A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
About nine years ago my mom had a stroke that damaged the part of her brain responsible for short term memory.
Initially, she was aware that her memory was not so good. She used to say that she had CRS, Can't Remember Shit. Over time her CRS developed into what the doctor's called MCI. Mild cognitive impairment.
I remember selfishly thinking, "MILD cognitive impairment! It's not mild! She's not like she used to be, she can't give me advice or listen to my problems, she can't even remember my kid's birthdays! I want my old mom back!"
My "new mom" remembered her family and friends, but didn't have have the brain function to replay a conversation over and over in her head and discuss her ideas about it. She also didn't have the ability create a story in her mind about some future thing that might happen. This took away her capacity to get upset about an argument that she had with my dad or get scared about the fact that she didn't know what tomorrow might bring. In other words, my new mom could only live in the moment. When the moment passed, she couldn't grab onto it hoping that it would stay or regret it when was gone.
My new mom could only be PRESENT. Every experience became a new one, unencumbered by old ideas, thoughts, judgements, memories or anticipations. This gave her an essence of peacefulness.
Recently, I realized and accepted that this is actually a good thing. In fact, it's something that many spiritual teachers encourage us to aspire to.
Thich Nat Hahn, a Zen Buddhist says , "To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water, the miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment and appreciate the beauty and peace that is available now."
Being in the present moment deepens our understanding of what is going on and then we can be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.
When the moment comes, we should receive it and when it passes, we need to let it go.....
In yoga philosophy, we learn that it is our attachment to and inacceptance of the impermanance of all things that causes us to suffer. The sooner we learn to accept and embrace that EVERYTHING changes, the more peaceful we will be.
I call my mom an inadvertent Zen Buddhist because she didn't have to work to get to this state of peacefullness. It just happened to her.
If I let go of my need to keep everything the same as it was, I can accept that my new mom is a gift. She still remembers that the blue sky is beautiful, a flower smells nice, chocolate tastes delicious, and her grandchildren are perfect. The most important parts of living are not lost on her.
When she sings, "Good morning to you, good morning to you, we're all in our places, with bright shining faces and that is the way to start a new day!" to passersby in the mall, even the most distracted person will stop what they are doing and come to the present moment to listen to this beautiful lady singing a joyful song to them.
Although she can be a handful for my truly loving and patient father, and my very committed sisters who take care of her, the happiness that she spreads to strangers and friends alike is quite amazing.
The last time that my parents were visiting, I was reading a book on mindfulness while my mom sat on the couch next to me. I looked up from my book and she was just sitting there smiling. We looked at each other and started to giggle.
When I looked back down at my book, I saw this quote by Thich Nat Hahn.
"Breathing in, there is only the present moment, breathing out, it is a wonderful moment." I will never forget THAT moment, but I will learn from my mom and let it pass by without clinging to it accepting with as much grace as I can that a moment as sweet as that may or may not ever happen again.
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.
Many spiritual teachings suggest that we all have a unique and important purpose in this world.
This is our dharma, our reason for being, our mission in life. The word dharma literally means, "pillar" or "that which holds up or supports".
Deepak Chopra says that when we discover our dharma and live from that place, we are in our truth. When we live from our truth and share it with others, we support not just ourselves but the wholeness and equanimity of the entire Universe. At the same time, the Universe "supports or holds us up" as well.
Some people are fortunate enough to discover their dharma early in life. They might have a gift for art or music or science, and they have a strong drive to share it with the world. They might say, "I feel like I was born to do this."
Others of us have to seek out our dharma. It might have been buried by fears and doubts or a lack of support by society or those around us.
When we are feeling lost and confused, we might ask "What am I supposed to do?", but a better question to help us discover our truth would be, " What feeds my soul and how can I use it to serve my higher self and others?"
The self discovery process of yoga practice can help us on our journey to find our dharma. When we become very clear about our purpose and think, speak, and act from that place, we will find that opportunities begin to present themselves. Our challenges and blocks may begin to disappear as the Universe supports us. In turn, we must use our dharma to help and serve others. The Buddhists say, "If you can, you must." So you have a duty or responsibility to use your special gift and act as a pillar for the Universe.
Imagine a world where each of us lived from our truth. We would each "hold up" our part of the Universe and everyone might be at peace....
"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 also might have the "I am stupid pair or an I am worthless pair, as well as an I am scared, fat, pretty, smart, sexy, abandoned, wronged, better than her, happy, and irritated" pair. Each pair is created by the stories that you tell yourself regarding some past or future event. In other words, it's the meaning that you give to the events in life that make them something other than just an event that occured 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 to you, the more often you will reach for the corresponding pair of glasses.
Its 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.
In the the eight limbed path of Ashtanga yoga, the final limb is called Samadhi.
sama means "clear, neutral or colorless"
dhi means vision
If we reach this state of samadhi or clear seeing, we aren't putting on our glasses at all, instead we will see clearly or neutrally each experience as it is happening in the moment instead of through the lens of whatever state we happen to be in at the moment.
So yoga practice 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 your old stuff but having a fresh and clear perspective on your life and whats happening in the moment.
Vitarka badahne pratipaksa bhavanam 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 ever 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 anyway.
If my mother in law were a yogi, she would be practicing pratipaksa bhavana. 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?" " Am I projecting my own biased opinions on someone else." " 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 controlled the mind so as not to be in a reactive mode but in a creative mode. Since our thoughts create what is real to us, living this way can help us to live a happier life.
Pratipaksa bhavana might also include being grateful for those situations and people that challenge us because they can show us how NOT to be or what we DON'T want. Now our most difficult relationships and circumstances become a practice in opening our hearts and minds to gratitude for all of life. The good and the bad.
Cultivating the opposite is ultimately about changing our attitude rather than attempting to change the person or situation that make 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.
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