Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tag! You're it!

Remember when you used to play tag when you were a little kid?  Everyone would run away from the one kid who was IT.  If the IT kid would touch you then you were IT and you had to run around and try to tag someone else.   The first thing you did before the game began was to determine where home base was.  It was a pole or car or someplace where you could go if you needed a breather from running.  As long as you were on home base you couldn't be tagged.   Home base for me is my yoga mat or aka the magic carpet.

I unroll the mat and the first thing that happens is I take a deep breath; I don't even have to think about it. Yesterday morning I left my house to teach a class and I was feeling agitated and frustrated.  I get to the studio and the fireplace is already on.  I had some time before the students arrived so I unrolled my mat.  I needed a breather from life.  I needed some time on home base to catch my breath.

As I stepped on the mat my breath deepened.  Already I felt calmer.  As I moved through a few asanas (poses) I appreciated the quiet of the space and the warmth of the fire. 

We all need a home  base.  What is that for you?  Lately I've had this nagging thought in my head.  "Is my desire for enlightenment really just the desire to run away from the realities of life more then a true desire for union with God?"  This thought as entered my mind more than once lately.  Mostly I guess because I feel like I am escaping the realities of life when I practice - at least for a little while.  

I've also been thinking a lot about my father.  He passed away a couple of years ago.  He was an alcoholic.  He used alcohol to espace the realities of his life.  I can understand the desire to want a reprieve from the stresses of life.  We're running around playing this game of life for hours and hours and sometimes we need to get to home base to catch our breath.   Some choose alcohol while others choose yoga.  Is there a difference?

I've given this a lot of thought lately.  We're all looking for home base.  The problem is that most of us are looking for it in all the wrong places.   It's not in a bottle of whiskey, or a cupcake, or in another person. You won't find it on the shelves at the Walmart at 4am.  

Whether my desire for enlightenment is about union with God or simply a way of escaping the harsh realities of life for while I'm not really sure it matters.  What I do know for sure is that when I practice I can play the game of life with a lot more grace.  I can enjoy the game of life much better when I've had some time to catch my breath. 

I'm eternally grateful to the teachers who have guided me along this path and who have shown me where home base is. 

Just like when you play the game of tag - the first thing you do is establish where home base is.  After that, the trick is to know when it's time to get to home base.  Choose wisely and go there often.

Hare Om!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tis the season for stress.... Or is it?

The vegetable garden hasn't even been winterized yet but there's Christmas music playing on the radio.   The stores are decorated, the commercials are advertising all these great deals for stuff that you just have to have to make your Christmas perfect and that sense of overwhelming anxiety has made it's appearance in my life. 

When life starts to move too fast it seems only logical that something has to give.  Typically, it's our yoga practice. We start to think that maybe that time could be better spent getting ready for the holidays.  Writing out Christmas cards, wrapping gifts before the kids get up.  Rather than going to a yoga class we find ourselves standing in line at Toys R Us.  By the time Christmas day arrives  our nerves are shot and we're feeling exhausted and ready to hibernate for the rest of the winter.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

I read a yoga blog this week that reminded me of the importance of discipline with regard to regular practice.  The blogger talked about discipline as "protecting what you love, honoring what's important to you and making your values a priority"  When I shared this with a friend he thought it sounded egotistical.   It's interesting to me that when we put ourselves on the priority list we feel it's selfish or egotistical.   Why is that?

Is it selfish or egotistical when we take a shower or brush our teeth?  Is it selfish when we take care of our physical body by exercising?  Of course not.  Then why is it selfish when we take care of our mental or emotional body?  The answer:  It's not. 

While the rest of my family was sleeping this morning I made my way to the meditation cushion.   I light a candle and  offer a prayer before meditation.   My breath is slow and deep.  Today the thoughts are few and meditation is easy.   I'm not sure how much has passed but the sound of little footsteps bring me back into my body.  It's this practice of sadhana that helps me to dig down deep into the reservoir of strength that helps me maintain composure through-out the day. 

During yoga class this morning I'm aware of the absence of the mental chatter.  I kept my eyes closed most of the practice and continued to ride the wave that began during meditation.  The sound of my teacher's voice along with the sound of my own breath were my focus.  My body is smiling as I move through Surya Namaskar.  It feels good to breath and move.  It's this practice that makes me feel nourished and  energized. This is how I can take care of my family and friends without feeling depleted and frustrated.  

During the holidays discipline is important in so many areas of our lives.  We need discipline so that we don't eat to many cookies, or spend too much money.  We also need discipline so that we don't abandon our sadhana.  After all, we need to be calm and energized to fight those crazy people at Toys R Us trying to get their hands on that must have toy of the year!

 With my yoga sadhana complete - I feel better able to tackle whatever the universe sends my way.   Bring on the holidays!  Oh wait.... First I need to take care of the vegetable garden. 

As my Jakey says " Om Namah Shivaya!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Feeling the shakti today!

I've been very much aware, the last couple of weeks, of this strong feminine energy.  I feel the guidance of the Divine Mother.   She is guiding me, sometimes not exactly in the direction I want to go but I feel that it's definitely feminine energy that is guiding me.

The Shakti (feminine energy) continued to flow today as I spent the afternoon in the company of 11 beautiful woman.  We all came together for sadhana.  As I sat in the circle what struck me was how the circle represented all different stages of womanhood.   From our littlest guest who is only 10 weeks old to our birthday girl who is celebrating her 76th birthday.  Each one of us coming to the circle bringing the energy of our soul and our life experiences. 

Through an interesting series of events I find myself drawn to the Goddess Durga.  I don't know much about her yet.  I was told a story of Durga being a fierce warrior.  She is also considered a great protector.  She creates a barrier around you to protect you until you are strong enough to fight alongside of her.   I've read that she fights for righteousness.   This is the energy that I resonate with the most.  I  feel a sense of wanting and needing to protect and fight for righteousness.  (Yes, I know, I'm not the fairness police)

This afternoon's workshop was a way for me to proctect others by introducing them to these beautiful Wise Earth Ayurveda sadhanas.

Protecting others, like our children, from harm is very natural and instinctual.  A mother holding her little one close to her is very natural.   But what about protecting ourselves?  We heard from one of our guests that when she turned 70 years old she made a conscious decision to take care of herself and she turned to Ayurveda.  For me, protecting myself is not so natural or instinctual.  During my morning sadhana what came to me is that it's absolutely necessary to protect ourselves from negative outside influences.  Protecting ourselves physically and mentally/emotionally.  Still that little voice is there asking "really? are you sure you're not being selfish?".  (How many years of practice do I need before that little voice of self-doubt goes away?)

The voice of the Divine Mother was answering this question through the words of our teacher in this afternoon's workshop.   She talked about how important it is for us to take care of ourselves, especially during the junction period which is the transitions from one season into another.  We learned the importance of eating with the seasons to protect us physically and how important it is to make preparing food a sadhana which helps to protect us mentally/emotionally.    Today's experience reinforced for me the importance of daily spiritual practice. 

Whether it's blessing your hands before preparing a meal or chanting mantras as you make ghee or grind spices or simply offering a prayer each morning upon waking you are setting an intention of acknowledging the sacred.  Acknowledging the presence of the Divine in all of life.   It gives you a new sense of awareness about every thing you do and about the energy that is all around you.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are influenced by the energy around us.  We drawn in the positive, healing, nurturing energy through our sadhana.  We protect ourselves from the negative, harmful energy through our sadhana.

We don't have to worry, if we get lost or confused the Divine Mother will lovely guide us.  What? you aren't receiving the Divine Mother's guidance? - Do sadhana - You'll feel her presence in your life just like I am right now.

Someone today asked me for a receipe and I jokingly replied it's an ancient chinese secret.  The ancient yogic secret is this:  All that you seek can be found in daily spiritual practice - Sadhana.

Jai Ma!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Which way to enlightenment??

Funny thing happened to me on the way to enlightenment.  One minute I'm feeling the grace of the Divine and I'm feeling like I got a grip on things and I am firmly walking in the bliss of yoga and the next minute.... WHAM!
I find myself back in the bottom of this black hole wondering what the hell happened. 

Sometimes I sit on my meditation cushion and I feel peaceful and content and other times meditation leaves me feeling sad and agitated and well - dis-content.  What's different?  The practice is the same - the effect is different.  Why? 

I feel myself getting sucked into this mental drama.  Feeling myself chewing this "mental chewing gum" and I don't want to go there.  It doesn't really matter anyway, right?  I just have to keep getting myself to the meditation cushion. 

Some days the stress of my life makes me turn to my sadhana - other days the stress makes me daydream about cupcakes and cosmopolitans.  The stress is the same - the effect different.  Why?

It all comes down to one thing - choice.   Each and every moment we have a choice.  Do we choose meditation or cosmos?   Do we choose yoga or cupcakes?   Do we choose to love what is or do we try to force things to be anything other than what is?   It is a choice. 

Some days - the cupcake wins - other days meditation wins - it doesn't really matter anyway, right.  I just have to keep getting myself to the meditation cushion.  Every moment is a choice.  Do we want to go back to our old patterns of thinking or do we want to flow with the grace of the Divine.  It's our choice.

I keep reminding myself that I am only human.  As a human being I am subject to the vacillations of my mind and my emotions.   Yoga is about stilling the flucuations of the mind.  That's the target we're aiming for but it's not always easy.  We are human.

I can't possible be the only yogi who's fallen off the enlightenment wagon so please feel free to share your story or offer a suggestion to help a fellow yogi make the right choice in the next moment.

Tonight, I made the choice to get myself to yoga class.  I made the choice to breath deeply, enjoy the company of like minded individuals.  It's a start.  Tomorrow morning I will do my sadhana just like I do most mornings.  Even when we find ourselves back at the starting line the way to the target is still walking the path through daily sadhana. 

One minute I find myself at the bottom of a big black hole and the next minute.... Wham!  I'm back riding the wave of bliss.  Funny how life works.  You never know what's going to happen from one minute to the next.  The moral of the story?  Don't get attached to anything - good or bad as it's all temporary. 

Om Hrim Shrim Dum Durgayai Namaha! Om Hrim Shrim Dum Durgayai Namaha!
Om Hrim Shrim Dum Durgayai Namaha! .............

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Clean Sweep

(In an effort to continue last night's theme of playing my edge I'm sharing a post that I wrote a while back but for whatever reason haven't felt comfortable sharing it.   I'm stepping gracefully out of my comfort zone)

Ever watch that show on TLC called Clean Sweep? The show's crew shows up at some random family's home and cleans out some area of the house that is over-run with clutter. They remove everything from the space and sort it out into 3 categories.

* Stuff that's useful and supports the general theme of the space - stays

* Stuff that's useful and helpful to someone else is sold and the money
   made is used to add things to make the space more beautiful

* Stuff that's not useful and only creates clutter is thrown away

The end result it a peaceful, organized, comfortable space for the family to live in. What we need is for the Clean Sweep crew to help us with the clutter that we have in our emotional body that is preventing us from living a peaceful, organized, comfortable life.

The first step is to empty the space of the junk so that we can sort it with detachment. That'swhere yoga/meditation come in. Once the "space" is empty we sort through our emotions and decide what to do with them.

* Is it useful and supports the general theme of peace? - Love and contentment I think would
   fall into this category. Okay so those things stay.

* Forgiveness, compassion? - Those things are helpful and add to the beauty
   of the "space" (our emotional body)

* The throw away gets a little more complicated. At least for me. Some things we can part with easily like the lady who keeps hitting you in the ass with her shopping cart or the person who cuts you off on the road. You're hurt feelings when your kid tells you he hates you - toss. It's not so easy, however, to dispose of the toxins - like the old cans of paint you have in the shed, these toxins need to be disposed of properly or they may contaminate the environment.

Anger, resentment, these are the toxins I'm thinking of. If we just throw them out they can hurt our environment and the others around us. We can't keep them. They don't support the peaceful, organized, comfortable space we are trying to create. There isn't enough room in the emotional body for love and anger without creating clutter so anger has got to go. But how?

Okay, here's where sometimes we need to the help of the professionals. What is the proper way to get rid of anger? Hiding it in the bottom of other "trash" (emotions) isn't the right way. Throwing it out the window (temper tantrums) isn't the right way. Holding on to them isn't right.

I was really hoping that by the time I got to this point in this post that I would have had an epiphany and I would know exactly how to finally get rid of anger and resentment. I'm sorry to say that the answer hasn't come yet.

Until it comes all I can suggest is that you recognize these emotions as toxins and at the very least don't throw them out the window as in temper tantrums. My gut reaction is to keep them tightly sealed so that nothing leaks out but I know that's not the answer. Keeping them tightly sealed I feel like just causing the toxic fumes to build up to the point that eventually they will explode and cause even more damage. I'll keep doing sadhana and keep opening up to the grace of the Divine, trusting that the veil of maya will lift and I'll see the answer clearly right in front of me and when that happens I'll be sure to share it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ah... I love Tuesday night yoga!

In tonight's yoga class my teacher talked about playing our edge.  I've been contemplating this idea for some time actually.   What exactly does playing the edge mean?   From the aspect of the asana practice playing the edge may mean attempting plow pose even though I hate it.  While playing the edge tonight I realized that when I play my edge the natural tendency for me is to judge myself.  "I suck as a yogi because I can't even do plow pose" is the thought I caught myself thinking tonight. 

Interesting things happen when we "play our edge".   There's always that challenge of finding the balance between playing the edge and pushing (which I also tend to do).  There you are in side angle pose with your forearm on your knee when the teacher gives you the option to lower your hand onto the floor.  Okay, you play the edge.  You try it.  You lower your hand to the floor. Maybe it's good and you stay there or maybe it's too much, you're pushing so you put your forearm back on your knee.  That's playing the edge.

What about playing the edge off the mat?  What does that look like?  There too, we need to find the balance between playing the edge and pushing too much.   What's your natural tendency?  Do you push and force your way through life or do you just slide by?  Maybe you oscillate between the two.  I'm an oscillator.  Sometimes I find myself pushing and pushing trying to force things to be a certain way and other times I shrink into myself and I have to fight the urge not to hide under the covers forever. 

Where I find playing the edge most challenging is finding the balance between self-confidence and ego. Playing the edge means moving out of the comfort zone.  There is a difference between stepping out of  your comfort zone and bulldozing through it.  That's the edge I'm playing right now.  Sometimes it's a graceful step and sometimes I'm bulldozing.   I'm stepping gracefully when I remember that speaking my mind is okay as long as I'm coming from my heart.  I'm bulldozing when I'm coming from my ego and I shoot my mouth off.

I'm gracefully playing the edge when I stand up for something I believe in.  I'm bulldozing the edge and pushing too hard when I try to force my views on someone else.  The tricky part about playing the edge is that it moves and changes.  It requires conscious choices. 

I feel like I'm playing my edge every time I teach a class.  That edge seems to be changing a bit for me.  I'm feeling more confident as a teacher.  I'm finally no longer apologizing for not being Shiva Das when I sub his class.  I'm realizing that it's okay to just be me.  I'm not sure when or how the edge shifted but it has shifted for sure.  Once again, I now have to play a new edge.  I'm getting the feeling the new edge means that I need to learn to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in, the challenge is to do that without causing harm to anyone else. 

I played my edge tonight.  I tried plow pose instead of taking the easier option of bridge.  I also spoke my mind in person instead of taking the easier option of email.  Did I find balance or did I push too much?  Did I step gracefully out of the comfort zone or did I bulldoze?  My hope is that I stepped gracefully.  Was my ego behind it or was I just playing the edge?  Maybe a little of both?  Life is a balancing act. There's always a lesson. The good thing is that that if we don't get it right the first time there will be another opportunity to try again and again until we get it right.

I'm thinking of a poem that I love called "Our Deepest Fear".   "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?.......

Play your edge but do it consciously and with grace.  You are powerful beyond measure.  Really, you are...