Wednesday, February 16, 2011

At the end of day what really matters?

Sometimes our minds get stuck, like a record (omg! did I just say record) that's scratched. It skips and keeps repeating the same thing. When this happens our minds seem to skip over the good stuff and get stuck on the not so good stuff.  Over and over our minds repeat all the same old dramas just like a broken record.

I find myself lately getting stuck. For days or weeks I get stuck and my focus repeatedly goes back to all the things in my life that are not working.  After a particularly challenging day yesterday I was feeling exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Looking to take a break from life I decided to check my emails before dinner. When the AOL page opened up I see a photo of a sweet little boy and his mom that made me smile until I see the caption on the bottom. The sweet little boy is three year old Ty Campbell and he has terminal cancer.

I know reading the story will be sad but I can't get the boy's face out of my mind so today I read his story. The story is heart-breaking, as you can imagine, but it's incredibly inspiring at the same time. Here is this family facing the most horrible situation imaginable and yet they smile and each day they feel grateful. Grateful for the little things like a trip for pizza or seeing their little boy playing with his brother.  This family is living yoga. They are present - in the moment - each moment. 

The saying goes "Live each day as if it's your last because you never know when the end will be"  We know this to be true but we don't remember that in our day to day lives.  Instead we let the broken record keep repeating the dramas of the day.  We keep thinking about all the things in our lives that aren't working.  We replay the perceived injustices, the fights with our spouse, our boss yelling at us, the kids not doing their chores, the shortage in our bank account.  At the end of the day, none of it really matters does it?  Thank you for the reminder Campbell family! 

What I found even more inspiring about Ty Campbell's story is the power of prayer.  You can read the remarkable story of this little boy who is baffling his doctors and beating the odds through the power of prayer on his mother's blog:   http://tylouis.blogspot.com/  

So what are you going to do about the broken record of negative thoughts?   Will you continue to let it skip and repeat the same patterns over and over or will you change the record? Changing the pattern of our thinking is a choice.  Do you choose to see the blessings in your life or are you choosing to see just the things that aren't working?

I'm joining the countless others who are praying for Ty and his family.  I humbly request that you join in the prayers.  I am also praying to God that we may all remember to see the blessings in our lives and that we remember to be grateful for the little things.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yoga Lessons for my daughters

I was shocked the other day when I realized that my daughter, Tayler will be 16yrs old soon.

I will always think of Tayler as my little girl who used to hide in the kitchen cabinets with her bowl of Chereeos and giggle while I freaked out thinking she was kidnapped! Then I was even more shocked when it hit me that my oldest, Amanda, will be 20yrs old next month!!! 20 - how can that be?? Aren't I still 20?? Not quite...

I was 19years old when Amanda was born. Can you imagine? What the hell did I know about raising a child? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. Needless to say, the stress of trying to live up to the perfect world I had created in my own mind was taking it's toll on me. One day when Amanda was about 3 years old a friend told me I needed to learn to relax and suggested I take a yoga class.  And so my love affair with yoga began.

Since then, Yoga has taught me much about myself and life in general. These valuable lessons have also taught me much about motherhood. With my daughters fast approaching womanhood I thought I'd share some of my reflections on how yoga  helps me in my role as a mother.

* You cannot create perfection outside of yourself - you must learn to see the perfection in what is.

* Trust your intuition - even if it's telling you the polar opposite of what everyone else is telling
    you.

* Stay present in each moment of your life.   Time waits for no one.

* Deep yogic breaths - It works wonders when your toddler (or teenager) is throwing a temper
   tantrum.

Take time to nurture yourself - It's vitally important.

* Learn to see the world through the eyes of a child.

* Let go of expectations

* Accept the fact that sometimes things are out of your control - at that point, trust in God.

* Love unconditionally.

Motherhood, like yoga, is a great adventure.  You never know where that magic carpet will take you.
Cheering for your daughter on the basketball court.  Listening to her excitedly retell what she learned in micro-biology during dinner or cuddling with your little while he sings Michael Jackson for the billionth time.
These moments are fleeting - so stay present, enjoy them. 

The magic carpet may take you to the opposite end of the universe in an instant.  You may be consoling your daughter on a bad grade or a broken heart or trying to explain to your 8 year old why brushing your teeth is important.  In the difficult moments we remember - these moments are fleeting too.  We stay present, breath deep, and follow our hearts. 

I'm remembering now, Bhagavan Das' cd where he says "We are all here because of the love of our mother".
He was referring to the Divine Mother.   For me, when I don't know what to do or where to turn for support The Divine Mother is always there waiting with heart and arms open.  Learning from her example, I too aspire to be that support for my children.  Through the yoga lessons I learn and the Grace from the Divine Mother I strive to keep my arms and heart open always.

How I know I'm not 20 yrs old anymore?  Well, I have more self-confidence.  I'm more comfortable with myself. I know when I need to ask for support and I know where to get the support I need.  I accept each challenge as an opportunity to learn rather than feeling like I'm failing when things don't go as I had expected.

Jai Ma!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yoga: A mood altering practice

Should I ever hit the lottery the first thing I'd do is hire a personal yoga instructor to come to my house every day!! I'm still feeling the effects of last night's yoga class. I'm always amazed at the difference in my mental state after yoga. I wonder if I could squeeze in a sadhana at the end of the day before bed every night.

I was still carrying the stress of the day with me when I got to class. As much as I love going to class normally, last night I wasn't in the mood to be around people. I just wanted to lock myself in a dark room and stay there for 3 days. Trying to remind myself that I always feel better after yoga I dragged myself to class. I got to class a bit later than usual so I didn't get my favorite spot. Such a little thing irritated me so much that I knew I really needed yoga to get me back to a state of equanimity.

It didn't take long before I was feeling calmer. With each release breath I could feel myself softening. The stress melted away as I moved through the opening poses. During each pause  I found myself repeating the Gayatri mantra in my head. Child's pose - Om bhur bhuva..... down-dog - Om bhur bhuva svaha tat savitur varenyam.... The combination of the mantra and the asana practice took me to the point of meditation.  I wasn't ready for class to end. I would have liked another 30 minutes for meditation.

Reluctantly, I roll up my mat, leave the warmth of the room and the practice and walk out into the cold night air. The circumstances of my life weren't any different but somehow everything was different because my state of mind was different. I went to sleep with the Gayatri mantra repeating itself in my mind. Whenever I woke up during the night I was still aware of the mantra. 

Today, I'm still feeling the effects. My body is engaged in my work but my mind is still in meditation. If I close my eyes I think I might float off into space. There is something special about an Inner Fire yoga class!

This state of peace and equanimity that I'm feeling in this moment is what keeps me coming back to the mat. If I could figure out how to hold on to this state of mind all the time I will have won the cosmic lottery!! Until then, I'll keep showing up on the mat. Walking, dragging myself, running .... I'll keep showing up on the mat to do the work until I win the cosmic jackpot - Samadhi!
                                                      
                                            Gayatri Mantra
                                      Om bhur bhuvah svah 
                                      tat savitur varenyam
                                     bhargo devasya dhimahi 
                                      dhiyo yonah prachodayat





Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ask and you shall receive

Imagine for moment that you're lost.  You pull over and ask someone for directions.  The person says "I know exactly how to get there" and begins to give you the directions.  "Make a right at the next light......".
But you think to yourself, "those directions are too hard! I'm just going to continue straight on this road and hope for the best".   What are the chances you're going to get to your destination if you ignore the directions?

This morning I needed directions, spiritual directions.  I couldn't get my thoughts together for a bhavana (intention/theme) for this morning's yoga sadhana class.  With 15 minutes till I need to leave the house I realize that I need Divine guidance.  I sit on my meditation cushion in front of my alter and I close my eyes.
Silently I ask the Divine Mother for directions.  "What road should I take today?"

The intention I set for the week's yoga classes is the intention that I try to put into practice in my own sadhana and my own life.  I was feeling lost today; not sure if I even knew where I was going let alone how I was going to get there. 

The directions I received were very clear  "PRACTICE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE".   Oh man! I didn't want to hear that!  I could feel my resistance - "But I do love unconditionally" -  "PRACTICE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE" - There was no denying the message.   I surrender to the message.  I look into that mirror of self-inquiry and I don't like what I see.  

What I see is that it's my judgemental nature that has been blocking my ability to love unconditionally.  When someone isn't behaving the way I think he/she should be behaving I judge them as being undeserving of my love.  When someone says or does something hurtful, I judge them as not deserving of my love. When someone is not loving me unconditionally I feel hurt and angry and I withhold unconditional love.  It's not a conscious decision.  I have always thought of myself as being a loving person but I saw today in that mirror that there is a little part of my heart that I keep hidden. Locked away - safe from injury.  I am realizing that as long as I keep that little part closed I can't fully love unconditionally. 

The message is clear - practice unconditional love - It's not up to me to decide if someone needs or deserves unconditional love.  My responsibility is to LOVE - that's it - just LOVE and leave the rest to GOD. 
The practice of stepping back from the judgement of how people should be and accepting them just as they are is going against the grain for a lot of us.  It's scary to open your heart fully and completely. It leaves us vulnerable.  That's were trusting in the Divine comes into play.  We ask for directions and we accept.

 Let's face it, some people are just easier to love than others. Some people are like teddy bears - who doesn't love a soft, sweet little teddy bear.  Others are porcupines. They are prickly and keep you at arms length but they need love just the same. 

If I expect to be loved unconditionally then I too must give unconditional love. Always and Forever without expectation of how it's going to be received or whether or not it's going to be returned to me.  Accepting the guidance and offering to fruit of my effort to the Divine.

I got the directions I needed. Now all I have to do it follow the directions I received and I'm sure I'll get to my destination - Yoga - Union with the Divine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ever feel like yelling at the top of your lungs?

My dear friend, Lucia Gunzel, wrote a lovely children's book called "Cranky Pants" .  It's the story of a cranky little girl.   Today, I feel like I'm wearing my cranky pants!!

Every day, I try my very best to live according to the yogic principals that I've been studying.  With each sadhana is do, I ask the Divine Mother for guidance and support.  So why the hell do I feel so cranky??!!
I can't help but feel like my efforts are fruitless.  No matter what I do, someone is always upset with me.

Did I make a wrong turn somewhere?  Am I doing something wrong here?  Where is the bliss?  Where is the all the love and light I hear yogis talking about?  I must be doing something wrong!! Where's the yoga handbook?!  I need to review the instructions for life again I must have missed a step.

It's hard to think straight when you're cranky.  It's hard to keep your emotions under control.  When the pressure is turned up to high an explosion is inevitable.   We all have a boiling point.  We all lose control of ourselves from time to time  and say things out of anger which we later wish we could take back.  Some of us explode at others and some of us implode on ourselves.  Either way - it's disastrous!

So let's review some yoga lessons we've learned in the past in the hope that we can perhaps avoid the next explosion. 

*   Emotions are reflexes of the mind - We are not our emotions
*   Everything is temporary - This too shall pass
*  No effort is ever wasted - besides, we are to offer up our effort to God and detach from the fruits
    of our effort
*  Recognize the Divine in everyone - No matter how angry that person makes you - see God in
    EVERYONE - It's hard sometimes but try - God is there somewhere.
*  We can't control others around us -(believe me I've tried - it doesn't work) - All we can control is
    how we react to stress and tension
*  Step back for a few minutes - close your eyes and breath deeply before reacting when you know you are
    getting "hot under the collar"

Here's a few parenting lessons I've learned over the years that also seems applicable.

*  Keep a regular routine - Practice yoga and meditation regularly - daily if possible
*  Keep a healthy snack handy - temper tantrums are sometimes caused by hunger
*  Get enough sleep - When we are sleep deprived we are more likely to lose our cool.

The little girl in Lucia's book eventually takes off her cranky pants.  I think I'm ready to change
out of my cranky pants too.  I think I'll put on my yoga pants and maybe do a few asanas.  That always makes me feel better.