Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time to re-group......

I left my desk this afternoon feeling completely overwhelmed.  The week out sick and then the short week last week for Christmas plus the absent co-workers has wreaked havoc on my workload.   On the drive home my mind is racing with thoughts of all the work I left un-done and all the work waiting for me at home.

I open the front door and that feeling of being overwhelmed intensifies.  The kids are off from school this week for Christmas break so you know what that means.   The house is a mess.  Christmas presents everywhere, sink full of dishes, the trash overflowing.  Let's not even talk about the dirt from the plant that got knocked over on the floor or the fact that snow and salt have been tracked in all over the house. 

Just when I'm ready to blow my top I remember that it's Tuesday.  Tuesday means yoga! Ahh.... okay.  I start to breath a bit deeper and I set to work on cleaning up.  I'm aware that when my surrounds are out of control so are my thoughts.  As I start to put things back in order, my thoughts seems to settle down.  Funny how that works.

Once I've brought at least some order to the house I head off to yoga.  The simple act of unrolling my mat makes me feel calmer.  Tonight's bhavana was gratitude.  Not just the easy gratitude like for the fabulous ipod I got for Christmas or for the fact that my little one tried to help me by making my bed for me but gratitude for the challenges in our lives.  Gratitude for the lessons the Divine so generously places on our laps.

My head hurts.  Was it the beer I drank last night or was it my resistance to feeling grateful for the challenges? I don't really know.  Maybe a little of both.  But slowly, the soothing sound of my teacher's voice, the music, the warmth from the fireplace and the sound of my own breath begin to soften me.  I let go of the tension I brought with me to class.  I let go of the thoughts and I move with my breath. 

By the end of savasana I can honestly say that I didn't want to leave.  I wanted to curl up in front of the fireplace and sleep for a month.  But we all know that the real yoga happens when we get off the mat, right?
Can I hold on to that feeling of calm and peace as I head home?  Will that feeling still be there tomorrow as I sit down to the mountain of work on my desk?  How will I reinforce this sense of letting go?  By practicing more yoga of course.

I realized today that I hadn't practiced in days and I was feeling the effects.  The effect was that feeling of being out of control.   My workload was out of control, my eating was out of control, Christmas spending was out of control and I even drank wine several days in a row without even thinking about it until tonight. 

Okay..... it's time to regroup.  Tonight's yoga practice helped.  Going to bed early tonight will help me get up early tomorrow morning for sadhana.  When the thoughts of the work waiting for me tomorrow begin to dance around in my mind tonight I'll use my mantra.  Not to push the thoughts away but to give my mind sometimes else to think.   When I start to feel overwhelmed tomorrow.... I'll remember to practice yoga - I'll breath deeply, I'll repeat my mantra and I'll take one task at a time.   Keeping my thoughts under control will help me keep my surrounds under control.  With my thoughts under control I can focus more clearly on the task at hand.  With the task at hand complete, my thoughts will be calmer.  Funny how that works. 

I know I know but sometimes I forget and when I remember, then I know.  Yoga Sadhana is the key to holding on to this feeling of calm and peace.....  Om Namah Shivaya!

Monday, December 27, 2010

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change......

 Years ago I decided that I wanted to do some volunteer work.  I didn't know what to do so I called my church and offered to volunteer my time in any way that was needed.  The nun in charge was thrilled to have a volunteer and she was quick to give me an assignment.   I was to visit with shut ins.  Just sit and chat with them.  It wasn't exactly what I had in mind but I accepted the assignment.   I tried several times to connect with an elderly woman in the parish to set up a time for me to go visit with her.  After my third call she says to me "Listen honey, I know you've been looking forward to coming to visit but I'm just too busy right now".     Hilarious!   I call the nun in charge again and explain that I'm not cut out for visits to chat. "I'm more interested in actually doing something to help someone." I tell her.   She replied that sometimes just having someone to talk to is help enough. 

  I have to admit that I still have trouble wrapping my mind around that idea.  When someone has a problem I want to fix it.  Okay, the problem has been identified now let's get to work on fixing it.  There has to be a solution to every problem.  Right?

  Last week-end my daughter and I were watching some TV show called Special Victim Unit Marathon.  One of the episodes ended without telling you which suspect was actually guilty.  It was one person's word against the other.  It made me crazy because there must be some way to know who was guilty!!  How can they end the show like that??  But in real life sometimes we don't really know for sure who's guilty or know for sure what the best solution to a problem is.  Dare I say it? That sometimes there isn't a fix for a problem.

  What do we do if a friend calls us with a problem that just doesn't have a fix? What if what's happening to them just plain sucks and isn't fair and there isn't anything you can do to fix it?  My mind says there must be something I can do to help I just have to think harder to find it.  Then I remember sister Anne's message - sometimes just having someone to talk to is help enough.

 In my hast to find a solution to the problem I sometimes forget that message.  I forget to listen.  I forget to be that someone for a friend to talk to.   I often forget to be that friend to myself too.  In my hast to find a solution I forget to take the time to listen to my own inner guidance.  I forget that sometimes acceptance is the solution to a problem.

                                                               The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The act of acceptance is what opens our hearts and minds so that we can listen for the inner guidance - that "wisdom to know the difference".   Having someone to talk to is help enough........  Be that someone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Food for thought.....

Would you be living differently if you knew that you were going to die in 2 years? I had a conversation with a co-worker today who's husband has cancer.  He's currently on some experimental treatment that seems to be helping him but yesterday he asked the doctor how much time he has. The doctor told him 2 - 5 years.

Yoga philosophy tells us that our final thoughts determine our next incarnation.  If our final thoughts are of God, when we die, we will be united with God and be free from the cycle rebirth.  The scriptures tell us that we should always think of God since we never know when are time in this incarnation will end.   But what if you knew; at least had some idea of when your time would end.  What would you be doing differently?

Would you still lose your temper? Would you still speak harshly to people?  Would you choose sleeping in rather than doing sadhana?  Would you rush off to finish Christmas shopping instead of  inviting a friend to dinner?

These are the questions I've been asking myself today.  My co-worker was saying that at least her husband has time to prepare.   How do you prepare for the end of your life?  Aside from the practical matters like funeral arrangements and I suppose there are financial arrangements you make.  What I thought of when she said he has time to prepare was how will he choose to live his remaining days?

What would you do with your time? What would be important to me is spending time with the people I love.   Simply spending time with them telling them all the things that are in my heart that I have so much trouble letting out.   I would spend time doing things that I love.  I certainly would choose more carefully how I spend my days.  I would choose my words more carefully.  I would choose my thoughts more carefully.

Even though I try to live my life consciously I still sometimes get swept up in the drama of life.  I find myself getting impatient with the cashier who is moving too slow or the driver that cut me off on the road or getting upset with my son who spilled his cereal all over the floor for the second time that day.  Would any of that matter if I knew that my time in this life was coming to an end?  Probably not.

We all know that we should be living as if each day is our last but do we really?  For most of us, I'd venture to say the answer is no.   The reality is that none of us have a guarantee of tomorrow.  Stop for a moment and think about the things you'd want to do or say to someone if you were given the news that you'd have only 2 - 5 years to live. 

Perhaps this Christmas sharing a cup of chai with a friend will be more important than standing in line at the Target buying more junk for people who will have to stand in line at the Target to return that same junk after Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Sadhana

I read an awesome book recently called Yogini, unfolding the Goddess within by Shambhavi Chopra.  In the book Shambhavi talks in detail about her personal sadhanas.  With the book still fresh in my mind I was excited about the prospect of doing a special sadhana during the lunar eclipse.  

I thought about it all day yesterday.  I chose the asanas and the mantras that I'd use, I set my alarm clock for 1:30am.  I caught myself more than once having expectations of the experience.  I gently reminded myself that expectations only set me up for disappointment.  By 1:15am I couldn't resist any longer. Was it the pull of the full moon calling me to the yoga mat or was it my anticipation?  Whatever it was, it was strong enough to get my kapha ass out of bed at 1:15am. 

I think about Shambhavi's elaborate preparations for sadhana as I wash my face and hands (my preparations aren't quite as involved) Now it's 1:25am and I'm ready.  I set out my mat, light a candle and offer a prayer.  I do a few moon salutations. I love that sequence but after a few I'm ready for meditation.  

The only thought I was aware of during meditation was the thought that I should be outside looking at the moon.  I continue repeating the mantras.  Om Namaha Shivaya, Om Hrim Shrim Dum Durgaya Namaha, Om Som Somaya Namaha...... An hour passes.  I didn't have visions of the Divine, no fireworks, just meditation. 

As I come out of meditation I notice that my body feels like it's vibrating.  I sit for a moment and then go outside.   I've never actually seen an eclipse before.  I look for the moon where I last saw it last night but it wasn't there. I felt a moment of disappointment  before I found the moon right over my house.  It's about 2:30am at this point and the eclipse is almost complete.  The moon is a reddish color that I had read about and the stars were so bright and plentiful.  It was lovely! I continue to chant Om Som Somaya Namaha as I watch the eclipse. 

I went back to my alter for a few more minutes repeating the mantra to the moon.  I go back to bed with the mantras still repeating in my mind.  My dreams were so vivid and strange.  I didn't experience anything unusual.   I didn't travel out of my body, the Divine didn't appear before me.  What I experienced was a deep meditation.  I witnessed the lunar eclipse for the first time.  I strengthened my will by setting the intention to get up for sadhana and actually doing it. 

Whether your sadhana is an elaborate production like Shambhavi's or simply  repeating a few mantras the important thing is that you practice.  Set an intention, practice, and experience what you experience without expectation.  Each time you practice, the will is strengthened.  We show up on the mat, do our part and leave the rest up to the will of the Divine!

Om Som Somaya Namaha! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another lesson in acceptance

How generous the Divine is with me! She has once again given me an opportunity to practice acceptance! I am grateful for the practice because I am far from mastering this strange concept!

One of the few benefits of having a kapha body is that I typically am aware of the natural strength of my body.   That, unfortunately, has not been the case this week.  During Monday morning's practice what I felt was tired and the absence of strength was what I was aware of during Surya Namaskar (sun salutations). What could I do? - practice acceptance.

I have obviously not been listening to my inner guidance which was telling me I've been pushing too hard.  Since I wasn't listening, the Divine had to take drastic measures.  This drastic measure resulted in me spending the next  3 days in bed unable to function.  Really?   Did I really need to get sick when there is still so much to do before Christmas?  - What could I do? - practice acceptance.

My intention this week was to go to Shiva Das' Inner Fire Yoga morning retreat on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then spend the rest of those days doing Christmas shopping, wrapping, sending Christmas cards, blah, blah, blah..... You know the drill.  In other words, doing too much so as not to "waste" the last 3 vacation days of the year.  

You know the saying "Man plans and God laughs"?  Well God must of been rolling on the floor with laughter as I was making my plans for this week.   What could I do? - practice acceptance.

So here it is, less than 10 days till Christmas and I haven't finished anything.  Haven't finished shopping, wrapping, baking, Nothing.  Needless to say, don't be looking in your mailbox for my Christmas card - it won't be there.  What can I do? - practice acceptance. 

As I woke up this morning I felt the gentle nudge from the Divine calling me to the mat.   Physically I still wasn't feeling my normal strength level but my body was smiling.  It was time to get back to my yoga practice.  There was a brief moment of guilt when I realized that it had been 3 days without sadhana but then I remembered that it was my sadhana to practice acceptance.   What else could I do?

I did feel guilty for having to cancel my Monday night yoga class and I felt bad that I couldn't sub for Shiva Das on Tuesday but I could not ignore the Divine "brick on my head" telling me that REST was what I  required.  Once I chose to practice acceptance I was able to get the rest I needed.  Perhaps the fact that I didn't push myself is the reason why I was able to get back to mat after only 3 days. 

I'm grateful that this lesson was a brief one and I really hope I earned a gold star. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ancient yogic secret revealed.....

Listen up folks, I'm about to share with you an ancient yogic secret.  To reduce the negative you must increase the positiveWhat? You already knew that?  Yeah, me too.  There is a different, though, between knowing something and really KNOWING it.  Today I really KNOW it.
Have you seen that commercial on t.v. for Xfinity?  There's a little girl sitting on ground with some crazy doll.  The doll is shaking and repeating "let's rock, let's rock, let's rock.... over and over and the parents look on in frustration.   The mother doesn't yell at the girl to shut that damn doll off because that would only make the kid cry.  Instead, she simply places a lap top in front of the kid so she can watch some movie and while the kid was distracted she took the doll away. She reduced a negative (that annoying doll)  by adding a positive (giving the kid a movie to watch)
This ancient yogic secret works the same way in other areas of our life. You have a bad habit you want to eliminate, rather than struggling with the bad habit, you simply add a good habit and eventually, while you're distracted with the good habit, the bad habit will naturally fall away.
Let's say we have a lot of anger in our heart.  That's a negative, but we're not going to struggle with the anger (that would only makes us cry) we're going to simply add a positive.  The positive being - love and forgiveness.  When we fill our hearts with love, the negative (anger) will naturally fall away without struggle.   Adding the positive -love, reduces the negative - anger.
Imagine you walk into a dark room.  If you want to eliminate the darkness you need to turn on the light.  There's no struggle, you don't freak out because the room is dark.  It won't help to try to analyze why the room is dark or what the darkness means.  You simply turn on the light and the darkness is eliminated.
Do you see what I'm getting at?  You don't have to analyze negative emotions.  You simply acknowledge them and then turn on the light - LOVE and FORGIVENESS.   The negative will fall away naturally.
The same is true during meditation.  As a thought enters your mind you don't struggle with the thought, you don't analyze the thought or try to figure it out.  You simply add a positive - the mantra and the thought naturally falls away.  ( I'm not implying that thoughts are all negative but during meditation, they can be a distraction keeping us reaching a state of meditation. In that case you could consider thoughts a negative.)
Okay, so maybe it's not an ancient yogic secret.  Maybe we all already know this but do you REALLY KNOW it?  Are you applying what you know to your day to day life?  If not, what the heck are you waiting for?  


Sunday, December 5, 2010

What makes a good day?

When you wake up in the morning you never really know how the day will turn out.  Still we get up with the hope that today will be a good day.  What exactly constitutes a good day?  Is it when everything goes according to your desires?  Is it when you aren't irritated by someone? 

A man that I work with says that it's a good day when he can get out of bed and onto his feet without assistance.  For most of us, we need a bit more to make it a good day.  

Yesterday my day began the same as it always does with the exception of the feeling of anticipation.  It was the day of our field trip.  I was up before the chickens which meant that I was able to do a longer
sadhana (meditation practice)  - That's a good day.  Then off to Shiva Das' yoga class where my sadhana continued.   The bhavana - a reminder of Amma's message to all of us -- LOVE AND SERVE.

I'm usually really focused during my yoga practice but yesterday I couldn't focus.  Was it the anticipation of our field trip or maybe it was the effect of the Gayatri mantra I chanted in my morning sadhana.  Perhaps it was a combination. Still it's a good day.  

Our Upanishad study group, along with our teacher, spent the day together.  We visited the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam.  We shared a meal together, visited the temple, did some shopping at the bookstore.  It was a lovely day.  What exactly made it a good day?  Was it the shopping?  Was it the temple?  No.  It was the friendship.  It was sitting at Ed's drinking chai, talking about yoga and about life.   It was a good day because we were sharing  our love of yoga with people who talk the same language.  All of us are at different places in our lives and at different places in our spiritual evolution but yoga connects us to one another.

As I drove home I thought - This was such a good day.  I went to sleep feeling so much gratitude.
Gratitude to my family for their cooperation so that I could spend the time with  friends.  Gratitude to my teachers for their loving guidance and gratitude for the friendships that have developed through this beautiful practice of yoga.

What exactly constitutes a good day?   * when you take the time for sadhana
                                                           * when you love and serve others
                                                           * when you remember to be grateful for the blessing
                                                           * when you have the support of family and friends and teachers
Okay, I admit it, Jim is right...........      * when you can get out of bed and onto your feet - with or without
                                                              help - that's a good day!

                                                          Photo credit:  Ed Zadlo and Jessica Farrell