Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yamas and Niyamas

I've been checking out a lot of other yoga related blogs lately. Some of which I find myself going back to.  I haven't signed up to be a follower yet mostly because I can't figure out how to do it on most of the blogs I've been reading.  If anyone would like to help me figure it out - let me know.

Anyway,  one blog that I read yesterday was yogaspy I believe and Yogaspy posed an interesting question to yoga teachers.  He/she asked if you try to apply the Yamas and Niyamas into your life and which one or ones are most challenging to you.

As a refresher the yamas and niyamas are the first and second steps on Patanjali's noble 8 fold path.

The Yamas include:                                      The Niyamas include:

Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence                                     Saucha - Purity
Satya ~ Truthfulness                                         Santosha - Contentment
Asteya ~ Nonstealing                                       Tapas ~ Self-discipline
Brahmacharya - restraint of ones                      Svadhyaya ~ Self-study
vital energy                                                      Ishvara Pranidhana ~
Aparigraha ~ Nonpossessiveness                    surrender to God
So, what's your answer to yogaspy's question?  Do you try to live by these guidelines?  Do you really? Even when no-one is looking.  Which one or ones do you find most challenging?

Here's mine, I genuinely try to live by these guidelines - (I'm not always successful but I honestly try) - Practicing ahimsa towards myself is a huge challenge - I do a lot of negative self-talk.  Having discovered this tendency of mine has helped me "nip it in the bud" so to speak.  The other one I have trouble with is santosha- contentment.  I cannot feel contentment when I continually have such ridiculously high expectations.  Again, I am aware when I'm feeling dis-content and I practice svadhyaya and I look in the mirror to see if it's my expectations that are causing the problem. It usually is. 

When I let go of the expectations and accept things as they are it's easier to feel content.  That doesn't mean you lay down and play dead.  Not at all.  Remember that little prayer about having courage to change the things you can, accepting the things you can't?  It's about being content with the things we cannot change.  You know, like that need you have to change other people.  The desire you have for people to be anything different than who they are? Yeah....... Practicing santosha in those circumstances. 

So there you have it.  Okay now people,  I am expecting to see some comments here.  Don't disappointment me.  LOL!  JK - just kidding.  If you feel so inclined your comments are appreciated.

Om Namah Shivaya!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Any effort on the path is never wasted

The story goes that all the ancient yogic wisdom was revealed to the rishis (seers) during deep states of meditation.   This one simple sentence has reeked havoc on my meditation practice this morning!!
I light the candle, say my prayers, I begin repeating the mantra.   It's not long before I'm aware of all these random thoughts.  I'm not fazed by the thoughts, I have the mantra.  I'm good.  I know that sometimes it takes 5 or 10 minutes for my mind to settle down.  I'm repeating my mantra patiently waiting for wave to take me to meditation.

Then this pesky little thought keeps coming back "What if one of these random thoughts is some ancient wisdom being revealed to me and I'm not paying attention".   Are you kidding me?  What the heck would make me think that some ancient wisdom is going to be revealed to ME?  And so the debate begins and I missed the wave.  Damn it! I don't have time for this non-sense so I decide to try to out smart my mind
(Do you see the craziness that goes on?) by using a longer mantra.  Using the longer mantra means that I need to concentrate more on the mantra which means that I pay less attention to the random thoughts. At least that's the idea. The reality is that it doesn't always work.  Sometimes I give us and just watch the thoughts but I always sit for at least 20 minutes. 

As it turns out, there was some ancient wisdom that was revealed to me today.  I learned how to distinguish a random thought from ancient yogic wisdom.  The secret is that if it's truly wisdom I'll know it even after meditation.  If it's a random thought - it will float away like a cloud.  So the bottom line is you don't have to pay attention to the thoughts during meditation.  Whatever you are suppose to learn from your meditation you'll just know after.

Wow!  That's a relief.  The other thing I discovered is that even just sitting back watching the thoughts is meditation.   Sometimes I don't realize how deep I've gone until I'm coming out of meditation and it takes longer to get back to the surface.  Oh, the other strange thing I've been noticing is that the deeper the meditation the more  clear and bright everything looks afterwards.  Visually, I mean, not metaphorically.  My vision is actually crisper, more clear.   So weird.  Interesting.... but so weird.

If you're worried that you don't get the secret yogic teachings from your meditation I would suggest that you keep a journal next to you as you meditate. After meditation, jot down any random thoughts that come to you.  Knowing that you'll have to time to write them down afterwards may help you to relax a little during the meditation.

Now if only I knew a mantra that would reveal the lottery numbers - Now that would be bliss..... Oh, wait. That's not right!  --- Om Namah Shiva.....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What did you learn today?

I'd love to say that the many years of practice have helped me to become more flexible mentally and physically but in all good conscience I can't say that.   What it has done is show me just how rigid I
can be mentally and it has helped me "step forward in faith" rather than staying stuck in fear.

Whenever I sub my teacher's class I always have a moment where the thought crosses my mind.  "Oh God these people came here expecting SD and got me!"  I have a flashback to the times I showed up for class only to find a sub and felt so disappointed.   Knowing that some students are feeling as disappointed as I was at the prospect of a sub is really hard for a people pleaser like me. 

Last night was no exception.  The room was full and two more students arrive.  "Let's move to the other room" someone suggests and others agree.  So we all move our mats and blankets and other various items down the hall to the other room.  Everyone is settling in and I can't figure out how to turn the damn lights on.
I'm pushing buttons that God only knows what they turn on.  It's getting late..... I need to start the class. We'll just make do with whatever light we have. The radio has now objected to the move - well, we'll have to use the sound of our Ujjyi breath as our back-ground music tonight.  The  "room" that we used is actually the foyer.  It's rather large and the it opens up to the balcony of the second floor so the ceiling is pretty high up.  All this made me feel a bit spacey and off center actually.  Hummm...... A lesson for me perhaps?

As I sit in front of this room full of people my only option is to step forward in faith.  We start with a few release breaths; mostly for my own benefit.   It's not long before I'm in the "yoga zone" as my friend Lucia calls it.  Remember the muppet show?  There were these two muppets that were old guys who used to throw rotten fruit at the other guest they didn't like.  I think of that at the end of class.  I guess as long as no-one throws tomatoes at me then I did okay.  

Teaching yoga is really a blessing.  Not only do I get to share my passion for yoga with others but it gives me the opportunity to learn so much about myself.   Tonight was a reminder that I need to get out of my comfort zone a little more and perhaps challenge myself more.   And sure, some people may have been disappointed but that's also an opportunity for them to learn the valuable lesson that I'm working on "Letting go of expectations will help you not feel so disappointed all the time".    Believe me folks - that's a tough one.  It may take me a few more lifetimes but it's one I feel is worth the effort to learn. 

So in closing I'd like to leave you with these words from a very wise man:  You only have two options - stay stuck in fear.... or step forward in faith.   Which will you choose today?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My boy, Jake!

  As parents we always worry about how are kids are behaving when they're with other people.   I was worried last night when I left my son at the mother's house to spend the night.  Sensing my mother's hesitation  I tell my son that he can't spend the night but grandmoms are suckers for tears so she reluctantly agrees.  She makes Jake promise not to be bad.  "No fighting" she says (my nephew lives with my mother and Jake and Michael fight like brothers).    Jake promises to be good.  I leave praying to God that he behaves.

This morning I call my mother to see how the night went.  She tells me that when she woke up she found Jake sitting cross legged with his eyes closed.  She asked him what he was doing.  "Actually grandmom, I'm meditating" he replied.   Do I even need to tell you how proud of my boy I was to hear that?  As it turns out, he was very good.  My mother told him that she likes it when he meditates and he should do it whenever he gets mad.  "Instead of getting mad just go in your room and meditate" grandmom told him.  LOL!  huh.... I wonder where I heard that before???

It just goes to show that our children learn what they live.  They are little sponges soaking everything in.  The moral of the story?  Live your life the way you want your children to live.  Don't preach to them but show them.   Lead by your example.  Even if you think they aren't listening or paying attention. 

This same advise holds true for us as  yoga teachers.  If you're going to teach, you must live what you teach.
For example, you can't talk about ahima (non-harming) during class and then when you leave the class you talk badly about someone.  Once again, lead by your example.  I admire my teachers and strive to be like them not because they teach yoga but because they LIVE yoga. 

Once while cleaning up after an event at the studio I heard someone saying something to my teacher and I got angry at what the man was saying.  I wondered why my teacher didn't smack that guy.  I noticed that my teacher was very kind and loving towards the man.  I was fascinated.   Maybe him was smacking him mentally but the example he presented was that of compassion and loving kindness towards everyone.  I was so impressed.  By the way, I later asked my teacher how he kept his composure and he jokingly said "that guy was bigger than me."  What I saw and continue to see  in my teachers are spiritual seekers doing their best to live yoga.  I learn the most from their example.

As for my Jake, I have no doubts that one day he's going to be a great yogi.  After all he's been chanting
Om Namah Shiva since he was 4.   Don't tell my girls but I'm still holding out hope that they too will join me on this yoga journey.   Until then I'll continue to try to teach them by my example.  Om Namah Shiva!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yoga & Ayurveda

As always, tonight's class was perfect. What I love most about Shiva Das' class is that when he's teaching I know that I don't have to worry about anything. I trust him completely and I can let my guard down. I am always taking care of everyone all the time but in his class I feel like I'm being taken of. I can just close my eyes and follow his guidance knowing that I'll have exactly the experience I need. 

I've been experiencing Pitta over-load lately so I was curious to see what the effects of  a pitta reducing class would be on me. (* Pitta over-load meaning excess heat both physically and mentally for more info check out )

 I was able to step back from myself and observe how each asana effected me physically, mentally, emotionally.  We know that each asana has a specific effect on the body but have you experienced the different effects the pose has on a mental and emotional level?  Not only does the asana have different effects but so does how the asana is done.

 While doing the *shitali breath at the beginning of class I wasn't able to exhale at all. It was strange. I felt like I could hold my breath for a really long time but the exhale was almost non-existent.  But  when we did it again at the end of class there was a definite difference. The exhale was easier.  Being able to exhale better helped me to experience a sense of letting go which made me feel calmer and more peaceful.

The over-all effect of the class was amazing.  I left feeling calm and peaceful. I sat in my car for a while  wanting to hold on to that calm and peace for a little while longer. Funny isn't it? We spent 75 minutes working on letting go and here I was trying to hold on but then  I noticed how bright the moon was . It seemed like the moon was offering it's cooling, calming energy to me somehow. It reminded me that each morning the moon slips away as the sun rises but then each night the moon returns.  Even if this peaceful calm slips away I know that it's always available to me and I am grateful that I am learning how to access this state.

Tonight's class was evidence that in the hands of a masterful teacher combining  yoga and ayurveda results in  the most delicious experience. 

*Shitali is a cooling breath.  It's done by inhaling through your mouth with your tongue rolled and exhaling through your nose*
*Yoga on Main is offering several awesome yoga teacher certification programs beginning in September.
check out the web-site for details

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finding your center

Let me begin here with 2 very important points:

1. You don't have to travel to the other side of the world to find yourself
2. If you have money to invest - buy rental property in Bali - Tourism is about the boom there!

Okay I just thought of a 3rd point.
3. If you leave your spouse to find yourself and at the end of the year you find yourself in another person -      you didn't really find yourself.

You guessed right. I saw the movie Eat Pray Love this week-end.  The reality for most of us is that leaving our spouse and traveling half way around the world is simply not an option. I would like someone to make a movie or write a book that shows that finding yourself in suburbia is possible.

Since we're not Julia Roberts or Elizabeth Gilbert we have to find our center while sitting in a stinky gym watching our daughter play basketball.  We have to find our center when our sadhana is interrupted by "mommy my stomach hurts".

Can you keep your center then? Can you get yourself to the meditation cushion after being up half the night worrying about your teenager who just got her driver's license is out with her friends?

For most of us our homes are full and noisy and chaotic so finding our center becomes not only more challenging but also vitally important. Balancing the responsibility of our family with the responsibility of our sadhana is difficult sometimes but that's what makes us appreciate the moments of peace.
It's the constant swaying back and forward that helps us to savor those brief moments when we achieve a state of balance. 
Of course you can love a handsome guy you meet in Bali who's rich and romantic and sensitive but can you love your spouse who leaves their dirty clothes on the floor or has to be reminded to wash the dishes in the sink? That's the real question.  Don't get me wrong, I too daydream about running off to India and finding a cave to hide in when my life gets crazy but I would venture to say that I'd probably find craziness there too
just a different crazy. 

So here's the bottom line. The only way to find yourself is to look within. There's no short cut believe me I've looked and there isn't one. Even if you live in Bali or India - you still need to look with-in.  Don't worry. I'm going to give you a few tips to help "find your center". 

1.  Get up early - as early as you can.  I know that's not what you want to hear but you'll soon grow to love
     the early morning quiet. 

2.  Start each day with even just a 15 minutes of meditation or prayer or even better - both.

3.  Be grateful.  Be grateful for everything.  The good things and bad things.  See God's grace in every
     moment of your life.

4.  Breath.  Conscious breathing. 

5.  Practice yoga regularly.

6.  Remember always that "This too shall pass" - both the bad things and the good things so don't fret
     too much about your troubles as they will soon pass and savor the good things as those too shall pass.

Feel free to add share your tips with us.   Oh.  One more -  Read the book "Holy Cow"  If you do, let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Everyone out of the boat!

Imagine for a moment that you are standing at the edge of a lake.  You want to get to the other side of the lake because you hear that on the other side of the lake is paradise.  You could swim across the lake but that would take a really long time and you're not the strongest swimmer and then you'd be too tired to enjoy paradise once you got there.   Plan B?  You'll need a boat.  There are many varieties of boats.  Big ones, small ones, motor boats and sail boats, even yachts.  So you choose your boat and you're off to paradise.
Once you arrive on the other side of the lake you need to get out of the boat.  But you don't. For a little while you sit in the boat and simply look at paradise from a distance.  Seems silly doesn't it?  Why wouldn't you get out of the boat?  Why wouldn't you want to stay in paradise forever?

A metaphor that's used often is comparing our mind to a lake.  When the lake is calm you can see clearly to the bottom but when the lake is disturbed you can't see anything.  When the mind is calm we can see things clearly but when the mind is disturbed the mind becomes muddy and our thinking is not clear.

So to continue with the story.....
Here you are in your current stressed out state of mind.  In order to reach paradise you have to cross the lake, or transcend the mind.  The boat?  It's your meditation technique.  Let's talk for a minute about meditation techniques.  I can tell you from personal experience that on this path to enlightenment there are more techniques than there are people on this planet.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  There is a technique that's just right for you.  Find one and stick to it.  Don't try crossing the lake by jumping from boat to boat or you'll just be traveling the length of the lake but never reach the other side.

Once you've selected your boat you strap on your seat belt because it's going to be a bumpy ride.  Yes, that's right, I said it.  It's going to be a bumpy ride to paradise.   I don't think anyone ever told me that when I started meditating.  (well, maybe they did and I was so focused on getting there that I didn't pay attention)
There will be moments on the journey that the sun will be shining and the birds chirping and you'll be smiling enjoying the ride.  But then, when you least expect it, there will be rough waters.  Maybe some old resentments come up, you remember some past hurt that you thought you'd gotten over..... who knows what's been buried at the bottom of this lake we call the mind?  That's when you need to tighten the seat belt. 

The only way to paradise is to cross the lake.  You can't go around it, you can't jump over it. You must cross it. But not to worry, as long as you have a good strong boat and a seat belt you'll make it.  It may be a long journey, actually, I can assure you it will be a long journey.  Sometimes it'll feel like the journey will go on forever but as long as you keep moving forward you'll be moving in the right direction.

Once you finally get to the other side of the lake you can see paradise but you hesitate.  Why would you hesitate you might ask?  It's paradise.  Who doesn't want to be there?  Well the journey has been long and you've grown quite fond of your boat and you don't want to leave it.   See this is what our mind does.  It gets attached.   We're attached so we sit in the boat.  Paradise is right there in front of us but we're sitting in the boat.

The moral of the story?  A good strong boat is important.  We need a strong daily sadhana but don't forget that it's simply a vehicle to transcend the mind/thoughts.  The real meditation happens when we get out of the boat - in those moments between the thoughts and  the mantra.  If we never let go - it's like we're sitting in the boat only looking at paradise.   It's time to get out of the boat.  It's time to let go.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ultimate Challenge

"After several hours during which the Buddha received the onslaught in silent peace, a light began to dawn on the abusers.  They ceased their abuse and several fell humbly at the Buddha's feet begging his forgiveness. But tell us, they asked, How is it possible that you just sat there for so long without defending yourself, without fighting back, without saying one word?

The Buddha responded as follows:  My dear, if I send you a package but you refuse to receive it from the postmaster's hands, to whom does the package belong?  The villagers agreed that the package would still belong to the sender if it was not accepted or received.   In the same way the Buddha continued if I do not accept the words you speak, if I do not receive them, then they do not belong to me. They still belong to you. You may speak whatever you wish. However, your words have not been accepted or received by me. Therefore, why should they affect me at all?  This abuse does not belong to me, it belongs to you."   (excerpt from the book "Peace" by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji)

I loved this story. I'm going to put this one in my parenting handbook.  It's a story I know I'll be telling my children when they get their feelings hurt because of something someone said to them.  How many times do we let the words of others effect us?   We don't have to accept them.  How do like that?  I never even thought to refuse that package.  Who knew that was even an option??  Why aren't we teaching our children this important message?

The story reminds us of the importance of equanimity.  The ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!  How do we remain in a state of peace in the midst of chaos?  In the midst of drama?  I don't know.  I'm afraid this is one that I struggle with.  I am affected by my external circumstances.  I wish that I wasn't but I am.   I think the difference for me now, is that I recognize when it's happening and I can come back to a state of peace a bit more quickly than before.  Before yoga and meditation became weaved into the fabric of my life.   For that I'm grateful.

I'm not going to lie,  It's not easy to sit peacefully while someone is being mean or hurtful.  So let's put our heads together and try to come up with a practical application of this story.  What do you think the Buddha was thinking about while the villagers were yelling nasty things to him and spitting at him?  My guess would be that he was meditating.  That's the only way I could imagine that someone could retain a peaceful state under those conditions.   I don't know about you but I don't think I could meditate in that situation but I could use a mantra.  Repeating the mantra internally would give us a focal point within ourselves so that we'd be less likely to re-act.  If we don't re-act we aren't adding fuel to the fire (so to speak).  When are minds are focused and calm we are closer to reaching that state of peace that we are all looking for.  Try it the next time you find yourself in a challenging situation. 

** Here's a tip:  If your mind is racing at a hundred miles an hour use a longer, more complex mantra -- if you're using a one or two syllable mantra the clever mind of yours will be able to think and repeat the mantra at the same time. **   (I use the word mantra but if you're more comfortable with prayer - memorize a prayer and use that)

I'd really love to hear from you.  Tell me how you maintain a state of peace in the midst of challenging external circumstances. 

This story was so much better than telling your kids  "Sticks and Stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you".   Why do parents lie to their children???  Words most definitely hurt -- well, if you accept them they do.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Make me an instrument of thy peace

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to
Eternal life.

I've always loved this prayer.  The swami that I heard speak on Friday reminded me of this prayer.
He said that even if you don't know how to pray all you have to do is talk to God.  He said just say "God this is your day.  Let my voice be your voice and my hands your instruments".  That resonated with me because each morning as I sit at my alter I too say to God "Not my will but thy will be done".  The trouble with that is that sometimes God's will is not exactly what I had in mind for myself.  Some days I am scared to say those words because God only knows what's in store for me but I say them anyway and I try to really mean them.

I have the prayer of St. Francis on my alter in a little frame.  I've been reading it each morning and over the last few days really trying to put the words into practice.   It's been really, really challenging.  Especially "where there is injury, pardon" and "where there is hatred, let me sow love".  Really?  I think to myself.  Was St. Francis really suggesting that we sow love where there is hatred?  Did he really want us to pardon where there is injury? Why didn't he tell us how to do that?   Again, I say the words and I really want to mean them but My God! It's hard some days. I remind myself that I'm only human.  It's okay if I falter. God is a loving and forgiving God.  Luckily for me because I sure as hell have faltered.   I'm not sure where I got the idea that just because I'm a yogini that it's not okay to get angry or feel depressed.  I don't know why I hold myself to such impossibly high standards.  I/we need to give ourselves a break.  It's okay to feel what we feel.   Even if we perceive those feelings to be negative.   The words of St. Francis apply to us too.
Let us sow love when we are feeling hatred towards ourselves.  Where there is injury; pardon.    Where there is doubt, faith.  - Some days I doubt everything.  Those days I have to step forward in faith.  That's all I can do.  I have faith in God. I have faith that as long as I offer my life to God even in darkness there will be light.  Even in sadness I will find joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console........
For it is in giving that we receive.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti  

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Adventures of a spiritual seeker

I know that expectation always leads to disappointment.  I know that and yet I can't seem to help myself.  Yesterday the anticipation of my satsang with a real swami was unbearable. I couldn't wait for 8pm to arrive.  I couldn't enjoy the live music because I was anxiously waiting to learn the meaning of life from the swami!  I had convinced myself that I was going to learn some ancient yoga secret to a life of peace and joy! 

During the program I begin to think that this message, this secret to a life of peace and joy was not getting to the people who really needed it.   Those of us who had gathered there to listen to Swamiji (as he is affectionately known) already knew that we weren't going to find happiness in the stores or in catalogs.  We already had a glimpse of the bliss that comes from a connection to the Divine.  What about the people in the world who are suffering?  Who will bring this message to them? 

There was a young woman swami with him.  She spoke first.  I wish that I could share with you the entire discourse but I can't so I'll share with some of the points that stuck with me.   (I'm paraphrasing)

Just image that you want some Orange juice.  You really really want it and nothing else will satisfy you but Orange juice so you go and milk a cow.   That's right, you go milk the cow and try to get orange juice from the utters of the cow!!   Funny thought isn't it?  Absurd really.  But that's exactly what we're doing when we try to find happiness by acquiring more stuff or more money, more power.  Perhaps you desire to have someone and you convince yourself that if he/she behaves a certain way then you'll be happy.  You're trying to get Orange juice from a cow.  If you want happiness you have to look within.

She also told a story about a man who put his reading glasses on top of his head when he was finished his work and then went about his day.   Later when he needed them he couldn't find them.   He asked his wife, "where are my glasses?"  He asks his children "have you seen my glasses?"  They all see the glasses but they don't tell him.  Finally one of his children tells him to look in the mirror and you'll find your glasses.
The closeness of the glasses was of no help to him.  They may as well have been in China. Until he realized that they were there it didn't matter how close they were.    It seems to me that we're all looking for our glasses that are right there on top of our heads.   The happiness and peace that we are seeking is right there within us but it's closeness doesn't help until we realize that it's there.

I enjoyed her talk and by this point my anticipation of what ancient wisdom the Swami was about to impart on us was overwhelming.  I listened patiently as he chanted mantras. Some of which I myself have chanted with my teachers.    Again, I will paraphrase just a small portion of the Swami's wisdom here for you.

The key to peace and happiness is only one thing - an intimate connection with the Divine.  He talked about how we all have so many appointments to keep during our day but the most important appointment is the appointment with the Divine.  In order words,  daily spiritual practice - sadhana.  

You don't need any special mantras or techniques.  You don't need to  be a sanskrit scholar. You simply need a little corner in your home where you can place a symbol or photo of the Divine.  The beauty here is that you can choose whatever aspect of the Divine that resonates with you.  Take time each day to visit this space and have a conversation with God.  Talk to God in whatever language you see fit.  Then, close your eyes and in the depths of meditation listen to God talking to you. 

There you have it.  The ancient yogic secret to happiness and peace.  Daily spiritual practice -- Sadhana. 

After the discourse we had the opportunity to receive a blessing from the swami.  I watched  some folks bow in front of him, touch his feet in reverence.  As I knelt in front of him, I placed my hands together in front of my heart - prayer pose.  I looked into his eyes and offered my sincere thank you.  I didn't bow or touch his feet, I looked into his eyes and saw such warmth and love.  He held my gaze (which usually makes me uncomfortable) but strangely, I felt some familiarity.  As if our paths had crossed before or perhaps I was recognizing the Divine within him that is also within me.

I wasn't disappointed in the experience but it certainly wasn't what I had envisioned in my head.  The anticipation and expectation of learning some new, secret wisdom that only a real swami would teach turned into a sense of gratitude for my teachers.  I am eternally grateful to them for the wisdom they share with me everyday in their words and by their example. 

So to re-cap:  The ancient yoga secret to happiness and peace is daily spiritual practice - sadhana.  Now I've shared this wisdom with you - Tag! you're it!  Go and share it with someone in your life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I'm not ashamed to admit that for years Oprah Winfrey was my spiritual guru.  Laugh if you must be it's true.
She said once that God whispers a message to you but if you don't listen he'll tap you on the shoulder, if you still don't listen, he hits you over the head with a brick.   This was quite profound when I first heard it.  The thought of God hitting me over the head with the a brick...... hilarious. 

I have been hearing God's whispers "love everyone" but I've ignored it.   I've felt the tap on the shoulder "LOVE EVERYONE".  I've tried bargaining with God.  "Ok God I hear you but I can't love everyone but I promise in my next life I'll love everyone".  Tonight, during yoga, I felt the brick on my head.

We're in standing forward fold..... aaaahhhh.... I feel the release in my cervical spine and the back of my neck.  It feels great to surrender.  I bring my hands to my lower back and interlace my fingers.  This is always difficult for me.  I tell myself it's because my wrist and arms aren't flexible.  Lifting my arms up towards the ceiling while in standing forward fold is really difficult.  The difference tonight was that I realized it wasn't my wrists and arms preventing me but rather my inability to open my heart and surrender to the message.  "LOVE EVERYONE".

The message isn't love people who are lovable.  It's Love Everyone!  Holy Hell!! That's not an easy task. 
I notice tonight a stabbing pain in the back of my heart whenever we opened are hearts in back-bending poses.   Interesting I thought.  Is that what I'm afraid of?  That if I open my heart to people that I may get stabbed in the back?  It's possible of course but the message is clear.  LOVE EVERYONE.   Even those that my cause you harm. 

Once the brick hits you in the head there's no more ignoring the message, there's no more bargaining with God. There is no choice but to sit up and pay attention.   LOVE EVERYONE. 

Now how do we do that?  How do I do that? Well, I guess for starters I need to recognize God in everyone.
Then maybe it'll help if I recognize that everyone has their own struggles and their own issues and that sometimes those issues don't have anything to do with me.  After all, in the words of my friend, Jon "It ain't all about me".   SD reminded us tonight that we need the darkness to recognize the light.   We need the  struggles to recognize and appreciate the love.

"All this is full.  All that is full.
From Fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti"
- The Isha Upanishad

All this is Love.  All that is Love.
From Love, Love comes
When love is taken from Love
Love still remains
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti