Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yoga Sutra challenge day #3 Asteya

Yoga Sutra challenge day #3 Asteya -- Non-stealing. Not taking that which is not given.

Before we talk about Asteya let's check in and see how we did with Satya(Truthfulness).   I thought
this one would be the easiest but again, there were some challenges.   Mostly because I felt like if I told the truth about how I was feeling it might be hurtful to others.  So I felt like I was left holding these feelings/emotions in my lap and didn't know exactly what to do with them.  I know that we are suppose to acknowledge them and then let them go.  It's the letting them go part I need to figure out how to do.

I noticed how difficult it is to be completely honest.  Someone asks you, "how are you doing?"  You smile and say "I'm okay. How are you?"  When you really want to say "I'm doing terrible, this happened....that happened......" but we don't.  We smile and say "I'm ok".   We might even be dishonest with ourselves.  We tell ourselves we're too busy to meditate.  We tell ourselves that it's okay to use cupcakes and cosmopolitans to make ourselves feel better.  We might tell ourselves that we've got everything under control and we don't need any help.  These are some the challenges I faced.   Being honest with myself was been the hardest part of Satya.

Now, on to day#3:  Asteysa - non-stealing.  Again, the obvious we already know.  We don't steal material things.  This one is a no brainer.  What causes people to steal anything whether it be stealing things or money, or stealing credit for someone else's work is desire.   Desire for something other than what you have.  One of the fundamental principals of yoga is letting go of desires.  (remember my nemesis: contentment - we'll take more about that on day#7)

Taking something which is not given.  This makes me think of taking someone's self-esteem when you put them down or criticize them.  I took a yoga workshop yesterday on how to bring yoga to folks who have been through some trauma or are recovering from substance abuse or domestic violence.  We talked about how the children who have been abused have had their innocence stolen from them.  This is an extreme example but you get the idea.  Taking something which is not given is stealing.

I believe for most of us, this one will be easy.  We don't take anything which is not given.  That means if the distracted cashier gives you more change than she should - you give it back.  You don't take credit for someone else's work.  You don't sign up to do seva to get a discount and then don't do the work.  

Asteya, I believe also refers to not taking people's time and energy unnecessarily.  You know those people that you're afraid to make eye contact with for fear that you'll be spending the next 20 minutes hearing all their problems?  You know the ones that you don't dare ask how they're doing.  Be respectful.  Don't engage in gossip.  Gossip is a form of stealing someone's reputation and it's just plain mean.  It can be challenging at times when you get frustrated with someone, but try to just walk away when the gossip begins. 

Well, that's all I have to say about that for now.  Truth be told, this experiment is much hard than I thought.  It's interesting to notice how often the opportunity to practice these principals comes up in a day.  If I'm being honest with myself, I have a lot more work to do on myself.  Onward and upwards.... day after day, we are given yet another opportunity to make positive changes in our lives.  Choose wisely and forgive yourself when you make a mistake.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Yoga Sutras Challenge: Day2 - Satya

Day 2 of our Yoga Sutra challenge. The theme of the day is Satya: Truthfulness. But first a word about day#1:


I'd like to tell you that yesterday's practice with ahimsa was wonderful and that I have mastered that yama but I'd be lying. In the spirit of truthfulness I'm going to tell you the ugly truth about my practice of ahimsa. It was quite a challenge. I found myself wanting to smack the person giving me an attitude for no good reason. Let's not even talk about the temper tantrum I had in the car when the idiot (ahem... excuse me) the guy
was driving too close to me or the car that didn't signal before coming into my lane.  When someone spoke harshly to me I found myself lashing back with my words before I even realized what I was saying. The good news about the experiment was that I was more aware. Simply by setting the intention that I was going to do my best to cause no harm to anyone, including myself, I believe helped me to think before I reacted. Listen, I'm not a saint, I know I'm not perfect but I'm trying and that's all I can do.

Now, on to day#2: Satya/Truthfulness. We all know already that we shouldn't tell a lie. Although maybe some of us need a reminder that we shouldn't use the truth as a baseball bat. Ahimsa and truthfulness should go hand in hand. If telling the truth would be hurtful, Ahimsa should take precedence over truthfulness. (at least in my opinion) What do you think?

Think of Satya as a filter for the crazy thoughts. When the thought comes "I'm not good enough" let it go through the Satya filter. Is that the truth? Probably not. Oh, by the way, this goes for the self-inflating, egotistical thoughts too. The same thing applies to our motivations. Are you volunteering the save the whales because you really care deeply about the whales or are you volunteering because you want everyone to be impressed about your activism? Either way, by all means, save the whales just be honest about it.
The truth is, where I find the most difficulty in the practice of satya is when it comes to my intuition. Is it the truth or is it my ego? Another question that plagues me often is this: Sometimes I get angry. That's the truth of what I'm feeling - angry - but I have to let it go. By letting it go does that mean I'm not being truthful about how I'm feeling? Do I pretend to be happy when really I'm angry? Is that truthful?

I guess it goes back to ahimsa. I'm angry, yes, but holding on to it will only cause harm to myself and if I act out of anger then I'm causing harm to someone else in my words, thoughts or deeds. Ahimsa takes precedence. Remember that quote: "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" Honestly, I'd like to be both, happy and right but when I can't be both I guess I'd rather be happy.

Day#2 starts now........ Be truthful .......and remember ahimsa....... I once again invite you to post a comment. Share your thoughts and advice. We all need a spiritual community to support us on this journey (ain't that the truth!!) Let's be that support to each other.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yoga Sutras Challenge, Day 1: Ahimsa

"OMG! You are such a yoga dork" This is what my friend, Val said to me once when I told her I was going to my teacher's house to study the Upanishads one Friday evening. I admit it, I am a dork. I can remember being kid and locking myself in my room and spending hours on my red bean bag chair reading book after book while the other neighborhood kids were outside. I guess I've always been a dork so why would I expect that to change now.

I am probably the only person I know who actually spends time - nearly every day - thinking and contemplating the Yamas and Niyamas. Remember those? They are the personal and social ethics that we yogis should be living by? (Val, you were right - I am a dork) I can't say that I've mastered them in any way but they are usually not far from my mind. My inner control freak likes the clear, straight forward way that Patanjali set down these guidelines for us.

I am curious, though, why does it seem that so few yogis actually follow these guidelines? It's no coincidence that Patanjali lists them as the 1st and 2nd steps on the 8-fold yoga path. They are the foundation of all spiritual practice.

In an effort to deepen my connection to my personal practice and in preparation to teach the yoga sutras I've decided to dive a little deeper into these principles. Perhaps you'd like to join me on this exploration.  I'm not going to list them all now.  I'm going to choose one at a time and I'm going to consciously put it into practice through out the day.  I will give you my thoughts about how it goes via this blog.   It would make sense to start with the first one but the first one is Ahimsa (non-harming) and since I've spend most of the day today mentally slapping people that would not be a good one to start with. 

Well, maybe it's the perfect one to start with.   Okay so, tomorrow.  I'm going to try to practice Ahimsa in my thoughts, (Yes, I said thoughts) words, and deeds.  The obvious thing we think about when we think non-harming is physical harm to others.  But have you thought about the physical harm you are causing to yourself when you eat unhealthy foods?  What about the physical harm from those (damn good) margaritas?

Being mindful not to do harm with our words towards others as well as ourselves.  To be mindful means that we need to be present.  I try my best not to use my words to hurt others but when I fail at ahimsa in my words it's usually when I am distracted or frustrated and not fully present. It's in those situations that I don't think before I speak and my words can sometimes be hurtful.  (When that happens, apologize to the person you have hurt and then forgive yourself) 

Holy Hell!!! Here's the hard one for me.  Practice Ahimsa in your thoughts.  That means no more mentally slapping people.  :-(    I have to say that the first time my teacher mentioned Ahimsa in my thoughts my mouth fell to the ground.  DAMN! THAT WAS MY LAST GUILTY PLEASURE!   Violence begins in the mind with our thoughts.  Even when we aren't physically or verbally harming someone our thoughts may be projecting harmful energy towards others or ourselves.  How many times have you had negative thoughts about yourself?  If you're like me, a zillion times a day.  Guess what?? That's not practicing Ahimsa. 

You know what else??  I'm really glad that I don't have an official guru who can read my mind.  Think about it, would you want your spiritual teacher knowing what goes on in your mind??  Considering the drama going on in my mind today...... Hell No!

Even if you think I'm a dork I still want you to join me on this adventure.  Let's start with Ahimsa, non-harming.  Tomorrow, practice Ahimsa and then leave a comment and let us know how you do.  What was your biggest challenge? How did you feel at the end of the day?   Remember:  No judgement - simple observations.  If you don't leave a comment I'll start obsessing over the fact that you all think I'm a dork so please - leave a comment - be anonymous if you want - but let me know what you discover...... Adventures are always more fun when you can share it with someone. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

And the challenges continue......

"Ask and you shall receive".   I asked, Am I enough? What I received was opportunities to practice will power and discipline.  I know I should be feeling grateful for the opportunities to prove that I am enough but what I'm feeling instead is that I should be careful what I ask for.


It's been about 108 degrees the last few days and it's expected to be even hotter today. Tempers are flaring and my A/C broke last night.   Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.  Since I can't sleep anyway I decided to practice.   Before I can practice I have some obstacles to get over.


* I'm too tired to practice
* It's way too hot to move
* kid sleeping in the space I use for practice
* Did I mention, it's so damn hot?
* I'm too cranky to practice


Where's my motivation right now?  I have none. 

This is the beginning of a post I started on Friday morning.......I was just about to delete it but I decided not too.  The reality is that being a yogi is not always all peaches and cream.  Sometimes even yogis get cranky.  I took a sick day from work.  Waiting around for the repair man for like 6 hours, took a dip in the pool, had dinner with my mom, aunt and cousins, a very strong margarita and finally some sleep.

Saturday morning..... still cranky...... still missing my yoga class and doubting my decision to stop going.

I roll out the mat and the world falls away for while. The yoga mat has become sort of a security blanket for me.   I breath and move and watch the practice unfold.  An hour later I'm ready for meditation.  My body is ready but my mind is now racing again.  I did some alternate nostril breathing and began the meditation technique.  Finally, meditation happened

The practice of meditation too, isn't always peaches and cream.  Sometimes it brings up crap that we've buried deep down.   It brings to the surface old emotions and experiences.   When this first happened to me 10 years ago when I first started meditating I thought I must be doing something wrong.  After all, the reason I started meditating is so that I could be in bliss all the time..... Funny.... The crazy misconceptions we have about these practices. 

What did I think would happen to all the crap that I am carrying around?  Did I think it would just evaporate?

Ultimately, what goes in must come out. Right?  So, let's be careful what goes in.  Be mindful of the foods you take in and the experiences you take in.  For the record, Margarita do NOT help cranky yoginis become less cranky.

 The other thing I'd like to share with you is THE MOST IMPORTANT MEDITATION ADVICE YOU'LL EVER HEAR:  (this comes from an expert, David Frawley) - paraphrasing, of course.

Now pay attention:  When emotions come up during meditation you don't have to analyze them or try to figure out where they came from or why they are coming up now.  We treat them as we do any other random thought.  The emotion comes up, we acknowledge it, and then let it go.  Releasing the emotions is part of the process of sadhana.  We are letting go of all that no longer serves us.  Old resentments and hurts serve no purpose on our path. 

After class yesterday, one of the students told me that she was really stiff but that she needs to keep moving.  I reminded her not to push too much.   She thought about this for a minute and then as she was leaving the studio she said "it's really hard not to push".   HOLY HELL!! Isn't that the truth.  She decided that somewhere in middle of doing nothing and pushing too much is where she should be.  That sounds about right.

It's okay to be cranky - just don't get stuck there.  Keep moving forward - but don't push too much - somewhere in the middle is where we need to strive to be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Am I enough?

It's official, I am a yoga junkie.  I have decided that now is the time for me to give up my twice weekly yoga class.  Last night was the first class I missed and I can honestly say that I was totally having withdrawal symptoms!!  This is crazy.  It was so freakin hard to stay away!!  I've often wondered and now I can say for sure that yoga is simply another addiction for me. 

Here I am, after a 16 year love affair with yoga, I find myself a yoga orphan.  This is the first time that I do not have a regular class to "belong" to.  The Universe has put me in this unsettling position which means, of course, there is a lesson to be learned.  I better learn it quickly because I am not liking how this feels!!

What could this lesson be? Here's my initial thoughts:

*  All addictions are attachments and attachments lead to suffering.... even good attachments are still attachments.  Suffer is inevitable because nothing lasts forever.

*  Trusting and following my inner guidance even if it takes me away from a teacher who I love and respect.

*  There comes a time when we need to rely on our own will-power and not on others to motivate us to practice.

*  A great teacher inspires us, inspires and fans the flames of our own desire for self-realization but does not keep us dependent on them for our progress on this spiritual path.

That's what I've come up with so far but I'm sure the Universe has big plans for me.  I can't wait to see what unfolds next.

What motivates us to practice? Is it simply an addiction? When we are practicing daily sadhana in our own home the motivation changes.  We come to the mat (okay, I admit it  - in my pajamas most mornings) as we are. No fan fare, no fancy yoga gear, no-one to impress.  Just you and your will.   The game is different.

This morning, reality set in and I realized that the stakes just got higher.  Do I have the discipline to continue my daily practice?  Will I be enough support for myself? Who will push me to challenge myself?  Eknath Easwaran says "you have the greatest friend in the world - your will and you have the greatest enemy in the world - your will".   Is my will friend or foe?

What will be my motivation on those cold, dark, winter mornings?  Will my addiction to the practice be enough  to get myself out of my warm comfy bed and onto the cold mat?  Only time will tell.  Will my addiction to yoga continue even if I'm on my own? I sure as hell hope so!!

A personal practice does give me a unique advantage.   It gives me the opportunity to explore asanas that are too scary to practice in a group.  This morning I actually worked on shoulder-stand!  When I first started a home practice years ago I felt like I had to think too much when I was practicing on my own.  I had to figure out what pose came next.  How long should I hold each pose.  Did I remember the counter pose.  When I went to class I didn't have to think.  I trusted the teacher completely.  I closed my eyes and flowed with his instructions.  Just like with other addictions, it was a way to escape from my mind for a little while.

What I've been discovering is that the same is true in my home practice.  Instead of following the guidance of the teacher's voice I am now following the inner guidance of my own inner voice.  My body tells me exactly what poses to do. It tells me how long to hold each pose.  The counter pose comes naturally.  We all have this inner guide.  The trouble is that most times there is too much chatter in the mind to notice the whispers. Even when we do hear it, we sometimes don't trust.  When we tune in and trust ourselves there's no doubt that we know exactly what the practice should look like.  Each home practice is guaranteed to be exactly what I need. After all, who knows better than me what that is?

Make no mistakes, I am NOT happy about my status as a yoga orphan but since I have no choice in the matter I need to make the best of it. 

Are you there God? it's me, Mirella...... I surrender....... I'm accepting this new adventure..... Not my will but thy will be done!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Catch me I'm falling Part 2

I can't help but wonder what the little bird thinks when he's shoved out of the nest. What is the momma bird thinking? I suppose the momma bird knows when the time is right and she knows that it's the natural process of things.  But what about baby bird? What thought crosses it's mind at the moment when he realizes he's no longer safe in the nest but now in mid-air without the nest beneath him?

My guess is that he's thinking.... "OH HELL! I HOPE THESE WINGS WORK!!!"

I suppose at some point we all get that little shove from the universe. What we do next is up to us. We can do nothing and crash head first into the earth or we can flap our wings as hard as we can and hope for the best. After all, isn't this what we've been preparing for all along?

We ask the Divine for what we want but then we let fear hold us back from what we want. We humans are so strange. Haven't we realized yet that life is too short to sit in the nest day-dreaming about flying?

Attachment, I've discovered is really about fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. We're safe where we are even if where we are is no longer serving us. We become attached to what we know. What is familiar to us.

I watched my nephew clinging to the wall at the roller skating rink. He so badly wanted to skate with the other kids but he was afraid to let go of the wall. So he skated but only along the wall. One hand on the wall and the other hand reaching out towards the center of the rink where the real skating was happening.

Holding on to the wall is okay at first but at some point we need to trust in ourselves and let go of the support we've grown so attached to and stand, or fall, on our own. We may fall down a few times in the beginning but eventually we will find that we have learned more than we ever imagined.

I have been given an incredibly wonderful opportunity to share my passion for yoga sadhana as part of a new yoga teacher training program. It's an opportunity I've been asking the Divine for so why was I letting fear hold me back? I've been skating with one hand on the wall and other reaching for what I wanted all along. I couldn't reach it because I'm depending too much on the wall for support. 

For months the Divine has been showing me that the wall was no longer serving me but I couldn't let go. I didn't have the confidence in myself and I had become very dependent on that support.

(Oh..... I just had a realization..... perhaps this is why SD isn't a fan of props. Maybe, like the wall, the props make us too comfortable and we don't challenge ourselves enough when we get too comfortable.)

So God, in his infinite wisdom, has given me a big shove out of the nest. Here I am mid-air. What's going through my mind?

OH HELL!! I HOPE THESE WINGS WORK!!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Catch me I'm falling.......

"There are so few things in life you can trust".......Really?........ This is the crazy thought that hijacked my mind this morning.  Apparently, meditation is working to unearth these crazy false belief patterns that are stuck in my consciousness.  You would think that since I have been meditating regularly, systematically and with sustained enthusiasm for the past 10 years that I wouldn't have anything left to 'unearth'.  There is obviously more work to be done.

The difference today was that as the thought came up I immediately saw it for what it was...... Completely false.   Although I know in my head that this belief "there are so few things in life you can trust" is false there is still a part of me, deep down that operates from this false belief.   We unconsciously look for circumstances in our life that support this false belief and then we tell ourselves "see this is why I can't trust anyone".   We don't open our hearts fully, not trusting means not loving fully.  These false belief patterns have such a strong influence in how we show up for life. 

For as many examples I can think of that support this false belief, If I look hard enough I can think of just as many examples to support how false that belief is. 

Ultimately, it will be up to me to decide what I want to do with this belief pattern now that it has been brought to my attention.   We all have them. (please tell me I'm not the only one) What are we going to do about them is the ten million dollar question.   Trust is a big one that I'm examining in my life right now.   I'm remembering a sitcom that I used to watch.  One friend was asked to turn her back toward the other person and let herself fall back, trusting that her friend wouldn't let her fall.  Of course, since it was a sitcom, you can imagine that the other person got distracted and let her fall.  It wasn't that the friend couldn't trust the other person.  The other person didn't intentionally let her fall.  The other person just got distracted.  Maybe it's the same in the circumstances in my life where I felt like a friend let me fall.

I realize that the other person wasn't intentionally doing something to hurt me.  They didn't let me fall because they didn't care or love me.  It was simply that they were distracted with the drama of their own circumstances. It doesn't mean that I can't trust them just that I need to be sure that they aren't distracted before I fall. (Well, I'm not sure that makes sense either but you get the idea).  I'm hearing my friend, Jon, in my head right now.   "It ain't all about you, hon"  Ain't that the truth!!  That's something you can trust and believe in.

It ain't all about us.  Sometimes we interrupt someone else's action as an attack on us when in reality it isn't.  We don't know if the person who appears to have snub us is distracted or maybe needs us to catch them because they are falling. 

So today's lesson of the day is to step back from the false belief and look at it from the place of the witness.  See it for what it is..... Just a random thought, like a passing cloud....Look at it, then let it go.
Bringing your awareness back to your heart.  In your heart, you know the difference between what is true and what is false.  It's your heart, not your head that you can trust.

“Remember, always, there is an Intelligence which
Pervades all of nature, and It knows best how to work.
It even knows what is best for us. We do the best we
Can to prepare ourselves for the reception of God’s grace, and then
We relax, firm in the assurance that all is well”.
~Roy Eugene Davis~

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Guru Purnima - 2011, who knew?

Until 2 days ago I had no idea that there was such a thing as Guru Purnima.  Well, to be perfectly honest I don't really know anything except that it is a day to honor and pay homage to your guru.  It's celebrated on the full moon in July.  I'm always looking for a reason to have a celebration so honoring the guru is just as good as any.   I know I'm a day late but what the hell...... Let's celebrate the Guru!!

I'm always lamenting about not having an "official" guru so I was surprised when I first read about Guru Purnima that I knew exactly who I wanted to acknowledge.   In reality (okay well in the maya that I refer to as my reality) I have been blessed with an abundance of gurus.

Many teachers have crossed my path over the years.  Each one planting a few seeds.  Some seeds were clearly marked while others were planted and I didn't know what the seed was until it bloomed.   Some teachers planted seeds while others help me recognize the weeds from the flowers.  Some plow the soil along side of me while others give guidance from a distance.  All equally valuable to my spiritual growth. 

A wise friend said today "There are yoga teachers and there are yogis" The teachers who have impacted my life the most are those who are living yoga.  They are the true yogis.   The teachers who I want to be like are those who ARE yoga.  They teach just as much by their example as they do by their words.  Anyone can teach you asana but a true teacher inspires you to be a yogi.  A true teacher ignites that inner fire and continues to stoke it.  That inner fire being our desire for self-realization.  The desire to connect our inner guru with the cosmic guru. 

Last night, I went to a special Guru Purnima program.  We were paying homage to Paramahansa Yogananda.  It was a lovely program in which we chanted, meditated and heard some readings by Sri Daya Mata.  I believe she was the president of the Self Realization Fellowship organization until she passed a couple of years ago.   I'd like to share a part of one of those readings with you here. 

"Sometimes devotees have the expectation that, because they have been drawn to a God-united guru, their path will be smooth and free of difficulties, and the blissful realization of God will come easily.  The guru does indeed remove many karmic obstacles from our lives, but because his goal is to transform our whole being, he also seeks to motivate us to stretch our capacities -- to draw out fully the faith, understanding and spiritual strength of with we are capable."

In order for a seed to sprout forward a beautiful flower it needs to crack open first.  There's no mistaking that the cracking open part is difficult but the result is always beautiful.  Today and always I feel eternally grateful for the teachers who have guided me lovingly and sometimes sternly.  It is through their guidance and support that I have been able to let my heart and mind crack open so that spiritual growth can blossom! 

Om Shri Gurubhyo Namaha Hari Om.......

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fire! Fire!


 This..... is how I felt all day today.  It started after yoga last night.  Strange isn't it?  Have you ever felt like you could shoot fire out your mouth after yoga?  Not exactly the result I had been hoping for but that was the result just the same.  Every practice offers an opportunity to learn something. 

Yesterday was super busy all day.  I felt like I was running at 100 mph.  I was rushing from one thing to the next.  The temperature outside was 100 degrees, hot and humid.  I get to class and there's no a/c.  The windows don't open and the doors are closed.  I was sweating just sitting for the opening meditation.  The practice increased the fire both physically and mentally.  By the time we got to savasana the tension in my body was so intense and there was so much pressure in my head.  Besides feeling like fire was shooting out of my ears I had a pounding headache that lasted until ...... well it's still there.

I tried not to let myself feel disappointed that I didn't get the usual blissful feeling that Inner Fire yoga creates but the truth is I was disappointed.  Not at all the result I was hoping for but still an opportunity to learn something just the same.

Of course there is the obvious lessons like:
*  Don't have any expectations and you won't be disappointed 
*  A strong yoga practice in the middle of a heat wave without a/c is not a good idea

There are other lessons too, like:
*  The only way to get exactly what you need from a yoga practice is to do your own practice at home
*  Practicing yoga according to the principles of Ayurveda makes the most sense
*  Always trust your instincts.  If it doesn't feel right, it's probably not right for you
*  Just because it's not right for one person doesn't mean it's not right for someone else
*  And various other lessons that were just for me.

Okay, this fire breathing dragon needs to do a few rounds of the cooling breath and maybe soak my head in a bucket of ice.  Tomorrow morning...... I need to do a pitta reducing practice and get myself back into balance.  If  you feel like fire is shooting out of your nose come join me this week-end to learn how to pacify that inner dragon....... (Class schedule is on the left of this post)

Try the cooling breath - Shitali
- Stick out your tongue and roll it
- Breath in through your rolled tongue
- Close your mouth and breath out from your nose
- Repeat a few times
- Close your eyes and notice how you feel
                        



Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swing to the right.....Swing to the left......

I'm always telling the students to listen to their bodies. I remind them that our bodies tell us exactly what it needs and all we have to do is listen. It's so easy to see when people are pushing themselves. It's so obvious what other people need to do to bring themselves back into balance. It's a totally different story when it comes to ourselves.

I know I know but sometimes I forget. When I remember, then I know.

Yesterday, I remembered. I listened and paid attention to what my body was asking for. It needed simple, nourishing food and rest. I listened, I paid attention and I feel the effects. Of course I do; so why the hell don't I listen more often?

We often override our intuition and our instincts and then wonder why we don't feel 100%.
We read and learn all about Ayurveda and yoga yet we allow ourselves to get out of balance. How many times have we heard - Everything in moderation? Even the yoga sutras tell us that.

It seems to me that most of us get the part about not eating or sleeping too much but for some reason some of us yogis seem to miss the part about not eating or sleeping too little. We take things to extremes.  I know for myself, I tend to get tunnel vision at times. I focus on reducing kapha so I push myself physically and maybe I'm going to extremes with not eating and drinking enough.  I'm not resting enough.  I'm over-riding the signals that are telling me  I need more rest.  I've allowed myself to get out of balance.  I forgot to listen to my body.

We remind students not to take their practice to the extreme but do we remember that when we are on the mat? Do you take your practice to the extreme? When your body is telling you it's feeling exhausted and needs rest do you over-ride that for the sake of yoga? Are you really practicing yoga if you ignore what your intuition is telling you?

Balance is a funny thing. It's not something that we'll achieve and then we can relax. Think about tree pose. There you are balancing on one foot while the other foot is pressing into your opposite thigh. Hands folded at your heart. The pose is anything but static. Some fluidity is required to maintain the pose. Finding balance really means staying as close to center as possible. Not allowing the swing to be too extreme in either direction. Swaying a bit in the pose is expected but swaying too far to the right or left or even forward or back will cause you to lose balance all together.  That's the same with everything in life, swaying too far in any direction is sure to cause you to become out of balance.

When we get into the habit of ignoring our internal guidance we forget we even have it.  In my Italian family everything revolves around food. We are celebrating - let's eat. We are having a crisis - let's eat. I can honestly say that until recently I had forgotten what it actually felt like to be hungry. I know that sounds crazy but it's true. My internal guidance surrounding food had been ignored for most of my life and I forgot it even existed.  I forgot how to listen to my body.

Now I remember so I know. I pay attention, I listen. Oh Yeah... there it is. There's my internal guide. I hear it loud and clear.  Listening to my body helps me to stay as close to my center as possible.  The more balanced I am physically, the more balanced I am mentally. The more balanced mentally the easier it is to be in touch with my inner guide.  And so the fluidity continues........
Are you taking your own advice? Are you listening to your body?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Nicholson, party of 6... Your darshan is now ready.

Our little group of 6 made the pilgrimage to New York to receive darshan from Amma today.   Last year went so smoothly that I didn't give it much thought as I planned the trip this year.  Lucky for me that Amma's grace was on my side or else our little group of 6 would have had to make the trip home without a hug from Amma.

If you are going to take a pilgrimage anywhere I would highly recommend that you take a couple Italian moms with you.   I arrive to pick up my mom and my zia for the trip and my mother promptly makes me take off my flip flops and hands me socks and sneakers - the first blessing of the day.   She also insisted that we each take a sweater and an umbrella - blessing #2.  

We arrive at the Manhattan Center and we soon receive our "tokens" I note that we are letter Q and I tuck them into my pocket.  We have plenty of time, I thought.  We eventually make our way downstairs to the dinning hall where blessing #3 takes place.  The only thing my Tayler wanted was a bagel but when we arrive the bagels are gone.  Never fear, Zia to the rescue, out of her bag comes..... Pizza.  That's right, pizza.  My daughter and her friend eat the pizza and enjoy blessing#3. 

At around 1:30pm or so we head over to the line for darshan, only to find that our tokens are actually  QZ!!   I thought it was Q2.   We soon learn that QZ means that we probably would not get to Amma before 4pm.   Unfortunately, our bus home was leaving at 3:45.  Here's blessing#4.  One of Amma's devotees kindly listened to our dilemma.  She directs us to someone one the other side of the room.  Our little group of 6 makes our way through the crowd of people to plead our case to Gowish.  Without a second thought he says - come back at 3pm.

Poor Tayler just wanted a bagel.  "I'm not leaving Manhattan without a bagel!"  The girls decide to go outside for a few minutes and WALA! Blessing#5 - They find a bagel.  Now Tayler's belly is full and she's happy.  At 3pm we once again make our way to Gowish.  I'm not going to lie, At this point I was having a mental freak out because I did not want our little group of 6 to have to go home without receiving a hug from Amma and I didn't want our little group of 6 to miss the bus. 

Gowish and another devotee went above and beyond to try to swap out our tickets with people already in line to receive darshan.  What number blessing am I on?  Oh Yeah....#6! One at a time, our little group of 6 received their individual blessings of kind and generous people who gave up their place in line so that total strangers could receive darshan and still make it to our bus in time. 

I was last one of our group of 6 to receive Amma's darshan.  By the time I was kneeling in front of her I felt that she already given me so many blessings.  How could I ask for another?  She then gave me more!!

This is the third year I have gone to see Amma.  The last two times I didn't get to look at her face.  All I wanted was to look directly into her face.  I understand why but I still hated that I couldn't keep my glasses on.  All I wanted was to see her face. To look into her eyes.  Today, even without my glasses on I was able to look and see her face.   Kneeling there in front of her I could see her so clearly.  She hugged me and paused just long enough for me to see the love in her face.  It was amazing!  It wasn't until I stood up that I realized I didn't have my glasses on!!  How could I have seen her so clearly without my glasses??  Blessing#7.

I collected our little group of 6 and we raced to the bus only to find that the bus stop was different than it was last year!!  We race in the other direction and we find the stop with only minutes to spare.  Even though the ride home was less than pleasant, we still made it home safe and sound. 

Our little group of 6 all seemed to feel the energy of Amma's presence as strongly as I did.  It seems to me that through the grace of Amma's blessings, the pilgrimage of this little group of 6 was perfect!!