A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
When my kids were little, every Easter the family would get together to celebrate.
The most anticipated event for the kids was the easter egg hunt. In the words of my now 20 year old son, it was a high stakes egg hunt because there was the potential to walk away with a lot of cash.
My sister in law would stay up all night and put a slip of paper with a dollar amount inside hundreds of plastic eggs, which she would then hide for the kids. The next morning after church, the fifteen cousins would be unleashed into the yard for the "high stakes" egg hunt.
We would have to keep them in a holding area before start time so that no one would have an unfair advantage. When it was time for the egg hunt to begin, someone would yell "GO!" and the kids would swarm the yard like bees on a honeycomb.
When the egg hunt was over, the kids would add up their total and take it to my father in law who would then dole out large sums of cash to the excited little kids.
It was remarkable that my son Ace would almost always end up with the most eggs despite the fact that many of his cousins were older than he was. I used to marvel at the way he would methodically examine the area in search of the lucrative little eggs. His concentration and focus was quite impressive despite his young age and the distraction of fourteen screaming kids running willy nilly around the yard. Each time an exclamation of "I found one" was made, the kids would run en masse to the same area in hopes of finding more money filled eggs there.
Ace, however, continued his search unaffected by the sights and sounds that were going on around him. He often found eggs in places that several kids had already searched but missed. Ace's concentration and focus served him well during those easter egg hunts.
The sixth limb of yoga recommends that we practice "dharana" which is translated as concentration or "one pointed focus".
Yoga Sutra 3.1 says, "concentration is the process of holding the attention of the mind onto one object or place".
Yoga Sutras 3.2 and 3.3 say in a nutshell that doing so quiets the mind giving you access to the deepest part of yourself where your wise and peaceful soul resides.
A one pointed focus is having the ability to concentrate on something while staying unduisturbed by internal and external distractions. Staying attentive to just one thing can be difficult because our minds often run willy nilly like kids at an egg hunt.
Practicing giving your full attention to anything can also be called "mindfulness".
Whether you are focusing with your full attention on your breath, on your child, on your meal, or on your work, this practice can enrich your life and the lives of those around you. Imagine how much better your child or your friend would feel if you put down your cell phone, look them in the eye, and give them your undivided attention as they tell you their story.
The more we practice this one pointed mindfulness, the closer we get to a state of what author and yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater calls "being intensely present to what is".
When we are mindful and present, we will never miss those precious moments that are so often hidden in our day to day lives.
"To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown from the nest." Pema Chodron
There are times in all of our lives that can feel like we have been thrown out of our nest or pushed beyond what we feel comfortable with.
Maybe it's a small thing.... We are asked to give a speech at a wedding despite our fear of public speaking.
Maybe it's a big thing.... We get laid off from our job or get divorced after fifteen years.
Maybe it's a huge thing....We get sick or we lose someone that we love.
Every single one of us will experience discomfort, pain, or maybe even agony at sometime in our lives.
We may try to avoid pain and make our decisions based on staying comfortable and safe. This is possible and necessary sometimes, but other times it is impossible to protect ourselves or those we love from the often painful challenges that life can bring.
The father of Siddhartha Gautama wanted his son to be protected from the pain and suffering of humanity so he kept the young prince in total but lavish exclusion. His every need was taken care of by his many servants. The prince became restless with his extravagant lifestyle and went to see what was beyond the walls of the kingdom.
He quickly saw the reality of life and his heart opened up to the pain and suffering of others. He spent the next several years of his life trying to learn how to relieve universal suffering. He tried rigorous ascetic practices, strict meditation, extreme fasting, and various religious studies in an attempt to find wisdom, transcend his physical body, and achieve freedom from suffering.
He finally came to the realization that suffering is a part of life and one must not follow a path of extremism to avoid being fully awake and alive, but one must follow a path of balance which he called, "The Middle Way". After this realization, Siddhartha attained enlightenment and earned the title Buddha. He spent the rest of his life selflessly and compassionately helping others achieve enlightenment as well.
Like Siddhartha Gautama, experiencing and being a witness to pain in our lives can transform us into wise, selfless, and compassionate people if we choose to use our pain and discomfort for growth.
We can let our challenges and difficulties destroy us, or we can use them to build strength, courage, wisdom, and confidence.
Pushing ourselves to do things that make us uncomfortable will make us better able to adapt to the bigger challenges that we might face in life.
Maybe it's pushing ourselves to do a small thing like volunteering to give a speech at a wedding, despite our fear of public speaking.
Maybe it's pushing ourselves to do a big thing like leaving a job or relationship that isn't right for us after fifteen years.
Maybe it's pushing ourselves to do a huge thing like offering to take care of someone who is sick or counseling those who have lost a loved one.
When we jump out of the nest instead of being pushed, we gain confidence in our own ability to use our wings to gracefully navigate the turbulence of life in a way that lets us know we are fully alive, completely awake, and fully human.
My very good friend, Candace gave up complaining for Lent.
On March 5th 2014, she began paying attention to her every thought. When her thoughts or words were negative, she would stop herself and think or say something positive about the situation.
When she started she was shocked at how often her mind wanted to complain. But with intention and practice, it became easier and more natural for her to think an opposite thought.
After almost forty days of paying attention and changing her negative thoughts into positive ones, everything in her life changed.
Parts of her life that weren't working are now going great. Her business is booming, her social life and relationships have improved, and things that she wanted to happen, are happening.
Is it a coincidence that her life has changed? (a remarkable concurrence of events without apparent causal connection).
Could the cause be the Law of Attraction at work? ( your thoughts create your reality)
Maybe, but I believe that my friend Candace's life did a 360 because she chose to change her dominant thoughts and become a YES instead of a NO.
When we are negative or complaining, our mind is in a state of NO.
The NO mind makes it almost impossible to see or create a solution, a change, an improvement, or a new thought about our no so perfect situation. Our minds have closed off to the possibility that things could be better or different.
The NO mind is almost like an obstinate two year old, crossing his arms, closing his eyes, stomping his feet and saying NO!
When we look for the positive instead of complaining about our less than perfect situation, our mind is in a YES state.
Our YES mind is open to creating a solution, a change, an improvement, or a new thought about the less than perfect situation. Our YES mind will see the glass half full and realize that almost every cloud has a silver lining. Our YES mind is creative and will seek out the positive to find reasons to be grateful for not only our good experiences but our challenging ones as well.
Imagine that your mind is like water.
The watery YES mind state can change direction with ease. It can adapt and flow in order to circumvent obstacles in it's way. It's creative and accommodating.
The NO mind state is more like ice. Nothing can get through your ice block mind. It can't change direction because it is solid and unmoving. Without any creative movement, the NO mind becomes it's own obstacle.
Breaking through your negative mind state can be quite challenging. Setting an intention to be aware of your thoughts will allow you to focus your mind on letting only positive thoughts flow.
With a constant flow of positive thoughts it will be less likely that you will get frozen in a negative mind state. With commitment and practice, your icy NO mind might thaw completely leaving you in a constant state of YES.
My friend Candace will tell you that becoming a YES has the potential to change your life too.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras