A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
If you know me well, you know that I love scars. Especially on faces. They are so beautiful to me because they cannot be hidden. They reveal the truth.
We all have something that we would rather not reveal to the world. If it's a physical affliction, we can sometimes cover it up. Our mental and emotional afflictions however, are much harder to hide.
Buddha said, "there are three things that cannot long be hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth."
The part of ourselves that we don't want to reveal can become our shadow. It lurks inside of us just under the surface until something forces it out of it's hiding. Usually, our shadow side is revealed through our relationships with others.
Carl Jung said that "what we dislike in others is a crack in the door of who WE are." So, what you vehemently acuse another of, is often really what you deny in yourself. We are afraid to reveal our shadow side so instead we project it onto others.
In yoga philosophy we learn to turn our attention inward and study ourselves. This practice of svadhyaya helps us to get to know ourselves deeply and start to acknowledge that what happens outside of us can act as a mirror to what is going on inside of us. When we keep our inward focus we can learn to reveal, accept, and have compassion for our shadow side. We are only human after all and to quote Deepak Chopra, "we are all part saint and part sinner."
Once we see honestly that part of us that we deem as a "sinner" we can release it from where it is hidden so that it no longer has power over us.
When the light of truth and understanding shines through our "cracks", the perfection that is within us can be revealed.
Vitarka badahne pratipaksa bhavanam Yoga Sutra 2.33
"When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of." SriSwami Satchidananada
My mother in law always finds a way to see the positive in every situation. She has this very lovely way of CREATING a silver lining in every cloud.
I'll never forget one day at a family party, somebody's dog peed on her foot. Before I tell the rest, you must know that she is afraid of dogs, never had one or let her kids have one growing up. We all held our breath to see her reaction.....then she laughed and said, "OH, it's good luck when a dog pees on you!" I'm not sure if this is true, BUT she managed to create this thought so that she wouldn't react in a negative way to something that she really had no control over.
If my mother in law were a yogi, she would be practicing pratipaksa bhavanam.
Translated as, cultivating the opposite, Yoga Sutra 2.33 says, "when disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of."
This is not easy to do when we are in the midst of a very difficult time, but with practice, even the most challenging and emotionally turbulent moments can become a bit more peaceful.
When we "cultivate" an opposite thought, it causes us to first observe the fact that we are thinking a negative thought in the first place. This requires that we take a step back and see ourselves being pulled in a bad direction by our minds. When we do this, we have created a space between ourselves and our minds which can help us to look more clearly and objectively at the situation. Maybe then we ask ourselves, "Am I overreacting?", "Is this really as bad as it seems?", and finally "Do I need to step away from this situation all together in order to keep myself from reacting in a way that is unrepairable."
When we do this, we have tamed the mind so as not to be in a reactive mode but in a creative one instead. Since our thoughts create what is real to us, living this way can help us to live a happier life.
Cultivating the opposite is ultimately about changing our attitude rather than attempting to change the person or situation that makes us unhappy. So next time you find yourself being sucked into a negative state of mind, take a deep breath, a step back, and see if you might cultivate the opposite.
A long time student of mine who I affectionately call, "Curious George" came to talk to me after class last week.
He said, "I am not trying to flatter you but, I want you to know that I always apply your teachings to my daily life. No matter what is happening, I slow down and watch myself before my mind can react out of habit."
I have to admit that I was flattered, but more than that I was impressed by my inquisitive student's thoughtfulness and discipline.
It takes discipline to pay attention to your thoughts, words, and behaviors on a day to day basis. Doing so allows you to choose the qualities that you would like to cultivate in your life. My student's curiosity, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn are qualities that support his capacity to be disciplined.
In yoga philosophy, we are advised to practice tapas, which can be translated as a "fiery discipline". They say that when we have a committed, enthusiastic, and disciplined approach to our yoga practice, we will "burn" away any blockages in our mind, body, and emotions that prevent us from finding union with our higher self. The yogis believe that when we find this union, we will be at peace in our mind and hearts.
Even if you don't practice yoga, you can apply tapas to anything that you would like to improve in your life.
Getting healthy in your body, improving your relationships, finding success in your career, or creating more happiness in your life are all things that don't just happen. To make a transformation in any area of your life requires a constant, committed, and disciplined effort.
Assuming that others who are happy and successful are just lucky is a total cop out.
Happy and successful people consistently have a willingness to do the work that is required to achieve the results that they seek. In other words, they are disciplined!
Cultivating the qualities of enthusiasm, curiosity, and the willingness to learn and grow, will support you and make your disciplined efforts rewarding and enjoyable.
In the Four Agreements; A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Don Miguel Ruiz says to "be impeccable with
your word". This is a lofty goal, but definitely one to aspire to.
We should never underestimate the power that our words have.
They can heal, create, soothe, and join people together.
They can also hurt, destroy, weaken, and tear people apart.
Most likely, at least once, every one of us has put our foot in our mouth, spilled a secret that we promised not
to tell, gossiped behind someone's back, or hurt someone with our words. In the heat of the moment we
often forget that what we say, and we can't take it back.
We can back peddle, apologize, try to pretend we didn't actually say it, but often these remedies are like putting
a teeny tiny bandaid on a giant gaping wound. The sting of our words can do damage that lasts for a very
Being impeccable with your word requires mindfulness.
Observe yourself for a few days and you will learn what your tendencies are. Do you talk to fill the air?
Do you speak impulsively? Do you choose your words carefully or do you choose your words
To make sure that your words don't cause unnecessary harm, a good rule of thumb is to practice the
Three Gates of Speech. Asking yourself the following three questions will take you through a process to
ensure that the words you are about to say are chosen carefully and with thoughtfulness.
Is it true?
This can be tricky. When we were kids we would play the telephone game. The first person would
whisper something in someone's ear and that person would repeat what they heard to the next person.
This would go around the circle until the last person would share what they had heard. There was always
an eruption of laughter when the first person revealed what they really said.
Unless it is your story to tell or it is an undisputed fact, most repeated stories.....ie, gossip, are NOT true, so
don't repeat them. If what you are about to say is true, you can open the first gate, but you must get through
the next two gates before you speak.
Is it kind?
We all know whether what we are about to say is kind or not. Sometimes we say hurtful things and say we
didn't mean it, but we always mean it on some level. What good does it do to hurt someone on purpose?
Like my mom said, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Sounds pretty simple but there are exceptions to every rule, which leads to the last gate of speech.
Is it necessary?
This is the "gate" that requires the most mindfulness before stepping through. Sometimes we find ourselves
in a predicament. Should we tell our friend the truth of what we know even if it will be painful for him or her
to hear? Even if it may risk her relationship with another? Even if we aren't certain what the consequences
will be. That's the thirty million dollar question. There is no simple answer, but a heart felt and well thought
out process will help you make your decision.
Most spiritual practices teach the importance of right and honest speech. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali
says, "When established in truthfulness, everything one says comes true."
Aspiring to say only what is true, kind, and necessary is an excellent way to stay true to yourself and others.
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."
Practicing ahimsa isn't always easy. 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."
You don't see life as IT is, you see life as YOU are."
Imagine that each morning when you wake up, you reach for your glasses. Each pair is different. One pair is the "I am a victim" pair. You might have an "I am stupid", or an "I am scared" pair. Maybe you have an "I am fat, abandoned, wronged, outraged, or better than him/her" pair. Each pair is created by the stories that you tell yourself regarding some past or future event. In other words, the meaning that you give to the events in life that make them something other than just an event that occurred in your life. So your mind "colors" the events and you see life as whatever "color" you created. The more you hold onto or create a story in your head about something that happened, the more often you will reach for the corresponding pair of glasses.
It's through this lens that we interpret the situations that occur in our lives. So if I am wearing my "I am stupid" glasses and my husband says to me, "You missed the turn", chances are I will interpret his neutral comment as "OMG you missed the turn you dummy! You can't even read a map! Geez, you are so stupid!". This is because I am interpreting his neutral comment through a lens or filter of my "I am stupid" glasses. So in that moment I am not seeing life as it is, but seeing life as I am.
Whatever mood, feeling, or story that we are holding onto in our heads becomes the lens through which we see, hear, interpret, and react to whatever is happening in our lives. At the risk of sounding political, it is exactly what has happened this election season. Whether we are wearing "I am for Trump" glasses or "I am for Hilary" glasses, we are seeing everything that occurs through a colored and unclear lens, depending on who we see (or saw) fit to become President. The media doesn't help because the news they report is most often reported through the lens that they are looking through as well.
In the the eight limbed path of yoga, the final limb is called samadhi.
sama means "clear, neutral or colorless".
dhi means vision.
The ultimate state that one hopes to reach through the practice of yoga is samadhi. If we reach this state of samadhi or clear seeing, it's as if we have taken our off glasses and we can see clearly each experience as it is happening in the moment, instead of through the lens of whatever state we happen to be in at the time. As hard as it is to be neutral with the constant barrage of stories, opinions, and actions by people in and out of politics, it is important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to be more clear minded.
That being said...
Turn off your tv.
Log out of Facebook.
Delete your twitter account.
And practice yoga instead.
Yoga is ultimately about getting to a place where you can see life as it is instead of as YOU are....
Getting so completely clear and present that you are not looking through a lens of old stuff but having a fresh and clear perspective on life and what's happening in the moment. Doesn't that sound amazing?
"Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I, but when the leaves bow down their heads, the wind is passing by."
Whenever the wind blows, I think of my mom. I am comforted by this simple verse that she often spoke. She passed away on October 20th, 2016. Like the wind, I cannot see her, but I can feel her presence in everything around me.
After the agonizing and precious gift of being with her for three days as her body slowly shut down, I have come to believe that somehow we have a choice about the actual time that we die. My mom waited until all of her five daughters arrived to leave her body. It was as if she wanted to see us one last time on this earth before taking her last breath.
It's hard to talk about my mom without mentioning the stroke that she had twelve years ago that started her on a slow downward spiral of short term memory loss and impaired brain function. While it was very difficult because over time she lost her vivaciousness and enthusiasm, we were grateful that her inner essence of kindness and contentment remained intact. She was always peaceful and sweet right up until the very end of her life.
As cliche as it sounds, my mom was beautiful inside and out. Her big brown eyes and blonde hair accented her dimples which were often evident. She used to say, "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours." She always had a smile and a kind word to give away. Her generosity extended to all people, friends and strangers alike. Her outgoing personality made everyone feel welcome and comfortable in her presence.
My mom loved poetry and music. She often spoke in verse, reciting poems or songs from memory that were pertinent to the situation at hand. I remember coming home from school complaining about someone that had wronged me and she would say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This simple statement taught me to avoid talking unkindly about others. I learned quickly that when a friend was gossiping, if I didn't join the conversation, it would soon come to an end. My mom practiced this as well. I can't remember ever hearing her speak an unkind word about someone.
When I needed alone time with mom, I would fake an illness so I could stay home from school and be with her. She would put her cool hand on my head and say, "You feel a little warm, why don't you take the day off and rest." She knew what I was up to, but she never let on. An hour later she would come into my room and say. "Do you feel well enough to go get lunch?" Then we would spend the day together at the mall, eating, talking, and shopping.
While most teenagers were struggling to get along with their parents, I had a great relationship with my mom. My friends made every excuse possible to come over to my house. I would often find them in the kitchen hanging out with her. She had a kind and compassionate heart and a patient and understanding ear. I think my friends felt an acceptance in her presence that they may not have felt at home.
My mom was kind and gentle, but she was also gregarious and silly... even mischievous at times. I used to say that she was the one at the party most likely to have the lampshade on her head. She was uninhibited and would say and do almost anything to get a laugh. She had characters that she played that were funny and sweet, bringing about fits of laughter among my sisters and me. "Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy" was my favorite, she had a high pitched voice and she would show up to take care off you when you were sick or injured, or sometimes for no reason at all. Another favorite of mine was when mom would draw eyes and a nose on her chin and turn upside down. Then she would begin an impromptu monologue with her head hanging off the edge of the bed. She was funny and quick witted and loved an audience.
My mom was the happiest when all of her daughters were home. She was a devoted wife to my dad and a committed mother to her five daughters. I always knew that no matter what, she would be there for me. She loved us all and never judged us for our mistakes or appearance. Without her having to say it, we all knew that her love was unconditional.
When I had kids of my own, my mom became the best grandma ever. She was tender and patient when they were babies, and fun and engaging as they got older. Mom would sing and dance and build sandcastles at the beach. She would draw and paint pictures or have a catch with a football. When my kids were little, we made frequent trips to Florida to visit. Traveling with four small children was always stressful, but as soon as we arrived, mom would be at the airport waiting for us with a big smile on her face. I would let out a huge sigh of relief and my kids would run into her open arms, almost knocking her down in the process. She would have toys and snacks in the car for the ride to the house, anticipating all of our needs before we arrived.
I am grateful and very fortunate to have had a mother as generous, kind, and supportive as my mom was. I will always miss her, but I know that her simple teachings will live on in me and I hope to pass them on to my children.
They are the following;
Spend time with your kids
Don't judge others
Love with all of your heart
They say that a mom holds her child's hand for a moment, but holds her child's heart for a lifetime. My mom, Shirley Jean Anderson Sax will hold my heart for the rest of my life.
Thank you mom. I love you and I miss you forever.
I am always in awe of the wildflowers that grow along the side of the highway.
The other day I thought, "Well that's a crappy a place to be a flower." Cars whizzing by blowing exhaust on their beautiful little pedals, no one stopping to smell them or tell them how pretty they are, having to wait for rain to get a drink of water. I mean wouldn't they much prefer the backyard like my roses? They would be tended to and pruned, fed with expensive plant food, watered everyday by the automatic sprinklers, and admired by everyone who sees them.
My flowers seem to bloom for my benefit, to look pretty so that my family and friends can enjoy their beauty and aroma. In contrast, those wildflowers seem as if they emit a natural grace and gratitude. Those tenacious little highway flowers seem to simply bloom for the sake of blooming. While their living conditions could be considered atrocious, they bloom where they were planted anyway.
I wonder if those highway flowers would be upset if they saw where my backyard flowers lived. Would they think, "Well this sucks! Those backyard flowers have it so much better. This isn't fair!"
In the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, one of the niyamas or personal practices we learn is called santosha. Santosha means contentment. Being content with who we are and what we have in the moment can be a challenge if we are constantly looking into the backyard of another. According to the Yoga Sutras, when we find santosha, "unexcelled happiness pervades our being" regardless of the circumstances of our lives. Patanjali tells us that deep inside each of us is an inner awareness that is peaceful, happy and content. The practices offered by the wisdom of yoga can help us to remember this Divine truth.
Being content with what we have and who we are doesn't mean we are complacent. Instead as we move in the direction that we would like to grow, we appreciate and have gratitude for each step along the way.
We can learn from those wildflowers blooming on the side of the highway, and know that when we are feeling stuck by the circumstances of our lives, we should focus our attention on our own backyard, have gratitude for what we have, and make a conscious choice to bloom where we're planted.
When I was little, I was very quiet. People used to say to me, "Whats the matter? Cat got your tongue?"
I'm still more of a listener than a talker and until recently, I thought that my tendency to be on the quieter side gave me the ability to be a good listener. I mean, if I am not talking, I must be listening right?
When I put my theory to the test however, I didn't do as well as I thought. When I tried to pay attention to and HEAR every word that my friend was saying, I realized how often my mind wanted to interject, to assert itself with an idea, an opinion, some advice.
So even though I wasn't talking, I wasn't really listening either. I was actually talking in my head, formulating my response, comparing her story to mine. When I got really honest with myself, I realized that I was making my friend's conversation about me.
To be a good listener requires that we drop our ego. If we want to listen, hear, and really know someone, it's important that we let go of judging their thoughts, comparing theirs to ours, making them right or wrong. If we listen with an open mind and heart and then repeat their thoughts back to them without our own preconceptions, comparisons and thoughts mixed in (our me), it's a way of affirming that we heard what they said without judgment.
Most often, people just want to be heard. They don't necessarily need or want to be fixed.
Allowing another person to find a solution to their own problems helps them to get stronger and grow. When we find a solution for them, they weaken.
Yoga teaches us to pay attention to ourselves, to listen to our inner guidance. Yoga philosophy says that all the answers to our questions are inside of us. We all have an INNER KNOWING that we can access when we get very clear and quiet. This is our parusha, our higher mind, our Divine self.
We don't always hear this inner guidance through all the chatter going on in our minds. We often look outward for guidance, see what others are doing, compare our choices to theirs, and ask advice to anyone we can think of. This outward seeking takes us farther away from hearing that still small voice inside of us.
On our yoga mat, our asana practice teaches us to pay attention to the wisdom of our physical bodies. It is our unconscious habits and patterns, in other words our lack of listening that created our physical issues in the first place.
When we take our yoga practice off the mat, we recognize that our unconscious patterns and habits in our mental and emotional bodies may have also created issues in our lives. This awareness can help us to break free of these habitual responses and create new and healthier ones.
The eight limbed path of yoga encourages us to pay attention, turn inward, and listen closely to our inner wisdom. When our actions are inspired by our highest self, we create a happier and more joyful life.
On January 19, 2016, heaven gained another angel. My father in law, Arthur John Pidoriano, lovingly known as "Grandpa".
He passed in a way that most of us can only hope for. He was with his son, on the golf course, doing what he loved. He had no pain, no long illness, and as far as we can tell, no suffering. This truth has brought some comfort to the family, but as my husband said in his heartfelt tribute to his dad, we will miss him everyday for the rest of our lives.
Despite the pain and shock he was feeling when his dad died suddenly in his presence, my brave and strong husband managed to write a beautiful eulogy for his father, a task that was both heart wrenching and an honor at the same time.
He told us that his father often said, "Don't feel sorry for me when I die, I have lived a great life and have done everything that I wanted to do." He told us that his father was content and had no regrets right up until the day that he died.
Arthur Pidoriano Sr. was born in 1932 in Brooklyn, NY. He was an only child. He never understood how siblings could fight since all he wanted growing up was a brother or a sister to play with. According to my husband, this lack of siblings may have been the reason that he cherished his relationships and treated everyone like family.
My father in law's parents were hardworking and very loving, but they didn't have enough money to send him to college. Fortunately, they raised a bright, athletic,and hardworking son who was able to secure a basketball scholarship to Boston College and St Mary's in California. Having never left New York, he chose Boston College to be closer to home. When he arrived at BC, the coach told him that he couldn't major in pre med because the labs and practices coincided. Since his sights were set on dental school, this was a deal breaker for him. He acted quickly and called the St Mary's coach. By luck or by fate, his scholarship was still available. With a suitcase full of clothes and twenty dollars in his pocket, he boarded a train and went all the way across the country to California.
At St. Mary's, Grandpa excelled in basketball and academics. He made more than enough money to support himself by running a successful babysitting business out of his dorm room, working at the local pool hall, and managing a nearby racetrack. His hard work paid off and got him accepted to NYU Dental School.
During college, my father in law met, in my husband's tender words, " the love of his life." My mother in law was a perfect match for Grandpa...bright, athletic, hardworking, and beautiful. They married and went on to have five children, fulfilling Grandpa's dream of having a big family.
My father in law was by all rights a successful man. He had a thriving dental practice and worked really hard to provide a great life for his family. He also stressed the importance of having fun and enjoying life. He taught his kids to water ski, snow ski, fish, and play golf. He loved to gamble and taught them to play blackjack and craps. But the most important thing that he taught them was to love each other. In his eulogy to his dad, my husband told us that he was grateful to have grown up in an environment of love, kindness, and commitment to family.
My mother and father in law's love and commitment to each other has produced eighteen grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren (so far). At a family function teeming with kids, all of whom were related to him, my father in law once said, "If I had five million dollars in the bank, I wouldn't feel as rich as I do right now." Grandpa's biggest accomplishment had nothing to do with his financial success. He was the most proud of his family.
When I expressed my sadness to my mother in law over the loss of the love of her life, instead of wallowing in her own grief, she told me, "Grandpa loved you very much." I told her with tears in my eyes, "I know he did because he told me often." What I admired most about my father in law was the ease with which he said, "I love you." He never held back his expression of love.
My father in law was lucky in many ways. My husband believed that it wasn't luck but his positive attitude that helped him to survive a massive heart attack at age 59 and bypass surgery at age 78. I believe that his positive attitude also helped him to survive the heartbreaking loss of his beautiful daughter Regina, fifteen years ago.
After Grandpa's funeral, I heard my husband tell someone that his father "had a bad heart" which is what ultimately caused his death at age 83. I was a little taken aback hearing this because it seemed so far from the truth. Physiologically, his heart may have in fact been "bad", but in every other way possible, his heart was amazing and good, and overflowing with love.
I am sad to say goodbye to my father in law. I will miss his twinkling eyes and loving smile. Although our lives will never be the same without him, his legacy of love, kindness, and commitment to family will always be in our hearts.
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 122078a0def9 Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras