Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Let your light shine!

Can I tell you how shocked I was to discover that I have been carrying this crazy little belief "I'm not good enough" even into my spiritual practice!! I knew that this little statement has played a huge role in my life but I never thought that I was carrying it even into my sadhana. What the hell was I thinking - Of course I was!! That's the problem with these little beliefs - they are so ingrained in us that they effect every aspect of our lives. They are sneaky, so sneaky that we don't even realize just how much we are affected by them. Well, the light has been turned on and now I see it. There's no hiding - it's time for this little bugger to be exterminated from my consciousness once and for all!!

The little bugger that has been infesting my life is "I'm not good enough". Yours might be different. Regardless of what the belief is that we are carrying around, I say that it's time to turn the light on and see it for what it is -- false!

Remember the blog I posted a while back about what motivates us? Well, I've been experimenting lately by asking myself "what's my motivation". It was this question "what's my motivation behind my sadhana?" That helped me see that my motivation at times was "I want to prove to my teacher that I am a sincere yogi" "I want to show him that I am worthy to be his student". Upon further reflection I became aware that these motivations were being fed by my belief - I'm not good enough. I honestly thought that his aloofness was because I wasn't a good enough yogi. If I could just work harder to be good enough then maybe he would want to be my guru. Really? In the words of Dr. Seuss - Oh the things that we think!! Craziness!!

Even as I write this blog that little bugger keeps playing in my mind. The difference is that now there is another belief that's beginning to shine through. It's the belief that I AM more than good enough. I am progressing on the spiritual path.  How I know that is because I can see the truth behind the false belief. I know because I can look into those dark corners of myself and not be afraid and not run away.  I know that somewhere in the darkness there is a light and all I have to do is find the switch.

I know I'm progressing on this path because I no longer believe that I am not good enough. It's like the story of the people looking into a dark room and thinking that a rope was a snake. When they turned on the light they saw it for what it was - a rope. It isn't until we turn on our own light that we see our true nature which is most definitely more than good enough. It is Divine!

I've always thought that by letting my own inner light shine that I was feeding the ego. But now I'm seeing that it was actually my fear of not being good enough that prevented me from even trying to turn the light on.

Well, put on your sunglasses folks because it's time for us to let our inner light shine!!   Repeating positive affirmations may be a good option. When a false belief pops into your mind (as we all know they will) you could use a positive affirmation.  For example, when I have the thought "I'm not good enough" I can change the thought to "I am perfect".  I know it sounds a bit cheesey -sorry about that - but give it a try. It might feel awkward and phony at the beginning.  We've been carrying these negative beliefs for so long that now they feel true so if we carry the positive affirmation around for a long time eventually that too will feel true only this time it will be true!!

For those of us who shy away from cheesiness I would recommend (this is my favorite and most effective technique) is to use mantra.  Whenever I recognize the negative thought pattern starting I mentally repeat a mantra.  Om Namah Shivaya is one I use often.  Shiva is about transformation - we are working to transform the negative into positive so it seems fitting. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is your relationship to sadhana?

At the beginning of a new relationship we are excited and everything is wonderful and we want to spend all our time with our new beloved. We're so happy that we want to shout it for the roof-tops. We wonder why everyone isn't in love - it's such a wonderful state to be in. This is the honeymoon phase.

Suddenly, it's not so exciting. There are challenges. We need to learn to work with the challenges and use them to strength the relationship but it's hard and takes work. For some, too much work. There's no doubt that the honeymoon is over. This is usually the time when people begin to long for the honeymoon bliss and they begin to think that maybe their beloved isn't the right person for them. Then someone new catches their eye and the bliss of the honeymoon phase begins again. For a while anyway and then the real work of being in a relationship begins and again - discontent sets in and cycle begins again.

Some folks however, work through the challenges, they continue to love their beloved even when it gets hard and not so exciting. They may think back to the honeymoon phase and smile knowing that even though that phase has passed they have something better. If they are lucky, they reach a phase where there is ease in the relationship. They can relax because they know that no matter what challenges they face - their beloved has their back. Their beloved knows all their faults and loves them anyway. Now that's unconditional love.

The cycle of relationships is the same with the relationship to our sadhana (spiritual practice). We begin a new sadhana and we are excited and we feel blissful and wonderful and we shout it from the roof-tops "Hey, I found the best practice ever!" We want to spend as much time as we can practicing. We are in the honeymoon phase and everything is perfect.

But wait. Suddenly, the sadhana isn't so exciting anymore. There are challenges. You begin to experience some unresolved emotions and they aren't pleasant. Perhaps, our practice is bringing to light some things about ourselves that we need to work on. Where's the bliss we felt in the honeymoon phase? We begin to think maybe this sadhana isn't the right one for us. After all, we've been practicing for months and we haven't reached enlightenment. This is usually the time when another technique or another tradition catches our eye. We begin a relationship with another sadhana and the honeymoon phase begins until we reach the point where the real work is required and  then cycle continues.

Consider, for a moment, what the benefits would be in sticking with your sadhana even when it gets hard and you are tempted to explore the wide array of practices available to you. Can you love your sadhana even when it's hard and not so exciting?

In my humble opinion, if we can learn to work through the challenges we face in the practice, we can strengthen our will and we can move forward in our spiritual evolution. It's hard and takes work. It's not so exciting to get up early and roll out the mat when it's dark and cold outside. It's hard work to look at ourselves through the mirror of sadhana but the reward is far better that the bliss of the honeymoon phase.

When we approached our sadhana sincerely, systemically and with sustained enthusiasm for many, many years, if we are lucky, we reach a state of contentment. We feel a sense of ease with life. We are content in the knowledge that no matter what challenges we face - our beloved sadhana has our back. Our beloved - the Divine - knows all our faults and loves us anyway - Now that's unconditional love!

I must admit that I am tempted to explore and wander about checking out all the various sadhanas that are so abundant these days. During those times I remember the analogy of digging a well. If I dig a little here and dig a little there I'll never find water. The key is to pick a spot and keep at it.

There is nothing better in this world than settling down in the comfort of my sadhana. There is a comfort in knowing that after all these years of practice, I have successfully moved from the honeymoon phase and I'm working on using the challenges I face to strengthen my will and move forward in my spiritual evolution. I can relax in knowledge that the Divine has my back.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What have you learned today?

During a recent visit to yogaland aka: Yoga On Main I was listening to everyone share such moving and profound things and after each person spoke I could feel myself wanting to chime in with my "2 cents" worth. "Yeah, yeah! I know what you mean! That's happened to me too!". But my turn for sharing had passed and I sat quietly taking in the wisdom that was being offered by my fellow yogis.

Here are a few little golden nuggets of wisdom that I feel compelled to share with you.

* Trying to stuff your feelings in an effort to avoid expressing them doesn't work.

* Not all your feelings are going to be all warm and fluffy - and that's okay - what
   matters is not how you feel exactly, but rather what you do with those feelings and how you handle
   them that really matters.

* The practice of meditation helps us to step back into our heart before we speak so that when we do
   speak, our words are more loving and compassionate.

* Even in the midst of chaos, there is peace - we just need to be aware that it's there and make the choice
   to shift the focus from the chaos to peace

* An important component to communicating is listening. Not just to what's being said but to the 
   intention/feeling behind the words. The practice of meditation helps us get in touch with subtle energy so 
   that we are better able to "listen" to the message of the heart.
   - Someone once told me "you don't have to say everything you know." It's advice I'm trying to live by and
   it gives me a greater opportunity to listen.

* Many of us have difficulty finding our voice and that fear of expressing ourselves hinders us in putting our
   true self out there. What is it that we're afraid of? Maybe we're afraid of not being accepted or we're afraid
   that what we have to say may upset someone else.  There's also the fear that what we have to say isn't
   important enough. Oh, I could go on and on about this subject but why bother... The bottom line is:  Speak
   your truth - Be your authentic self and to hell with those people who don't like it!! (oops. did I really say
   that? YES I did and I meant it - Om Namah Shivaya!)

* While some have difficulty finding their voice, others have no trouble at all. For those of us who "express"
   ourselves continually, Perhaps the lesson is to pay attention to the effect that your expressing has on those 
   around you. I would also offer that perhaps some of us need to examine our motivation for saying the
   things that  we so freely "express". My teacher says that truth is often used as a baseball bat - be cautious
   that you are not swinging those feelings/words like a bat.

* The importance of a sangha(spiritual community) goes without saying. Let's face it, we do not live in a
   culture that understands or values the intense internal work that we do on the mat and meditation cushion.
   During times of intense sadhana (spiritual practice) the support of the group is vitally important. Although, I
   caution you to be aware that when you "process" your stuff that you actually let it go. Some of us get
   attached to our "stuff" and we like to revisit the stuff that we are working to get rid of. We get attached to
   the story of the stuff and the story of how we are dealing with it and we feel the need to share every detail
   of our process.  Remember "you don't have to say everything you know". 


* That brings me to the final point (at least for now). The question of the day was "What is it that you need
    to let go of?" -- Letting go is such a challenge for us control freaks. Even when we know that something
    no longer serves us we can't seem to let it go. Why? Perhaps because it's familiar. Perhaps it's because
    we're attached. Perhaps we think we may need it again some day.  It could be because the fear of the
    unknown troubles is scarier than the troubles we know.  Regardless of the excuses we tell ourselves about
    why we can't let it go we MUST let it go.  

What is it that I need to let go today? Self-doubt.  What about you?  What are you holding on to that no longer serves you?   This is a very important lifetime in your spiritual evolution! What are you doing about it?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Oh.... I forgot.

"I know I know but sometimes I forget and when I remember, then I know"*.   As I begin to come out of this fog that has been filling my mind I begin to remember all the things that I have forgotten.

During this morning's practice I remembered that it's not about the external pose but what's going on internally during the practice.  I forgot but now I remember - now I know.   It's about relaxing into the pose and letting the asanas unfold as I step back from the thoughts and witness the grace of the practice as it unfolds organically. 

I have been lost in the jungle of my mind.  I've been stuck in quick sand and suffocating under the heaviness of the jungle environment.  I forgot that the more I struggle, the more entangled I become - but now I remember - now I know.  It's about surrendering into the flow of life - even if it's not moving in the direction that I want to go.  When I'm lost in the mind I find the flow of grace in the flow of my breath.  - now I know.

I've been feeling disillusioned with the whole concept of enlightenment.  I can't help but wonder if this concept is even real.  Is it like trying to touch the horizon?  Do I need to be on drugs to have a spiritual awakening? I've been doing sadhana sincerely, systematically and with sustained enthusiasm for many years now, why can't I maintain a state of equanimity?  I can't maintain a state of equanimity for the same reason I can't maintain my balance in a challenging asana like Virbradrasana III -- my mind  - I remember now, my mind prevents me.  I get tangled in the thoughts and forget to focus on the breath.  I forgot but now I remember - now I know.  Yoga is a journey not a destination.  The vehicle for this journey is sadhana, daily spiritual practice.

I've been approaching my sadhana like I'm getting into the car, I'm going to drive my car (the mantra) and I'm going to reach enlightenment in exactly 1 hour.  I forgot to enjoy the ride.  Now I remember.  Now I know - sadhana for the sake of achieving some elusive goal is just like trying to touch the horizon.  I remember now that sadhana for the sake of sadhana without attachment to the result is the practice. 

I had forgotten how excited I was when I first began yoga teacher training.  Now I remember that when the heaviness of kapha begins to set in I need to seek out things that bring me joy.  Now I know that I need to get excited about learning something new.  Perhaps it's a good time to get excited about the Yoga and Ayurveda course by Dr. Frawley that I have been avoiding. 

I've been forgetting to feel grateful.  Today I remember.  When I remember - then I know - I am blessed.
This morning's practice helped me to remember why I fell in love with yoga in the first place.  It's the practice that helps the mental fog to clear.  It's the practice that helps me to remember that we're all already enlightened we just forget sometimes.

(*this is an Ed Zadlo quote)