"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.
Last week, in the span of an hour, someone called me mean and selfish and someone called me kind and caring.
If I had taken these two comments too seriously, I would have ended up feeling tossed around and beaten up like a leaf in a wind storm. My balance would have been completely rocked.
When I let others define me, I can become what others tell me I am. So instead of remembering who I really am, I am not me but a version of me that has been created by someone else.
In yoga philosophy, we learn that our ego is our small self that is created by labels and judgements and conditioning from the outside world. Our ego has the potential to cause us great suffering.
I see the ego as a suit that we are wearing. It looks EXACTLY like us. When we are healthy and not too attached to it, it fits us well and we barely know that it's there. We are comfortable walking around in our ego suit. When we are too attached to our ego, a comment like "you are mean and selfish" will cause our ego suit to shrink. It will get way too tight and REALLY uncomfortable. In our discomfort, we may lash out at another or berate ourselves. On the other hand, when we hear a comment like, "you are so kind and caring", our ego suit might get too big. It will fill up with air and we may find ourselves feeling all puffed up and superior to others.
When we get very clear and honest with ourselves, turn our attention inward, let other people's comments and judgements pass through us, we will be balanced and peaceful regardless of the comments of another. Our ego suit will fit us perfectly. We will feel comfortable with ourselves and remember who we really are.....a soul that is full of light and love.
So next time you find yourself judging someone or someone judges you, take a moment to check that your ego suit fits. If it doesn't, take a deep breath and remember who you are deep inside....maybe your suit will begin to fit just right.
I am not a fan of the New Year's Resolution. To me, it always has an underlying negative message that can leave me feeling bad about myself.
"I want to loose weight" says, "I am so fat!"
"I want to be more organized" says, " I am a mess!"
Creating a change for the better at the beginning of each year is a great concept, but more often than not, our attempts to follow through with our New Year's resolutions fail.
A yogic version of the resolution is called a sankulpa.
A sankulpa is similar to a resolution in that it focuses on creating a healthy change. It is different because we are asked look deeper into the reason behind the change we would like to create to make sure that the change supports our highest good, not just our ego.
So instead of a resolution that says, " I want to lose weight because I am too fat!.", a sankulpa would go deeper and explore what thoughts or feelings might be driving the behavior. Maybe over eating has become a way to self soothe and avoid facing difficult emotions. Becoming aware of what motivates an unhealthy behavior is the first step in finding a way to change it.
A sankulpa is an intention that we set in the most loving way towards ourselves. It becomes powerful when we create a clear and concise phrase or mantra that we can repeat regularly. A sankulpa to lose weight might go something like this, "I over eat to stuff down my feelings. I will allow my feelings to arise and then to pass which will keep my mind, heart, and body open to love."
Once you have decided on the change you are seeking, create your sankulpa by setting a positive intention in the present tense, using only positive words.
Stay present and attentive to the process of the result that you are seeking. If you fail to follow through with your sankulpa, forgive yourself, repeat your mantra, and recommit, remembering that change doesn't happen overnight.
If you are like me and New Year's Resolutions leave you feeling bad about yourself, consider making a New Year's Sankulpa instead.
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2020.
The other day I was sitting in a vinyasa yoga class waiting for the teacher to start when a woman walked in behind me. She rolled out her mat with a loud "thwap" and then dropped her blocks with a thud on the ground. I could hear her sit down heavily and take a drink out of a crinkly water bottle.
In an attempt to be kind, I thought, "This woman doesn't have very good body awareness......poor thing is probably just clumsy."
When class started, I was aware of her movements behind me. She moved quickly and noisily into the poses. I couldn't see her until we moved our mats to the wall for forearm stand. While most of the students were still positioning their mats against the wall, the woman had already kicked up vigorously into the pose.
What I saw next really surprised me. While I assumed the "poor clumsy" woman would be flopping all over the place trying to get into this advanced pose, she was actually holding a nearly perfect forearm stand.
Although she had learned to execute her poses beautifully, the manner with which she arrived there caused her to miss the most important teaching of the practice of vinyasa yoga.
Vinyasa means, "to place in a special way".
The idea is to approach the yoga practice with intention, awareness, and grace from start to finish. And not just the poses, but the whole class. The way you enter a room and set up your mat is as important as the way you move from pose to pose, which is as important as the way you gather your things to leave the room when class is over.
When we practice in this manner, the entire experience becomes a "moving meditation". Our deliberate and conscious movements create a focus and stillness in our minds despite the dynamic and changing environment of not only the class, but our bodies as well.
According to yoga philosophy, when we have a still mind, we are connected to our center, which is the source of peace, love, and knowing. Some yogis would even call this our personal connection to the Divine or God.
The philosophy and practice of yoga is intended to help us improve our lives.
Moving through a dynamic and challenging yoga practice with intention, awareness, and grace, can teach us to move through our dynamic and challenging lives with the same intention, awareness, and grace.
Our relationship with ourselves and others will surely improve if we approach whatever we are doing in "a special way". Whether we are cooking a meal, listening to a friend, communicating with coworkers, practicing yoga, or entering a room, we should be aware of our thoughts, words, and actions from beginning to end as we move through the experience.
"How you climb up a mountain is as important as how you get down it. So it is with life. In the end, it all comes down to grace."
A few years ago, when I got into my car after teaching a yoga class, I was unlucky enough to discover shards of broken glass covering my passenger seat.
After a brief moment of confusion, I realized that someone had taken a screwdriver to the frame of the window and shattered the glass in an attempt to steal whatever they could find in my car.
After my mind caught up and I realized what happened, I reported the theft to the police and to the health club CEO. Both of them said to me, "how is it that you are so calm?"
Mahatma Ghandhi said, "I will not allow anyone to walk through my mind with their dirty feet."
I don't claim to be anything at all like Ghandhi but, I was also unwilling to allow anyone to walk through my mind and leave their muddy footprints. Taking a step back and pausing allowed me to put it all into perspective, and be happy that no one was hurt and the damage that was done could be fixed.
Had I reacted by taking it personally, indignantly cursing the unfairness of what had been "done to me", I would be allowing another person to determine my state of mind. Remembering that another person's actions have nothing to do with me, helps me to stay rooted in my own center as opposed to being yanked this way and that because of someone else's choices.
While I can't even imagine destructing someone else's property or stealing money from someone, I have been fortunate enough in my life to never be in a situation that required desperate measures such as those. Having compassion for the person who violated my property was another way that I could respond instead of reacting.
Baron Baptiste says, "We don't really have experiences in life, we have reactions to experiences." In other words, "things don't happen to us, they happen in and of themselves, and what we do is react to them."
If it had been someone else's car that was broken into, the experience of a broken window would be the same, but my reaction would be very different. So according to Baptiste, what we experience in our day to day lives are just a bunch of reactions. With this knowledge, we can choose our responses instead of reacting out of habit. When we choose to live this way, our lives will be much more peaceful.
Choosing to stay and breathe and be non reactive doesn't mean that I live without feelings or emotions, but it means that I am responsible and able to make a choice of how to respond to the experiences in my life in a healthy and life affirming way.
The next time life hands you something that you wouldn't choose for yourself, remember the quote by Charles Swindoll that says, "life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it" . Choosing to respond in a non reactive way makes your inner and outer world more peaceful.
There is a school district in Encinitas, CA that received a grant from the Pattabhi Jois foundation to bring twice weekly yoga classes to the students. According to the superintendent, it was part of a mainstream physical education program to promote fitness and overall health to the students in the district.
Some parents were angry about it claiming that the school was pushing a religion on the kids.
Yoga is not a religion. It is actually a philosophy. A way to train the body and mind to become aware of the self. It is also a spiritual practice, if you choose to use it as such. The most common use for yoga in the United States, I would guess, would be as a physical practice. To get in better shape, build strength, tone, and flexibility.
What's great about yoga is that it allows YOU to decide what purpose it will serve. It is open to all, no matter what God you believe in or don't believe in.
So what is the difference between religion and spirituality?
Spirituality is a way of discovering our true nature and finding a connection between ourselves and all that surrounds us. This can help us to find a deeper meaning to life. Spirituality and Religion each promote qualities of kindness, compassion, community, and service.
To me, religion is spirituality in a structured setting. It has specific traditions and teachings that create rituals for people to follow. This can be good and help people to find connection, support and community, as well as an institution that they feel committed to and responsible for. If it becomes too rigid, however, religion can create division and separation between institutions and people.
The earliest spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha didn't attempt to create a religion. They didn't say , "do exactly as I say" or "my way is the only way!", instead they encouraged people to look within to find their own truth.
So if you feel a bit separated from your religion, or you are wondering how yoga fits in to your spiritual life, you can use yoga to enhance your personal beliefs and spiritual nature. Each time you come to your mat to practice, you are making a commitment to discover your perfect and Divine self.
When my kids were little, I bought them a rabbit. Two weeks after we got him, he got really sick. With labored breath and eyes half closed, he laid in his cage, too sick to move. I was pretty sure that if I left him alone he would eventually die, but I felt terrible watching him suffer.
I thought to myself, "I'll take him to the vet and they will put him out of his misery."
We were on a very limited budget at the time so I also thought, "I hope it doesn't cost too much."
After the doctor tenderly examined the rabbit, he said, "I can keep him overnight for IV antibiotics and observation."
I thought to myself, "What? Is he kidding me? How much is THAT gonna cost? The rabbit, his cage, and a month's supply of food only cost me $19.99! Isn't it obvious that the rabbit's dying! Wouldn't it be easier, cheaper, and more humane to just put the poor thing to sleep?"
Gently holding my sick rabbit in his arms, the doctor waited for my response.
Seeing this man trying to heal my sick rabbit when I just wanted the rabbit to die made me feel like a monster so instead of telling the truth about what I thought, a feeble,"ok" came out of my mouth.
I regretted my decision instantly when a flash of my husband's reaction to spending our hard earned money trying to keep a rabbit alive popped into my head.
The vet called the next day to tell me that the rabbit's condition was the same, but I could continue oral antibiotics for the next couple of days to see if his condition improved. Again I thought, "What? Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper and more humane to just put the poor thing to sleep?", but instead of telling the truth, a feeble "ok" came out of my mouth.
I walked into the waiting room feeling angry and annoyed that my rabbit was still alive until I saw all of the concerned pet owners seemingly prepared to try any means to keep their furry family members alive and well. Again, "monster!" came to mind so I paid my large bill, took my still sick rabbit and costly medication home, and watched him suffer and die within hours.
Carl Jung said that we lie when the truth feels too dangerous. In other words, it takes more courage to be honest and authentic than it does to be dishonest or fake. Sometimes being honest is just admitting a mistake that you made. Other times it requires leaving a job or a situation that you have outgrown. In my case, my fear of being judged as a "monster" overshadowed my core belief that the rabbit shouldn't be forced to suffer. Staying committed to my truth required the courage to say what I really felt regardless of what anyone thought.
In Yoga Philosophy, one of the yamas or "great vows" that we commit to is satya. Satya means truthfulness. Patanjali said that, "all of nature loves an honest person". The practice of yoga teaches us to have an inward focus so that we won't be distracted by another person's opinions or judgements. Being connected to our center also reminds us that the truth can change. What was true ten years ago may no longer be true today. If we blindly hold onto beliefs that no longer serve us, what was once a truth becomes a lie.
The most powerful example of a person committed to truth was Mahatma Ghandhi.
Ghandi said that his life was an experiment with truth. His truth was his deep committment to ahimsa or non violence. He created the concept of "satyagraha" which means, "to hold onto truth". By upholding his truth, he led numerous non violent protests which ultimately led to historic changes in the social and political environment in India and South Africa.
In the words of Ghandi, "Truth is God" and "God is Truth". When speaking on the subject, he used the two interchangably.
If we follow the example of this great leader, committing to truth (God) can give us the courage to be honest and authentic without causing harm.
"Wherever you go, there you are." Jon Kabbat-Zinn
Since wherever you go there you are, you better damn well like yourself!
No matter what you do to change your outward appearance or circumstances- new job, new relationship, new nose, new boobs, new city, (the list can go on and on), unless you become aware of what's going on inside of you , you will always take the same old YOU along.
Yoga asks us to turn inward and get to know our TRUE self. Ultimately, the more we differentiate between the REAL us and that inner critic that pretends to be us, the more we will begin to know and love ourselves.
If we aren't aware, we can never get away from the constant chattering part of ourselves. That part of ourselves has a memory like a computer. It records every experience, comment, judgement, and criticism from the outside world. It might even repeat a particular one over and over again just to make sure we don't forget it! It says things like, "You are stupid" "Your nose looks like a beak" "You don't deserve a good relationship" "You can't do THAT".
The goal is to not take THAT you everywhere you go. Who wants to listen to a constantly negative and critical companion all day long? Yoga can teach you to find the REAL you and leave behind that NOT REAL YOU. When you do this, you realize that you are none of those things that the NOT REAL YOU told you that you were, but you are actually smart, have a fine nose, deserve a good relationship, and CAN do it. According to yoga philosophy, the REAL you is loving, peaceful and joyful. We were all born out of and into this simple state and its what connects us to one another. It's our experiences and circumstances that come from outside of ourselves that cover up our ability to stay connected to the part of ourselves that is real.
When we realize this, we become our own best friend instead of our own worst enemy. Once we love ourselves like a best friend, we start to live our lives from this place of love, peace, and joy, and then everything changes (internally and externally). When we begin to become aware of this it no longer matters whether we get a new job, relationship, nose, boobs or city, or if we keep our same old ones, because we have created a good relationship with the self.
So next time that critical "NOT YOU YOU" tells you that you're not enough, remember that wherever you go, there you are so you better love the YOU that you bring along.
The other day I misjudged the speed at which a car was coming and I pulled out in front of it.
As if playing a game of chicken with himself to see how close he could get to me without using his brakes, the driver of the car continued at the same speed until he was literally inches from my bumper. At the same time he held down his horn and I could see him yelling obscenities at me in my rearview mirror.
Initially, I felt bad and I wished for a universal hand signal that meant, "Oops, I'm sorry, my bad!" but his reaction made me angry. I took a couple of deep breaths and reminded myself that, when someone has an outburst of anger directed at me, it usually has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with what's going on inside of them. Taking a moment to remember this instead of reacting with unkindness gave me an opportunity to be compassionate to the suffering of another.
Anger and violence have a strong tendency to spread. More than likely, the road rage stranger was holding onto anger from a previous interaction. It could have happened ten minutes before, ten weeks before, or even ten years before, but it was affecting him in the moment. As a result, he may have over reacted to my pulling out in front of him without full awareness of what he was doing.
All unkind or violent interactions can potentially harm us and cause us to react with the same unkindness or violence towards others.
When we commit to yoga, we are asked to practice restraints (shouldn't dos) and observances (should dos).
These ethical practices form the first two limbs of the eight limbed path of yoga and are called the yamas and the niyamas.
The first and most important "ethical practice" is ahimsa which means, to "do no harm". Nicolai Bachman, author of, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, says that " Each person has the potential to be kind or to be mean.... practicing the eight limbs of yoga strengthens our kindness and weakens our meaness."
Ahimsa takes awareness, strength, and practice because we may have to let others angry or hurtful outbursts pass through us instead of "fighting back" so that the unkindness doesn't have an opportunity to spread. In other words, if we don't engage or participate in another's unkindness, hopefully it won't escalate any further.
I am not saying that we shouldn't defend ourselves against physical violence, but I am saying that when people are unkind, it is often best to take a step back, breathe and resist the urge to take another's unkind thoughts, words, or actions personally. Remember that hurt people, hurt people.
Spreading kindness and compassion through your thoughtful actions can help to heal yourself as well as others. So always remember the father of modern medicine and great healer Hippocrates' advice and "above all else, do no harm."
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