need.  He wisely replied   "That is a dilemma that has nothing to do with yoga."
As I pondered this reply I began to think about why I show up on the mat and why  I want to teach yoga.

When I think back to my very first yoga class I wasn't sure what to expect.  I thought it would help me relax.
It didn't the first day.  It frustrated me because I didn't know what the heck the teacher was talking about.
I was frustrated because I thought we were going to be "doing" more.  I was lying on the dirty gym floor for savasana and I remember thinking "I can't believe I paid $110. to lay on this dirty floor for 10 minutes".

But something kept me going back, week after week.  What was that?  After a couple of weeks I began to look forward to that class.  I began wanting to practice at home so I started reading.  I discovered this lovely bookstore on South Street, Garland of Letters.   I bought a book called  Raja Yoga.  I read it but I didn't understand any of it.  But something kept me going back for more.  What was that?

Somewhere along this yoga journey I bought a book called  The Upanishads.  Again I read the book but didn't understand any of it.  I read it again and again.  Sometimes cover to cover, sometimes randomly.   I began to see that yoga was so much more than simply an excerise to help me relax.  It's a way of life.

When we come to the mat with an open mind and an open heart we learn so many valuable lessons. Sometimes the lesson we need to learn is not something we would necessarily choose to learn but it's something we NEED to learn.  For me, that's acceptance.   There are situations in which we have no control.  (Sorry, pitta people - not even you can control everything, all the time).  Maybe for you it might be that you need to learn patience, or learn to release more in challenging situations. 

I don't always know what I need.  All I know for sure is that when I come to my mat (and to my life) with an open mind and open heart I always get exactly what I need.

A passage from the Upanishads:

"The shining Self dwells hidden in the heart. Everything in the cosmos, great and small, lives in the Self.  He is the source of life, truth beyond the transience of this world. He is the goal of life. Attain this goal!  Take the great bow of the sacred scriptures, place on it the arrow of devotion; then draw the bowstring of meditation and aim at the target, the Lord of Love. The mantram is the bow, the aspirant is the arrow, and the Lord the target.  Now draw the bowstring of meditation, and hitting the target be one with him."   --- Mundaka Upanishad

Why do I come to the mat? Because there I learn what my true nature is.  In yoga we call it the Atman.  That aspect of the Divine which is in all of us.  Why do I teach yoga? Because it's my duty to share what I've learned with others.  If you're interested in a getting a "yoga butt" - you'll need to look elsewhere.  If you're interested in living your best life in accordance with the ancient practices of yoga.  You've found yourself a companion for the journey.  Life is unfolding moment by moment.  Enjoy it.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Life is tough!

I received an email newsletter today from an astrologer talking about what she called "The Cardinal Climax — Death and Resurrection". This astrologer
says "The years 2009 through 2012 will be the most challenging and stressful period of our century. What is happening astrologically during this period will change the world as we know it, change our lives as we live them and indeed change our world history"

Thank you Rose for sending me this email; I was running out of things to obsess over!

The reality is that we certainly don't need an astrologer to tell us how challenging and stressful life is right now. It seems like everyone is facing challenges either financially, physically or emotionally. You can see the tension and worry on people's faces. You can hear the anxiety in their voices.

So let's take a stroll, shall we, to our handy dandy yoga tool box.

The first thing that comes to mind right now is a story I read, probably in the Upanishads. (Please forgive me as I para-phrase here). A student asks his master to give him some spiritual teachings. The master tells the student that he isn't ready yet. The student insists, so the master says, very well then, pour me some tea into this cup. Don't stop pouring until I tell you too. So the student obeys and begins to pour the tea. Soon the cup is over flowing and the students says master, the tea is spilling over! The master explains that the student is like the cup. He cannot receive the spiritual wisdom because he is already full. He must "empty" his mind so that he is able to receive.

When our minds and hearts are full of anxiety and fear there isn't any room for peace and contentment. I'm not going to tell you not to feel these things. What I'm suggesting is that you feel them but don't let them fill you up. Don't get stuck in those emotions.

A practical tip: Throughout the day notice your shoulders and your jaw. Are you holding on to tension? Try opening your mouth wide and sticking your tongue out as far as you can. Move your jaw side to side. Draw your shoulders back and down away from your ears. Move your awareness now to your hands. Are you clenching your fists? spread your fingers wide, shake your hands. Those are the places I find I hold on to tension.

You may feel it in other areas of your body. Pay attention to the tension in your physical body. Try to soften the areas that are tense. Notice if releasing some tension from your body helps you to release some mental tension.

There is no better way to release physical tension than through the practice of Hatha yoga!! It's time for me to roll out my yoga mat.

Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu. Om Shanti!
May all being find peace and happiness!

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Before enlightenment chopped wood, carried water....."

Yesterday was Easter, I was expecting a full house for dinner. I got up early to let the Easter bunny in with the baskets and then made the mistake of sitting on the sofa. The next thing I know it's almost 11am!! I can't tell you the last time I slept so much or so soundly. Apparently I needed the sleep but then I found myself behind in what I wanted to do.

While the rest of my family went to visit their Nanny I had the house to myself. Half way through my "to do list" I went out back to let my dog out and noticed what a beautiful day it was. I think about how lovely it would be to meditate outside.
So that's what I did. (That's my way of practicing staying in the present moment)

Just as I begin the mantra I notice a huge bee buzzing around me. My first reaction was to swat it away but I practice ahimsa (now harming). Then Pumpkin, my dog, started pacing (he suffers from excess vata), the birds were chirping happily. The "to do list" was swirling around in my head. Slowly, as I watched my breath and repeated the mantra the world began to settle down. The buzzing bee, the dog, the birds, the "to do list" all fell away. All that was there was my breath and the mantra.

After the 108 repetitions I sat for a while in meditation. I'm not sure how long I was there. I begin to notice the bee buzzing and dog pacing and the birds began singing again marking the end of meditation. I go back to my to do list noting that tasks don't seem so bad anymore.

While I'm washing and cutting my potatoes and I'm aware of the feel of the water on my hands, the feel of the potatoes after I washed them. I remember Padmasri, a teacher I've meet who taught us how preparing food can be a sadhana.

Meditation changes how we see things both metaphorically and literally. After meditation I feel like my vision is more clear. (Anyone else experience this? Is it just my imagination?) Metaphorically speaking everything we do is no longer a chore it's now done as a sadhana. We do what we do but with the intention of serving God.

I have these little cards that have sayings from the Buddha. One says "Before enlightenment chopped wood, carried water. After enlightenment, chopped wood, carried water." --

Do whatever you do today with the intention of doing it as a service to the Divine.

Gayatri mantra - Day 2 / take 2
When I went to bed last night I couldn't fall asleep. I start obsessing, I'm worried about a friend who's going through some troubles, I'm hoping that my teacher and new friends enjoyed the visit as much as I did, did everyone eat enough, did I spend enough time with everyone..... When I start obsessing the only thing that helps is mantra. So I fell asleep with the Gayatri mantra on my mind. I noticed whenever I woke up during the night, it was still repeating itself in my mind.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Still a long way to go til Enlightenment

"Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been 2 days since my last meditation." Oops. Sorry. Had a flash-back to Catholic school days. But seriously, I didn't do my sadhana the past two days. I could give you a long list of excuses but none would be a good one.

It seems when I need the practice the most it's usually the first thing to fall by the waste side. Why is that? For the life of me I can't figure it out. We know what's good for us and yet at times, we can't get ourselves motivated to do what we know is in our best interest. We humans are such strange creatures!

What I've noticed in my own life is I am very much aware of the times when the old habits are creeping in again and I can usually get myself back on track pretty quickly. This time it was only two days. I made sure this morning that I did not leave my house without first doing a sadhana.

The difficult part for me is forgiving myself when I slip back into old samskaric patterns. Forgiveness is a really hard thing. I heard an awesome definition of Forgiveness from Oprah Winfrey once. She said that "forgivness is giving up the hope that the past can be any different." Sounds like a yoga lesson to me. It's pointless to dwell on the past. We can't change the past no matter how hard we try.
We also can't predict or control the future. All we've got is the present moment. Here and now.

The bhavana for this morning's class was staying present for the practice and maintaining a state of witness consciousness.

Each time I heard my teacher says "notice where your mind is" or "stay present folks" I was aware that my mind had wandered. Upon noticing this, the judgemental part of my mind would remind me what a lousy yogini I was because I couldn't even stay present during a yoga class. There is almost always a little judgemental voice pointing out our faults. Sometimes it's someone in our life who's giving us what they consider "constructive critisism" but more likely it's our own mind.

When I expressed how difficult I found it to witness myself, my mind, without judgement my teacher pointed out that the judgements will come because it's part of our ego based mind. The key is to not be attached to the judgement. Let the judgement go. Remembering that we are the Atman (the aspect of the Divine within us) Ummmm..... Good point but also quite a challenge.

Okay, so let's re-cap here: I missed two days of sadhana. The guilt sets in. I go to my yoga tool box. Here I find forgiveness and non-attached to the judgement I've made about myself for not practicing. Oh yeah, and gratitude. Gratitude for my yoga tool box, for the teachers who gave me the tools to fill it with, and of course for the Divine who is always giving me opportunities to use these yogic tools.


Gayatri mantra sadhana - Day 1 / Take two!

Even after all these years of practice I am still so easily affected by things outside of myself. I am disappointed about a circumstance out of my control and I get upset about it. I get caught up in the emotion and have difficulty stepping back into a place of witnessing. This witness conscousiness that I practice during meditation I need to practice when I get caught up in emotions.