Meditation in the Middle
By Laura Mills
These days, my meditation practice usually consists of one solid sitting early each morning, after I do some sun salutations and before I prepare for the rest of the day. I sit cross-legged in the middle of my unlit living room, facing the windows, and I close my eyes and focus on my breath. The house and neighborhood are still and quiet except for early-morning crickets and birds; whatever thoughts arise I easily let float away into the semi-silence.
One recent day I felt the need to meditate in the middle of the afternoon. I had had a stressful week, one that required lots of emotional and physical energy. It was about 3:00pm; I had just gotten home from yoga, but I still felt exhausted, jittery, and unable to think straight. So I sat in my spot in the living room, now brightly lit with sun, closed my eyes and tried to tune in to my breath. But at 3:00 in the afternoon on this particular day my neighbor dribbled a basketball on his patio; every few moments a vehicle passed by; and a hot intermittent wind shook the leaves of the tree outside my windows. After a few moments I opened my eyes, ready to cry; I wanted—I felt I needed—my early-morning peace!
But then an idea arose…. I had been taught time and time again that while one can often not change her circumstances, one could always change her attitude. Obviously I wasn’t going to get my desired meditation environment in this time and place, but what if I viewed my current environment as peaceful anyway? I closed my eyes again. And I listened. The bump, bump, bump of the basketball became the beat of my heart. The swish of the leaves became lapping waves. And the traffic that passed by became the miscellaneous thoughts as they left my mind.
By Laura Mills
The Beatles recorded a song called “The Long and Winding Road,” which I admit—even as one of my generation’s most enthusiastic Beatles fans—I usually skip when it rolls around on an album or collection. To be fair, the song is a stylistic masterpiece; much like the long and winding road they describe, the melody and lyrics curve back and forth, up and down, meandering from beginning to end. Style points aside, though, the plodding tempo makes me downright antsy after just a few moments.
Ironically, when I’ve attempted to meditate lately the image of a long and winding road has come to mind. Stretching infinitely ahead, curving into the distance, my heart tells me it’s my road. This image doesn’t surprise me, really, this being May… it’s the month in which I encounter my most notable life “landmarks.” Last week, for example, was the one-year anniversary of the day I first met my daughter. My second Mother’s Day was this past Sunday. My birthday occurs in May, as does my wedding anniversary. This month more than any other, I can’t help but feel a profound sense of time passing and of change. I also feel gratitude for the distance already traveled, as well as anxiety about the unexplored terrain ahead.
I know the experience of a long and winding road, quite literally, as many times in the middle of a long walk or hike I’ve looked into a distance that both invited and frightened me. This translates so well into a metaphor for life, which leads me back to that Beatles song…which perhaps at some level, like the month of May, reminds me that plodding or no I am always on the move. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always pretty, but one foot in front of the other, my calling is to make every footfall count.
By Laura Mills
A question non-yogis often ask me upon learning I teach yoga is: “Do you meditate?” And when I answer yes, they seem either impressed or scared. I guess much like asana practice, or even the yogic lifestyle itself, many non-yogis maintain a preconceived notion of what meditation is or involves. Since as many definitions of meditation, techniques for meditation, and opinions of meditation exist as there are meditating people out there, just for the record here’s my current take on it….
When I sit to meditate, I sit comfortably in a peaceful place—not necessarily a quiet place—with my eyes closed. I slow my breathing. I focus my attention on the place between my eyebrows. When I walk to meditate, I focus my attention on each step, the feeling of the earth beneath my feet.
And that’s it.
More often than not, staying focused challenges me, especially if I’m rattled, afraid, or even excited about something. And at those times—if I even notice my attention has strayed in the first place—I keep encouraging my attention back. Happily, practice over time has brought me more ease in staying focused. And with focus, the sensation is one of having put my “busy brain” on a shelf. It’s a relief.
I don’t meditate every day. I intend to, all the time, but I admit it’s one of those practices I move aside as my days fill with other things. Making the time to meditate is, I think, just as much a practice as meditation itself, and something I need to continue to work on.
My take on meditation may change tomorrow, or next year, or never. But at this moment, here I am.
The eyes of some of my non-yogi friends widen when they see me order a turkey sandwich for lunch or take a diet soda from my fridge, reminding me that many people maintain a preconceived notion of what a “yogi” is or should be.
I do consider myself a yogi. But I don’t grow my own anything or regularly buy organic. I forget to bring reusable grocery bags to the store. I know nothing about herbs or essential oils. I am ridiculously impatient (just tell a hungry me I have to wait 20 minutes for a restaurant table…). And yes, I occasionally eat meat and have a one-diet-soda-a-day habit.
When the questions come—the ones I ask myself as well as the ones others ask—they also remind me that being a yogi entails much, much more than any one aspect of life. It’s a person’s openness to love of self and universe. Yoga involves caring for ourselves and others and the Earth, the practice of physical poses as well as breath, and ever-deepening meditation; however, we don’t begin our practice incorporating everything at once. We explore, we integrate, and little by little we add the elements that bring better balance to our lives…our amazing, beautiful, unique lives. And we don’t do it all overnight. We may not even do it all in a lifetime.
Perhaps the next time a non-yogi friend asks me to explain yoga, then, I should begin with, “It’s a process by which I continuously learn about my true self….”
Trying something new...
Trying Something New
By Laura Mills
I love Sunday afternoon yoga. It’s one of my favorite times to practice. It’s like my mental breakfast for the week; if I don’t get to a class on Sunday afternoon, I feel somewhat off kilter as I move ahead.
Usually occupied by social commitments or chores, Sunday afternoon hadn’t occurred to me as an optimal practice time until recently, one particular Sunday when I felt so stressed (I had been trying to set up a new computer) that I decided, “That’s it. I’m going to yoga.” This was a first; even after years of practice, I had never stopped mid-task and attended a yoga class on a whim.
I realized later that going to yoga was the best thing for me that day at that time. I returned mentally soothed and physically exhilarated. And looking at my “problem,” I no longer saw it as an obstacle. In fact, in my more settled state, and with the humility and gratitude to ask for assistance, the computer got set up just fine.
Since then I’ve paid greater attention to ways of optimizing my practice based on my mental and physical state any given day. Like other needs with which we nourish ourselves, to receive the most from our yoga I believe we require combinations—different times of day; different types of asanas, pranayamas, and meditations; different genres of music (or even, sometimes, no music at all). Tremendous joy, and I believe better health and greater peace, exist in exploring “recipes” that work
11 WAYS TO SAY YES IN 2011!
JANUARY 31, 2011. MORE YES! Here we are in the beginning of the year. Eleven months more to go which means there is still plenty of time to set the foundation of YES in your life in 2011. Let's start by saying YES to a little quiz. First question to ask yourself is (1) are you conscious and alert to your Yes choices? (2) Do you say Yes more than you say No? (3) What do you say YES to?
In Tantric philosophy we start with "yes". It is our first choice. We say yes to opening, softening, receiving and lay the way in understanding that YES IS DOING! Or as is written in the Alchemist, "There is only one way to learn, it's through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey." You see Yoga is learning to align with nature rather than resisting it or trying to over control it by saying No all the time. This spiritual practice is about saying YES as the immediate response to life. Wayne Gretzky is so right on "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Yes means taking the chance, risking it all for love, for a happier life, for a happier YOU. Will you get hurt? Maybe. Is it worth it? YES! So join me in aligning 11 INTENTIONS to 2011, in these eleven remaining months of the year.
So here are 11 things to say YES to in 2011
- Yoga, Cycling, Culture and Wine in Tuscany, Italy June 19-26, 2011 or October 16-22, 2011
- 10 minutes of meditation 5 in the morning and 5 in the evening
- Practicing patience with the one person you love
- Walk or ride a bike for 15 min a day
- Yoga, Mountain Biking and Adventure in Moab, Utah April 16-19, 2011 or Oct 27-30, 2011
- Take a Private Yoga Session
- Taking a few deep breaths before sending an email, text, or phone call. What is your intention for communication and does it come from love?
- Start reading the Yoga Sutras (Secret Power of Yoga is one of my favorites!)
- Get some Beach Therapy. Yoga in Xinalani Mexico Feb 26-March 5, 2011 or Big Island Hawaii Dec 18-23, 2011
- Practice gratitude daily. Write or think of 3 things you are grateful for each morning or before bed.
- SMILE more!
Take to heart that doing something is the Yes. And when you decide you are clear on what you say YES to, then everything is there to support you. It is as is written in the Alchemist "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." At the end of the day what you say YES to isn't even as important as just doing it! Love yourself, love your day, love your life, Silvia
PS - Join me on retreat www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com
NEW SERIES IN THE WORDS OF A TEACHER TRAINEE JULIA JONSON COHN TELLS ALL
Peeling Back the Layers By Julia Jonson Cohn (RYT PENDING, CLASS #9 TBY TEACHER TRAINING)
I always cry when I peel onions… the more I peel and chop, the more tears that flow. This has been the case for me more often than not lately each time I lie in Savasana. I feel as if I’m peeling back layer after layer of ego and really getting to the core of who I am -- an infinite being who is already perfect and whole. I guess you could call them tears of joy for an incredible discovery made through deepening both my yoga practice and meditating more often.
My fellow teacher trainees and I spent a recent day of training delving deep into meditation. We started our day with a yoga class led by our teacher, Rachel Dewan. She encouraged us to practice the principle of Ahimsa (or non-harming) both in class and in our lives. After our yoga practice wrapped up, we took that theme a step further as we sat in a group and meditated for 30 minutes. Rachel guided us into stillness and at the end, the feeling seemed unanimous… time flew and we had all gone to ‘the other place,’ as yoga teacher Andrea Harris calls it. Andrea says, "when we spend every waking moment of our day cognizant of only the external portion of our existence, we miss out on something truly important. When we close our eyes with awareness and acknowledge our internal existence, each and every quiet breath lifts away a layer of distraction. Underneath those layers lie your true light, your true spirit, and it is beautifully, wonderfully divine."
The benefits of meditation are extensive. Rachel taught us that a person’s physical health can improve tremendously, if not transform, with regular stillness. Many scientists and doctors are now finding proof of meditation’s direct impact on the way the brain is wired. Clinical research is being done in the areas of depression, anxiety, asthma, cancer and other diseases that shows how patients can reduce symptoms and often times even cure what ails them through a regular meditation practice. Just last week the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the mental health benefits of mindfulness. Psychologists are using new cognitive behavior therapies to help people combat self doubt through a) accepting their thoughts and b) remaining present in the moment. Hey, that’s yoga!
I am officially sold. Not that I needed to be, but it is exciting to see a personal transformation as I meditate more frequently and to know that I will have something invaluable to share with my students. Yet another way to help them increase their level of happiness and see the world more clearly. In the book, “Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness,” (a required read for our teacher training) author and yoga instructor Erich Shiffman reminds us that “it is not arrogant or egotistical to feel good inside. You had nothing to do with it. It’s simply the honest response to clearly perceived Reality.” For me, it just feels so great to feel good most of the time. Reason enough to find time for stillness.
CHEMISTRY OF TRUTH
"Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted, like the face of a mirror that contains no images. If you want a clear mirror, behold yourself and see the truth." - RUMI
OCTOBER 10, 2010
The mat serves as a mirror for each of us. The opportunity to let go of anger, fear, stress allows us to open up to our happiest selves. This process requires we see ourselves honestly. Its easy to stay upset and hold on to grudges and muddy up the picture of what we really feel or who we are. So this experiment is quite radical if you're used to masking or hiding from your truth.
There is a Chemistry to Truth. And we have in every moment a choice about how to influence the balance with the chemicals of our thoughts and our breath. If you do not breath out fully you are in fact poisoning yourself. Or if in your thoughts you are self-critical or judgmental this drama is creating a stress and hormones like cortisol are being released.
Writes Donna Farhi, New Zealander yoga teacher, in Holding Your Breath (Yoga Journal, April 1996): "Stress may be real or imagined. Just imagining a stressful event can reduce inhalation volume. When we are continuously exposed to stress, then the body just forgets to relax." Obviously, the breathing pattern changes, and "it just might become a statement about what happened in the past rather then what is happening to us in the present".
Every exhale, every pose can help us relieve the past and be more conscious of the moment we are living. You can by breathing wisely and thinking healing thoughts dilute the concentration of the harsh chemicals in your body. But first the practice of studying yourself, svadhaya, asks that we see ourselves truthfully. You engage when you hold your breath, where you get overly dramatic for no reason, where you are making yourself TOXIC. And the diluting can be accomplished through mantra as well, what you are thinking on purpose. A favorite of mine is the lovingkindness meditation:
Think of yourself, offer healing and a way to let go of sadness, anger, worry saying inside:
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be loved
Then think of a challenging person, who you need to heal the relationship and say to them inside:
May You be happy
May You be peaceful
May You be loved.
Then think of how to influence the chemistry of the world (of which you are a part of) by saying to all people:
May We be happy
May We be peaceful
May We be loved.
The answer to stress, anger you feel towards a situation or a person or thing is not eye for an eye. Fighting is only going to make it more acidic, more poison will kill us eventually. The only answer is love. Love dilutes the pain, the worry and relieves us of this toxicity. And in that truth we see our best most beautiful selves! Love your day, love your life, love yourself! Silvia
HAPPINESS MEANS SOCIAL CONNECTION
SEPTEMBER 17, 2010.
In 1948 a study began known as the Framingham Heart Study. It was the most comprehensive of its kind. Now 60 plus years later scientists have studied other aspects beyond just heart disease. One of their findings ins related to happiness theory. And of the factors studied a key part is that happiness is being connected to other people. We experience happiness through social connections. And therefore are very much influenced by clusters of other people around us. Check this out: a change in one person effects you and all in the cluster, your probability for increased happiness improves 15% if your most immediate friend is happy, 10% if a friend of your friend is happy, and so on until four degrees of separation.
They are figuring out and measuring what yogis have known for thousands of years: happiness is contagious.
This means everyday we have the opportunity to save someone's life. You practice yoga today, so you can practice tomorrow. What you do to manage your thoughts to create happy cells impacts not only you but those around you. In this way we are creating our world thought by thought, day by day. And it can be heaven on earth! Maybe it is. The sutras spell out that if we are imbalanced mentally, physically, emotionally which means we are not living our true nature - which is naturally happy then we must practice chapter 2.33 Pratipaksha Bhavana. Engage happy thoughts. So simple. It is our Namaste: Seek the still point where the words "you" and "I" lose meaning, where we meet and merge as one.
Try this breath meditation when you need to elevate your attitude. And be the change you want to see in the world (Ghandi). Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
Inhale: I welcome happiness,
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome inspiration
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome love
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome hope
Exhale: I am grateful
“Heartfelt gratitude really is the fastest way to experience happiness now. It is impossible to be truly grateful and neurotic; it is impossible to be truly grateful and not happy.” (Happiness coach Barry Kaufman author of Happiness Is A Choice)
SNOWBOARDING AND YOGA BY KENDRA CHARTS GUEST BLOGGER
SEPTEMBER 13, 2010. As I sit here sweating and itching discovering new mosquito bites by the minute, I cannot help but slip away to the idea of the snow. Don't be fooled - I adore the summer. But something about the winter, the glittering snow on the trees, sitting in warm hot springs on a cold night, the mountain peaks, and snowboarding with friends pulls at my heartstrings.
I love snowboarding equally as much as I love yoga (and that is a whole lotta love). This is my story of snowboarding, a practice that is now one of my greatest forms of meditation and prayer. A friend of mine likes to say, "Snowboarding is my prayer and the mountains are my chapel". This I wholeheartedly agree with. This has not always been the case, not even close. Just like when you first tried handstand perhaps you were extremely afraid to go upside down, couldn't get your legs up or just all over the place and toppled over in a big pile. I was like that when it came to snowboarding. Years ago, I decided to go with my brother and his friends to Upper Michigan to learn to board-I figured I was with a bunch of guys with no fear who knew what they were doing. They would help me out and it would be awesome. Wrong! The first time I did not get it at all. I'd go an inch and then crash, go another inch and then crash again and best of all my brother's friend (on accident) hit me in the head with the snowboard edge which resulted in a lovely gash on my forehead to bring home as my souvenir (I still have the scar - ask me about it and I'll be glad to show you).
Do not be deterred by this story. With practice I was finally able to link turns. And the feeling was like nothing I had ever experienced. It changed my perspective and I was hooked. It was not until I truly made the commitment, relaxed, slowed down, checked my ego at the chair lift that II was able to connect with the board and surf the mountains. Or in yoga terms that I was able to do that handstand with grace, ease and control. Believe me I have put my whole heart and soul into this love of mine but not until I surrendered did I find the pure joy of this meditation. Frederick Lenz in his book Snowboarding to Nirvana puts it like this: "When you snowboard...your thoughts stop and you rise above time. You enter into a timeless dimension where you experience great joy. When you rise above ego, you experience the pure joy and ecstasy of the web of life."
I have many other stories like the first time I learned to board but I have even more stories of the true awesomeness snowboarding allows. I've come a long way since that first day. I've lived the dream in Aspen, CO; I've competed; I've trained; I've done ski patrol on a snowboard; I've traveled the world; I've taught; I've visualized; I've taken gnarly falls and gotten back up again; I've ridden backcountry; I've connected with mountains; I’ve driven for hours all night long to be able to ride; I’ve ridden powder and ice and the list goes on and on. But above all, the mountains and the board continue to teach and humble me, and it’s with great respect for both that I write this.
Yoga has truly enhanced my snowboarding and life as it yokes my mind, body and spirit. How you may be wondering? Yoga conditions your body to be strong and flexible allowing better form and technique so you can ski or board with grace and flow with the mountain rather than resist and attack it. It can be scary out on the snow covered mountains when you are first learning or if you’re a veteran when you are pushing the edge. The breathing techniques you learn in yoga allow you to relax the muscles and mind when you face a situation where you need to be calm. And one of my personal favorites, yoga lessens the risk of injury and quickens your recovery time. This means you can get out on the mountain day after day feeling good each time. So as I sit here on this hot summer day I am quietly preparing full of excitement for the snowboarding season that lies ahead.
Keep exploring and living your dreams,
If you have always wanted to learn to snowboard or ski or already know from experience what I am talking about please consider these amazing adventure Yoga and Snowboarding retreats with Silvia, Jacob and myself. We’ll combine yoga, hot springs and boarding/skiing in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, December 9 - 12, 2010 or Banff, Canada, February 23 - 27, 2011. Visit www.alchemytours.com for more information. And if you can’t wait until then please join me for the pre-season Yoga for Snowboarding and Skiing workshop at Total Body Yoga, October 24, 2010. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARE YOU TALKING TOO MUCH?
Silence is an ocean.
Speech is a river.
When the ocean is searching for you,
don't walk into the language-river.
Listen to the ocean,
and bring your talky business to an end -RUMI
SEPTEMBER 2, 2010. Are you talking too much? I'm just now coming out of a more silent period and one of the greatest learnings I've discovered is that most of us TALK TOO MUCH. And what happens when we are talking too much is that the subtle enemy of love, Talking too much about OTHER people, seeps into our life practice. This much I know, no one has gained personal insight or spiritual growth spending too much time talking about other people and what they are doing or not doing or how they are doing it. The antidote to healing this malady is to spend time in SILENCE which is why yoga, any yoga, is a form of silent meditation. When your mind is running rampant with over talking you know you are stuck in the language river and are at risk of drowning. So as Rumi writes, bring your talky business to an end. Go inside. Be Silent. Stop Talking. Realign with your attitudinal alignment. One of the vital elements of the elegant system of Anusara Yoga.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” -James Swindoll
You are in charge of your attitude and what you are feeling and thinking inside is where truth lies. Where ultimate Santosha, happiness exist all the time.Now what if you know you are the subject of other people's talky business and they are stuck in the river of speech talking about you, then what? How do you get them to stop? Again, all you control are your attitudes you cannot change what others say or do. They must want to for themselves. Follow the advice of Virginia Satir who says "We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us.” Go beyond what others say about you and make time for silence in order to remain true to who you are. As Emerson says, "Stay at home in your mind. Don't recite other people's opinions.
Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
CAN YOU BE HAPPY IF DOING WITHOUT?
May, 23, 2010. I have found selling my house an opportunity for continuous spiritual growth. The last 3 weeks I went without hot water, not even warm water. All I had until yesterday was COLD (no make that Very Cold) water. The first couple days showering like this was ok. Not the end of the world, but as week one became week 2 and then 3 it was liking camping indoors except I wasn’t doing it on purpose. Then with the help of friends finally I had hot water again! YES! I was so grateful.
During the time my house has been on the market I moved my unsightly microwave to a dark corner of my basement on the ground for that was the only place I could figure to plug it into an outlet. I don’t rely heavily on microwaving, actually am trying to break myself of the habit 100% but being merely human yes I succumb to its ease. Except during the last 3 months in order to warm anything up I had to travel long and far into the nether regions of my basement to sit on the floor to open its little door and sneak my food in. It was very much like being Alice in Wonderland, I’d be small then once warmed I could grow big again and return to the land above ground. Not the end of the world, but gosh as each month wore on it became a chore. This weekend my house sold and I was able to return my microwave back to the kitchen, on the first floor and stand up while using it. YES! I was so grateful.
Many years ago I was run over by a car by a very sweet apologetic 80 year old man while I was walking from my garage to my townhome after church on a sunny Sunday morning. One moment I was mobile and easily walking, moving, breathing and then next (since the car was bigger than my petite frame) I was lying on the ground. Eventually through yoga and the love and support of doctors, family and friends I recovered to a place of healthy even beyond what I had before. YES! I was so grateful.
So I have been asked many times over the years why or how did I begin teaching. The main reason is that I don’t want you to experience having to lose anything and do without in order to get the lesson that GRATITUDE unlocks the fullness of life. As Melody Beattie says and goes on to say “It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Sometimes all it takes to reconnect to active Gratitude is coming back to the mat to gently remind us of how fortunate we are in this moment. You don’t have to be without Hot water to give thanks when you shower each day of what a cool blessing it is that you just turn a faucet and out it comes. You don’t have to loose mobility to realize how awesome it is to walk onto the mat of your own volition. When I need a simple kick in the pants I return time and again to the words of the Buddha:
Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn't die;
so, let us be thankful.
No matter who we are or what our situation is, we can always find something for which we are grateful. It is most often when we work too hard, or stretch ourselves too thin that we have a tendency to feel impoverished which Trungpa Rimpoche called, "poverty mentality." If unsure just breathe and remember to be grateful that you were chosen to be alive today! Gratitude is a form of meditation and promotes an elevated attitude to any negative thoughts. This is known as Chapter 2.33 Pratipaksha Bhavana. A simple favorite of mine is:
Inhale: I welcome happiness,
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome inspiration
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome love
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome hope
Exhale: I am grateful
My sincere hope every class I teach is that the gratitude meditation becomes part of us and we never have to lose something to recognize how grateful we are to have that person, that situation or that circumstance in our life. From this point forward say thank you to everyone you meet for every kindness they offer you. It will change your life! Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
INTUITION POWER OF INTENTION AND VISUALIZATION
May 14, 2010, “It is dark. Eyes closed, we lie as if asleep, dreamless, ignorant of all around us. Floating in a sea of emptimenss, we are cradled in darkness – unseeing, unknowing, at peace. We breath slowly, in and out, in and out, stretching and relaxing our bodes as we settle into the warm, peaceful darkness inside. We are home. We are safe. We are deep within ourselves, feeling, hearing, being – but not seeing.
Somewhere in the darkness, we hear a sounds a distant note, a voice, a scuffle of movement. We feel the flutter of a breeze upon our face, feel a warmth upon our shoulders, feel the pull to rise and flow and follow but we know not where. Our bodies cannot see and dare not move. They are dark and still. They call to use for direction, wisdom, guidance. They call to intelligence, they call to memory, they call for clarification of the pattern. They call to light.
We hear this call and our own mind hungry for answers, quests outward. We long to see, to know, to behold at once the wonders that surround to. To fill our minds with recognition, the certain steps of knowing, the safety and the peace that light, too, can bring.
WE OPEN OUR MIND. WE OPEN OUR EYES. WE LOOK ABOUT. THE MIND OPENS AND RECEIVES.
But there is too much and the light is blinding. We call to the dark to shade us, to temper, to bind the patterns into meaning. And the dark comes softly hand in hand and shadow to the light, defining, shading, intertwining, ordering. What do you wish to see? What do you call forth to your inner vision?
From inner vision, insight revealed, nothing can remain concealed. From inner vision reaching out, seeing truth, removing doubt. Inside we open, watch, and wait, while wisdom’s visions spin our fate. Illumination shows the way, our inner light turns night into day. Within our minds, we light the way!” --By Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System (and one of my favorite books of all time)
If you take one thing away from this practice of Ajna is that once you start paying attention and honing the power of intuition, this inner seeing, then you understand how to influence your reality through creative visualizations and meditations. You create your reality. While holding a difficult pose you create a story in your mind of easeful power and then the pose becomes what you want it to be. And even taking this a step further. “To hold an image in our mind increases the possibility it will materialize.” Think about that. Say it aloud, write it down, repeat it. If you see something in your mind you will manifest it. But if you don’t know how to harness the power of your mind into that image and stay with it then you water down the opportunity to tap into your greatest potential. Today, tell yourself the story of the next chapter of your life, outline your intentions but then talk yourself through what that looks like in your life and see for yourself the magic of the 6th chakra at work! Love to you, Silvia
BELIEVE WITH YOUR HEART: LET YOUR MIND REST
JANUARY 22, 2010: At those times in my life where things haven’t made much sense whether it be the passing away of my Dad at a young 59 years old, or seeing the beloved grandmother of a friend ill with cancer or the injustice of nature made disasters like in Haiti. The torture of trying to understand such things with the limitations of our human mind are not the answer. Consciousness is united in the heart say the Yoga Sutras in the first chapter! Our minds yoga teacher/poet Danna Faulds says “may never find the answers they seek so save your energy to swim with the tide.” If we attempt to solve the incomprehensible with our mind we will simply go in circles maybe into madness. The way to keep flowing, to keep living is to let the mind rest and listen with your heart.
“Go to the truth beyond the mind.
Love is the bridge” (Stephen Levine)
The challenge of our humanity is so often we again forget the heart consciousness and go back to trying to make sense of why things happen with our mind. Here for a moment imagine your mind like a lake. The heart under the surface of the water wants your mind to remain like a quiet lake. But we allow our minds to get highly disturbed and the waters grow so rough that we lose clarity. A smooth surface of water can reflect the outer world clearly (like trees or birds or clouds reflected in the mirror like surface of water). However if the surface is chopped up we cannot reflect the sky nor can we see under the surface deeper within ourselves. The yoga will help you as does all meditation to quiet the water and dive into the heart. That way you can understand not with your mind but with your heart. Then the heart’s wisdom is viewed as the quiet on the surface of the lake in our mind.
Emotional upheaval just churns up the water. But even in the washing machine at some point the machine stops and the clothes get to rest. So my friends come to yoga class and rest your mind. Try not to over understand the why of things happening around you nor trouble the mind by over thinking the decisions you are making for yourself. Instead just listen to your heart.
And remember that all is eternal. We are all but waves…and change is constant. Love in all ways, Silvia
“Not with thoughts of your mind, but in the believing
Sweetness of your heart, you snap the link and open the
Golden door and disappear into the bright room, the
Everlasting ecstasy, eternal Now. (Jack Kerouac)
LET GO OF TENSION: YOGA FOR ANXIETY
Breathing: At the core of most anxiety is the breath, or the lack of it. When you are anxious, natural breathing is inhibited. The diaphragm freezes, failing to move air downward as you inhale, which means that you don't let your lungs fully expand and fill with air. "And when you don't get enough oxygen, the brain receives a 'danger' signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety," explains Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center. "Your breathing quickens and becomes even more shallow."
Meditation for Relaxation:
A very effective method to relax the body is by systematically stressing all the muscles, holding that 5 to 10 seconds, and then releasing the tension.
-Sit or lie in a relaxed way.
-Put an extremely tense expression on the face, straining as many face muscles as possible. Take a deep breath and forcefully hold it. ...... Now slowly release the breath and the tension of all the face muscles, feel as if you breathe out all stress.
-Inhale deeply again and stress all neck and shoulder muscles.... then let go
-Inhale, make fists and stress the arms... let go
-Inhale, stress chest, belly and back.... let go
-Inhale, stress buttocks, legs and feet... let go
-If you still feel tension at some places, just stay relaxed, don't hold the breath now, but release all the tension while breathing out.
-Enjoy your relaxed body.
NOVEMBER 9, 2009: I wake up each day and begin with a gratitude meditation. The meditation follows my breath and goes like this:
Inhale: I welcome happiness,
Exhale: I am so grateful
Inhale: I welcome inspiration
Exhale: I am so grateful
Inhale: I welcome love
Exhale: I am so grateful
Inhale: I welcome clarity
Exhale: I am so grateful
"Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life." Says Christiane Northrup. So begin now, ask yourself as you breath what you are grateful for and if you experience any struggle with this then hold close these words of the Buddha:
Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn't die;
so, let us be thankful.
You see gratitude changes our attitude and helps us to stop feeling victimized by life. This is Yoga Sutras Chapter 2.33 “When presented with negative thoughts or feelings cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.” If feeling down, hopeless, worried, doubtful then to bring the glow of positivity back all you have to do is practice gratitude. And watch for those habits that detract from a gratitude habit such as:
· Reverse any tendency you have to make comparisons.
· Quit talking about what you don't have compared to what you have;
· Stop complaining about how you are doing career-wise, relationship-wise, or any other-wise.
· Instead, concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, saying to yourself from morning to night “I am grateful for…”
And I promise you will discover a life filled with gratitude wakes up and nurtures your soul and brings quiet happiness to even the most challenging days. And know I am grateful to each of you deeply and truly. Love, Silvia
From the Book A Year to Live by Stephen Levine – Essential Gratitude Meditation
“How very fortunate we are to have this moment in this body. Even with the difficulties, even with the confusion, how blessed we are to be here. Grateful for the kindness of loved ones. Grateful for the moments of joy. Grateful for the clarity that arises even during pain. Grateful for the blessings, great and small. Grateful that our pain is no greater than it is. Grateful for our inheritance of happiness, that joy is our birthright. Grateful for the sense of presence. Gratitude for simply being. Gratitude for the process.”
FOLLOW LOVE BACKWARDS TO YOU
OCTOBER 9, 2009: Do you want to be in love with your life? What kind of life do you deserve? The answer of how much love we think deserve comes from us and us only. Yogic teachings tell us that to think another person is the source of all your joy is the greatest delusion. To find love you must follow it backwards to you. It’s like the little card that sits on my desk that I see everyday says “Most of all love yourself!” So we use the practice time on the mat to go inside to seek that inside us, following sensations like bread crumbs as in the story of Hansel and Gretel.
There is a force within that gives you life---
In your body there lies a priceless jewel---
If you want to find the greatest treasure,
Don't look outside,
and seek That.
What I found most interesting is that we attract to us the kind of relationships that reflect the one we are having with ourselves. If we can’t go inside ourselves and experience self-love then no one else can do that for us. We must follow love backwards and from there once we KNOW love then we become the love that we think we deserve to receive from others. So today, move of all LOVE YOURSELF! All love all ways, Silvia
Coming Home to Yourself
May all that is unforgiven in you
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.
WHAT WOULD YOU NAME TODAY - THE 10 BLESSINGS GAME
OCTOBER 7, 2009: We start with a sweet exercise called “The 10 Blessings” by Dr William Holden. It goes like this, look over the last week of your life and write down 10 blessings you experienced in the last seven days. It’s not much to ask because all we need to do is find one blessing per 16.8 hours of life. And if you think about 10 ways you blessed others lives that’s consciously thinking of goodness every 8.4 hours. Now do the math and consider if you could somehow multiply that by 2 so you think of 40 things every week: 20 blessings received and 20 blessings offered that’s something every 2.1 hours.
This helps us keep the focus on the important questions like: How can you enjoy the miracle of existence today? How can I enjoy this moment more?
The more you are willing to enjoy the moment the more beautiful each moment of your life will be. Essentially it means you are choosing life. And life only happens one moment at a time. The more you give yourself to each moment, the more each moment gives something back to you! Please starting now don’t miss a thing! Think about waking up to your life and start naming your day something beautiful! Love and light, Silvia
“Awaken to the mystery of being here
And eneter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow it’s path.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
Around the heart of wonder.”
Navajo prayer to enjoy
“Happily may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
It beauty, it is finished.”
WILL YOU LET YOURSELF RECEIVE?
SEPTEMBER 25, 2009: Today the third day after Autumnal Equinox is so special. Our affirmation today: I AM OPEN TO ACCEPTING LOVE AND HELP.
This represents our ability to receive support and love from other people as we allow ourselves to evolve towards greater experiences of happiness. And I assure you we are readier than we ever have been to receive and be happy. I know this and more importantly you know this because in class when we breath more deeply into ourselves it feels wonderful! You guys, this reflects our willingness to breath in Life itself, to be more conscious, more present, more receptive.
BREATHING BREAK: Right now wherever you are Witness the breath, appreciate the ebb and flow of breath and how you can better feel and receive it. As you deepen into your breath inhaling it smoothly and fully know that you have received an amazing gift. The gift of life, of energy, of opportunity! Not everyone was chosen to breath today. Some in this world did not win the life lottery. But you did! And as you breath, be aware of the raw abundance of the breath. It is continuously meeting your needs. Open and expand into this knowledge that on the most fundamental level all your needs are being met in this moment.
Then think about someone in your life right now that has done something for you, that has offered their love or help….what have you done to receive the gift of this offering? How could you do better at receiving from them? Receiving has this quality of surrender that all we need do is welcome the gift into our life (we don’t have to judge, question the motives, demand it be more) all we have to do is just accept it and let it come to us.
William Holden, PhD says in the book Be Happy, “RECEIVING is a prelude to giving. Receiving and giving are two sides of the same coin. In other words, your capacity to receive is what determines your capacity to give. If you are not good at receiving, you will not give yourself fully to a relationship or to a job, because you will be afraid that giving will deplete you. The only way to keep giving and not receive is to be in sacrifice. And that can only last so long before you feel like you have nothing left to give. Also in truth no one can give what he or she has not received.”
Today what can you do to receive more? How can this help you see that recieivng is infinite and abundant you don’t have to limit yourself from receiving love.
On the mat you can practice by saying to yourself “How does this pose help me? What gifts does it have, am I receiving them with an open heart?” Allow each pose to be your teacher and before you know it you will find that you grow better at receiving. And with time we all learn to just feel grateful for this immersion into the flow of abundance. That the universe is working on our behalf to offer us love and help inside every moment, in the guise of every Angel on earth that we crosses our path. Question is, will you let yourself RECEIVE? Big love to you all, Silvia
SPIRITUAL HEADLINES OF YOUR MOST IMPORTANT JOY
SEPTEMBER 2ND, 2009: I wake up in the morning and I journal in my mind or on paper. Either way I think about what is important to me on that day. Then recently in the book Be Happy by Robert Holden I found a metaphor that best describes what I’ve been doing. In the book he talks about a great daily spiritual practice to help us focus on what is most important to our happiness. He describes, “The Spiritual Front Page”. The idea is that each morning you visualize the front page headlines of what is truly most meaningful to you to living the most joyful day ever. This helps us figure out and articulate our Truth. It gives positive intention to our actions.
Instead of focusing on what is unimportant (our headlines would not read Do Laundry, Dishes Put Away) we’d share the real important stuff with not just ourselves but these front page headlines would like a newspaper be easier to distribute to our friends, colleagues and family members so they know our big news. How often do you major in the minor stuff? How much of your time is spent hiding the big headlines (focusing on what really matters) until the very end of the day when tired and out of juice? I know I’ve been there.
So for me this time on the mat in yoga class helps me to make sure that the Spiritual Headlines I’ve chosen reflect the TRUE me. And once I’ve written them for the day I stick to them. It’s too easy with technology these days to keep changing it up or giving up. Instead we maintain the discipline that once its in writing we will do our best on this day to follow through.
Equally, once the day is done, the newspaper gets recycled. What’s done is done. And tomorrow we have another “24 brand new hours” to live in JOY! Love your day, Silvia
*Reference to Thich Nhat Hahn
AUGUST 23, 2009:
Gratitude is the state of mind of thankfulness.
Every day I practice some form of gratitude meditation. I just start off saying to myself inside my breath I am grateful for…and then as part of a stream of consciousness I let it flow from my heart. It has taken years to find the ease in this flow. For a long time I would over think it, or rank some things as less or more meaningful than others. Finally I realized through spiritual practice Gratitude is a constant state of being. It is a way of seeing the world and there is no ranking necessary, all things big and small matter equally when practicing gratitude.
Gratitude increases our appreciation for life.
So many days it starts by being grateful for my life, for my breath. This awareness that just be breathing we won the lotto today! That not everyone in the world was chosen to breath on this day. That’s pretty powerful eye opener. When I was at the
Gratitude is a form of acceptance.
Just as we are grateful for our families the more gratitude we experience for others happiness the more our gratitude grows. Stephen Levine says “As gratitude is cultivated, we experience an increase in our sympathetic joy, our happiness at another’s happiness (this growing sense of gratitude for whatever happiness, great or small, that comes to those around us.)” Through gratitude we accept the good in all.
Gratitude is a return to balance
It brings balance to those parts of ourselves that are disconnected, or attached to suffering. Gratitude changes our attitude and helps us to stop feeling victimized by life. This is Yoga Sutras Chapter 2.33 “When presented with negative thoughts or feelings cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.” If feeling down, hopeless, worried, doubtful then to bring the see saw of our life back into balance we practice gratitude.
Gratitude is love. Try this easy to remember breath meditation
Inhale: I welcome happiness,
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome inspiration
Exhale: I am grateful
Inhale: I welcome love
Exhale: I am grateful
From the Book A Year to Live by Stephen Levine – Essential Gratitude Meditation
“How very fortunate we are to have this moment in this body with some intuitive acknowledgement of that which goes beyond our understanding.
Even with the difficulties, even with the confusion, how blessed we are to be here.
Grateful for the kindness of loved ones. Grateful for the moments of joy. Grateful for the clarity that arises even during pain. Grateful for the blessings, great and small. Grateful that our pain is no greater than it is.
Thankful for our Great Heart and the capacity to become whole.
Thankful to be living in a world and time, in which the value of compassion cannot be overlooked.
Grateful that among the billions now on this planet our hearts are so drawn by the possibility of liberation. Grateful for the path that has brought us each so far. Grateful for the love and the grace the spontaneously emerge from our true heart.
Grateful for our inheritance of happiness, that joy is our birthright.
Grateful for the sense of presence.
Gratitude for simply being.
Gratitude for the beneficent process.”
ABUNDANCE OF HAPPINESS
Lokaha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu! (translation below)
May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all!
So essentially it is as Einstein asks us, “Is the universe friendly?” How would you respond? Do you see life as happening to you or for you. On a regular basis do you talk about life being against you or for you? And the most wonderful thing is that even if you are happy right now you can still be 100% more happy! Or if that seems like just too much to embrace what about playing the 10% game as suggested in this same book by the author? Try it, you’ll love it! Enjoy, Silvia
10% GAME: ASK YOURSELF IF YOU CAN BE…
10 Percent More Accepting
“Today I will be 10% more accepting of myself of others and of my life”
10 Percent More Receptive
“Today I will be 10% better at receiving help, love and support from others”
10 Percent More Honest
“Today I will be 10% more honest with myself and with others”
10 Percent More Authentic
“Today I will be 10% less edited and 10% more real”
10 Percent More Trusting
“Today I will be 10% better at recognizing how life supports me”
10 Percent More Grateful
“Today I will be 10% more grateful for everything that is happening my life right now”
10 Percent More Open
“Today I will be 10% more openhearted”
10 Percent More Present
“Today I will be 10% more open to the idea that I really am in the right place at the right time”
CARING FOR OUR FEELINGS
It’s good to leave each day behind,
like flowing water, free of sadness.
Yesterday is gone and its tale told.
Today new seeds are growing.
This practice of poses and breath brings about an awareness of what we are feeling. For most of us when we start yoga we haven’t made time to even ask ourselves this simple question. We’re either too busy going faster and faster or really good at avoiding what we are feeling. Denial or argument with our feelings has become a way of life. But also a formula for suffering.
Tantric practice encourages us to embrace all of who we are. The sadness and the joy, the tiredness and the vigor, the fear and the love. This is a nondualistic approach to see that there is not a winner/loser or bad/good that we don’t have to battle our emotions, thoughts or feelings any longer. Running away from what we feel will only prolong it. And all of our feelings can be put into 3 buckets: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. So as hard as it might be to heal and remain in a state of being healed we are taught through yoga to embrace your feelings, care for them like you would look after a younger sibling.
A great meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh suggest we take a feeling, let’s say sadness, and talk to your feeling: say to your sadness “breathe – I am taking care of you now.” Acknowledge this feeling is you and as you breath out, let it go. Then allow for the next moment to unfold and the next feeling. Breath into that one. Take one at a time and stay with the flow.
Most importantly know that whatever you’re feeling is part of your humanness, love and hurt co-exist, one is the compliment to the other so to prevent staying in a state of suffering it helps to embrace all you feel and care for yourself. This practice of being human is put into poetry by the poet Kahlil Gibran who wrote, “all these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart.” We literally learn about ourselves as we experience emotion, feeling and thought. We also become expert through this in the human experience. We can by caring for our own feelings learn how to care and offer compassion towards how others feel.
“In that calmness we begin to understand that peace is not the opposite of challenge and hardship. We understand that the presence of light is not a result of darkness ending. Peace is found not in the absence of challenge but in our own capacity to be with hardship without judgment, prejudice, and resistance. We discover that we have the energy and the faith to heal ourselves, and the world, through openheartedness.” (From book All About Love) So may you all take away from your time on the mat the courage to “CARE FOR YOUR FEELINGS” as they arise, holding them gently and then surrendering them to the next moment. Love in all ways, Silvia
CELEBRATE LIFE: JOY IS INSIDE YOU!
Now I clearly remember the first time I heard this teaching. I didn’t understand it. I thought happiness was based on getting good grades, getting engaged, getting married, getting promoted, getting more money, getting new house, bigger house, etc. I was in a constant state of acquisition that felt like I was treading water using up all my energy to get more stuff rather than celebrating life in the moment.
Another way to think about this is what the yogis called bliss-counsciousness. That when we wake up and start celebrating our lives we find that inside each of us exists unlimited potential for love, truth, compassion, joy and courage. We create our own reality and all we have to do is celebrate life!
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost
Time on the mat is where we have the opportunity to recognize our capacity for happiness. This is really the first step in yoga. It reminds us that the universe intended for us to have a joyous experience on this earth right now, no waiting and without any prerequisites to be met. So today may you feel the shakti power of being present to the happiness inside you that is then reflected in being awake to the many blessings in your life in your external world. Or as Rumi says, "hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you."
And what if you aren’t feeling this inner ecstasy? Then practice Gratitude. For gratitude is the antidote to negative emotions a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry and irritation. The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude Robert Emmons, defines it as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” He’s saying celebrate your life regardless of what challenges you face. Sally Kempton puts it like this, “It is actually possible to feel happy regardless of how the world is treating you, or how horrible your childhood was or the fact that all your friends are more successful than you are, you can even be happy when you’re failing something or when you’re sick.”
So join me on the mat to awaken and illuminate the joy within your heart. Celebrate and heal your life and you change the world! Love the day! Silvia
Close your eyes and remember a time when you felt really happy. Then take yourself into that moment, see if you can get a feeling sense of yourself in the situation. Stick with it until you actually feel happiness, then remove the details or memory of the scene and just keep the feeling. Find the place in your body where the feeling is centered then let it fill you up. Sit with this feeling of happiness. See if you can hold it. See if for this moment you can let the happiness beocme your primary feeling. This is a glimpse, however small of your TRUE reality. (This meditation is from old issue of Yoga Journal Magazine)
LOVE THINKS, LOVE WINS!
JULY 29, 2009: Love thinks, it is not a mindless feeling and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that your thoughts precede your actions. (Quote from where I can’t remember but totally inspiring me today and everyday!)
When you first fall in love don’t you think about the other person a lot? Don’t you think about where are they, when will I see them, what are they doing, what are they wearing, when can we talk again and on and on. We even tell them, “I’m thinking about you.” So this makes the point that LOVE IS ACTIVE. It is not something passive. Love thinks! It moves it flows. It is like water always engaged with the rivers banks, flowing around the fallen trees, boulders or whatever comes into its path for it seeks out to keep moving forward while it caresses all in its path.
We are like water, actually the human body is 60-85% made up of water science tells us. This flow is a way of vinyasa krama hatha yoga. Vinyasa yoga is a great way to release some of the tension in our lives so we can transform our bodies, and learn to be present so we can transform our minds. In class we are invited to move smoothly, let out our aggressions, and leave behind bad feelings we might've been fostering. (Tension is resistance to change)
We must think love and turn away thoughts of fear (fear is stagnant, smelly, unhealthy, sleepy, passive). But when we think love we find ourselves being passionately at home in our bodies and honest in our emotions. This makes us desirable and alluring. Folks that are rooted in loving themselves are MAGNETIC. So if we are thinking love we give off this vibe that we are fascinated with the ‘e”motions/motions and flow of our hearts. And cool thing is others will feel this as well
So today do not let your mind restrict your flow. Think LOVE. Invoke this second chakra, the water element, to help you think love into a more creative, powerful, patient, adaptable and receptive way of life!
Enjoy my personal mantra:
I love myself
I am love
I offer love
I receive love
PRECISION AND GENTLENESS FOR BACK PAIN
JULY 18TH, 2009: Good morning! So today I passed out a handout with the suggested foot alignment for all standing poses. We started by really talking about the detail and precision as well as precise modifications for all fundamental standing poses like Pyramid, Lunge, Warrior B, Triangle pose and Wide Standing Pose. With that said I wanted to make the point that if we only emphasize technical precision we can get overly self-critical, perfectionistic and even downright militant. The yoga practice can be used in an unhealthy way becoming way too constrictive and goal-oriented. So as we focus on the elegant principles of alignment we also emphasize gentleness. Otherwise the yoga can be a means to create more stress in our already stressful lives.
Our physical focus today was the psychological triggers of back pain. In the book The Mind Body Connection by Dr John Sarno he argues the cause of back pain is usually entirely psychological. He says back muscles go into spasm and cause pain because of mental tension and that if you can get to the root cause of the tension the pain will disappear. With yoga we can heal back pain by calming down our overactive stress response system. The greatest tool we have to do this is the breath which is why we link breath with movement leading to muscle relaxation and mental quiet. A personal favorite breathing mantra to practice in and out of class is this:
Breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in
Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I calm my mind.
Practicing slow deep breaths triggers the "relaxation response" the antidote to flight or flight response. The focus on all three parts of the lungs (especially deep abdominal focus on exhalations) helps bring in more oxygen. And the wave like undulation of deep inhales and exhales gently massage the spinal column which brings nutrients to our spinal disks.
The poses we practice today were specific to stretch all major muscle groups around the hip joints including adductors, quads, rotators, and hamstrings. What happens is that when our Hip rotators are tight they hold the pelvis too much and the force of movement transfers up to the low back putting strain from there on up the spine. It hurts! We held poses working on precision but then we also put a simple routine together you could practice at home for 5 minutes per day at a one breath per movement ratio, letting go of perfection. This way we improved overall circulation that brings nutrients to the intervertebral disks while removing toxins. The thing is that disks don't have an independent blood supply therefore they depend on movement of the surrounding structure to aid in the delivery of nutrients. Movement causes the disks to be compressed which squeezes out stale disk fluid and then to expand bringing in fresh supply. Judith Lasater says, “In the majority of cases back pain can be prevented. The majority have to do with how we use our bodies." We don’t hurt anymore!
Altogether we used this practice to learn how to manage addressing our mental and physical tensions so we could find stillness and gentleness by the end. The whole class intended to help us get to the final pose of Savasana where in the words of Eckhart Tolle in his power Practicing the Power of Now we experienced a feeling of letting go. I hope you find this background on healing back pain helpful and healing. Love the day! Silvia
When you surrender to what is
and so become fully present,
the past ceases to have any power.
Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you,
An unfathomable sense of peace.
And within that peace, there is great joy.
And within that joy, there is love.
INCONVENIENCES OF LIFE AND LOVE
Life is simple not easy says Jon Kabat Zinn. Nothing is promised to us as easy. Life requires effort and discipline mostly because we have a lot working against us in keeping us mindful and present, more all the time to be honest. So a certain amount of work is required. And this is what inspired me today. When Pema Chodran says Life is so inconvenient I said to myself YES! that’s true. I just never heard it said so straightforward like that before. The word inconvenient is very different than something like saying life is hard. And what I’ve also found to be true is that following our hearts, love itself is inconvenient.
Pema Chodran writes, “when you hear some teachings that ring true to you and feel some trust in its being a worthwhile way to live then you’re in for a lot inconvenience. From an everyday perspective it seems good to do things that are kind of convenient; there is no problem with that. It’s just that when you really start to take the warrior’s journey – which is to say, when you start to want to live your LIFE FULLY, when you begin to feel this passion for life and for growth, when discovery and exploration and curiosity become your path – then basically, it you follow your heart, you’re going to find that it’s often extremely inconvenient.”
This single teaching continues to resonate with me, not just the first time but in all the years since. To read more check out her book The Wisdom of No Escape.
Hey remember when we were kids on a road trip with our parents and from the back seat we’d ask, “are we there yet?” So why were we asking? The truth is that it’s easier to just stay home. It’s a lot more convenient, especially for our parents but they took us on the road anyway. My own parents not only took us around the
The waking up is inconvenient. Quite frankly waking up to one’s life is very inconvenient. But Pema goes on to say, “But what spiritual practice teaches is that once you know that the purpose of life is simply to walk forward and continually to use your life to wake up rather than put you to sleep, then there’s that sense of wholeheartedness about inconvenience, wholeheartedness about convenience. If we choose cozy, safe as our primary reason to exist then this becomes an obstacle for our very existence in trying to live fully where we take chances, offer ourselves to making new choices, take a risk, explore.”
COMFORT ORIENTATION MURDERS THE SPIRIT
When we are on the path, involved in our own pilgrimage its inconvenient to be on the road (as a road warrior in the corporate world traveling 70% of the time I know this) but staying home and avoiding life but not engaging it is the death of our spirit. It’s not easy but certainly it’s worth the inconvenience to dare the difficult.
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare;
It is because we do not dare that they are difficult. Seneca 4 BCE – 65BCE
You guys, really if you think about it there are lots of inconveniences about life. It’s inconvenient to buy groceries, it’s inconvenient to make the bed each day, to brush our teeth, to prepare our meals, to get sick, to lose your job, to have your kids throw up on you, to get divorced, to get married, to clean the house, to get gas, to have a baby, it’s inconvenient to find yourself embarrassed or heart broken too. Tell me what do you think is convenient? And is that meaningful?
The thing is that if we want to love life we’ll learn that the inconvenience is not the obstacle. Of course we’re going to get “poked and prodded like someone’s laughing in your ear, challenging you to figure out what to do when you don’t know what to do. It humbles you. It opens your heart.” (Chodran) And when it comes down to it I’d rather have my heart opened up then live life tight in the bud. I’d rather have something spectacular on my tombstone when this life ends than to have written, “had great health insurance and lived an ok life” So please really sit with this and see how it can change your life as it has mine. Love your day, your life, yourself! Silvia
The way of experience
Let me use suspense as material for perseverance;
Let me use danger as material for courage;
Let me use reproach as material for long suffering;
Let me use praise as material for humility;
Let me use pleasure as material for temperance;
Let me use pain as material for endurance.
-John Baillie (1886-1960)
HOW TO RELAX
“We no longer have a choice about including practices in our daily lives that create health and spiritual growth. If we want a world worth living in today, as well as one worth leaving to future generations, we must take responsibility to create health in our lives, as well as to support others as they choose healthier lives for themselves. It is up to each of each of us to lovingly transform the world simply by first transforming ourselves.” (Judith Lasater)
Tonight at 7:30pm Basics we practiced the Art and Skill of Relaxation.
How did we do it? The answer is to be present.
It all starts with the breath. Even right now take a few moments and feel your entire body as you breath. Ask yourself what is your experience of yourself right now, right here? Keep paying attention to the breath to tune you into the present moment. Inhale, pause, exhale pause. As you breath remember no force, no over effort, think of your body as a glass and the base of the glass is your hips, the top of the glass is your collarbones. Just fill up smooth and easy.
Through the meditation of breathing we learn to be more present. This helps us connect to a quiet grounded sense of peace when our lives are filled with stress and messiness. But I’ll be honest with you, RELAXATION takes practice. So that’s where yoga comes in handy. Our time on the mat is the classroom in which we can practice how to relax. And once we take time to practice our yoga it can support us in our real life. Yoga can help us stay present and calm even in the most chaotic times. How? It reminds us that our natural state is one of love. From love all good things flow. And in a state of self-love we grow more relaxed no matter what is facing us outside ourselves. I wish you your own best love. Please hold your heart gently. Love in all ways, Silvia
“The present moment is always full of inifinite treasure. It contains far more than you can possibly grasp. Faith is the measure of its riches: what you find in the present moment is according to the measure of your faith. Love also is the measure: the more the heart loves, the more it rejoices in what God provides. The will of spirit presents itself at each moment like an immense ocean that the desire of your heart cannot empty; yet you will drink from that ocean according to your faith and love.” --Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751)
FREEDOM FOR ALL
JUNE 28, 2009: Martin Luther King said, “In every age and every generation, men have envisioned a promised land. Some may have envisioned it with the wrong ideology, with the wrong philosophical presupposition. But men in every generation thought in terms of some promised land.” This promised land is freedom and yoga teaches us that it is here right now inside us. All that is necessary to FIND IT is to choose love, to allow yourself to feel more and think less.
Get on the mat, feel the breath, feel the sensations and let your mind unwind.
So today have the courage to set yourself free! For Stress paralyzes life; love releases it. Worry confuses life; love harmonizes it. Anger darkens life; love illuminates it. As Augustus William Hare writes, “The feeling is often the deeper truth.” Embrace your truth, embrace what you feel and free your soul for love and peace!
Lokaha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu (May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts words and actions of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all!)
GENEROSITY AND HUMILITY
JUNE 22, 2009: Generosity in yoga is really an interesting learning. To be generous asks that we be open but with a really focused effort. In our Western world we get caught up with the idea of doing more for the sake of more, this more is better idea (even if quality perishes) often leads to exhaustion. In the corporate world I used to rage against the machine when it came to an ever increasing aspiration towards mediocrity instead of excellence like when I first entered the workforce 15 years ago. Energetically this can make us feel totally run down not only because of how much we’re doing but more with the fact in our hearts we’d rather be doing something else. That’s the humility part. Do you take time to listen to your heart and bow humbly to its lessons, heeding its advice? Even just a single moment of silence can help you gain the clarity you need. Take 5 centering breaths right now and just listen to the greatest teacher of all, your intuition.
However in yoga I felt like I was coming home, how generosity meant a conscious action of doing more but in the
A Story of Generosity: Stone Soup (From Daily
There are many variations on the story of stone soup, but they all involve a traveler coming into a town beset by famine. The inhabitants try to discourage the traveler from staying, fearing he wants them to give him food. They tell him in no uncertain terms that there’s no food anywhere to be found. The traveler explains that he doesn’t need any food and that, in fact, he was planning to make a soup to share with all of them. The villagers watch suspiciously as he builds a fire and fills a cauldron with water. With great ceremony, he pulls a stone from a bag, dropping the stone into the pot of water. He sniffs the brew extravagantly and exclaims how delicious stone soup is. As the villagers begin to show interest, he mentions how good the soup would be with just a little cabbage in it. A villager brings out a cabbage to share. This episode repeats itself until the soup has cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets—indeed, a substantial soup that feeds everyone in the village.
This story addresses the human tendency to hoard in times of deprivation. When resources are scarce, we pull back and put all of our energy into self-preservation. We isolate ourselves and shut out others. As the story of stone soup reveals, in doing so, we often deprive ourselves and everyone else of a feast. This metaphor plays out beyond the realm of food. We hoard ideas, love, and energy, thinking we will be richer if we keep to them to ourselves, when in truth we make the world, and ourselves, poorer whenever we greedily stockpile our reserves. The traveler was able to see that the villagers were holding back, and he had the genius to draw them out and inspire them to give, thus creating a spread that none of them could have created alone. Are you like one of the villagers, holding back? If you come forward and share your gifts, you will inspire others to do the same!
DON'T GIVE UP: FATHER'S UNIVERSAL ADVICE
JUNE 21, 2009: Make yourself comfortable… Let your body weight sink into the seat… Relax your body and close your eyes. As your awareness is interiorized, connect with the Breath of Life gently moving through you… Make all your senses alert to the breath… Enjoy its power and simplicity… Feel the sustaining energy behind the breath... Feel that life force coursing through your cells and thoughts.
On this Father’s Day and Summer Solstice I think of my Father Enrico who encouraged me never to give up. As the heat of the summer rises we may find ourselves falling more lethargic or tired. In those times think of the father sky energy that exists everywhere around us supporting us. This the breath itself. What my Father, Papa, was trying to say is same as what Einstein says Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
Don’t give up. We all want to be understood, we all want to be loved, remember always you are loved.
Didn't I tell you?
I am an ocean, you are a fish; do not go to the dry land,
it is me, who is your comforting body of water.
Didn't I tell you
not to fall in this trap like a blind bird?
I am your wings, I am the strength in your wings,
I am the wind keeping you in flight.
Didn't I tell you
that they will kidnap you from the path?
They will steal your warmth, and take your devotion away.
I am your fire, I am your heartbeat,
I am the life in your breath.
Didn't I tell you?
They will accuse you of all the wrongdoings, they will call you ugly names,
they will make you forget
it is me, who is the source of your happiness.
Didn't I tell you?
Wonder not, how your life will turn out,
how you will ever get your world in order,
it is me, who is your omnipresent spirit and protector.
If you are a guiding torch of the heart,know the path to that house.
If you are a person of spirit (God), know this,
It is me, who is the chief of the village of your life.
So today enjoy these poets words from all those that have served us a father figures, whether they are still of this earth or those that have gone beyond like my Papa. “I see you are a pioneer. You are full of courage and power. You are a transformer of reality. Transform the reality that no longer serves you. As you do, link with others who know Me and recognize the family of Life. When you recognize in someone what you know inside to be true, seek to expand that truth, for as light is shared and love is grown so shall the world change. You are my feet and hands, my eyes and voice. You do not live alone nor shall you die alone. The world is yours to craft as you
choose. Choose freedom. Choose the way that creates the best for all; children; men; women; bodies of water; mountains, the land; and all planetary species. I gift you with Life and the ability to care for it. Embrace the gift.”
A Meditation on Letting Go
If you let go a little
You will have a little happiness.
If you let go a lot
You will have a lot of happiness.
If you let go completely
You will be free.
I meditate often on the words of Danna Faulds, She writes, “Let go of the ways you though life would unfold; the holding of plans or dreams or expectations — Let it go. Save your strength to swim with the tide. The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for. Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes through your days whether you receive it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders. Take this on faith: the mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless. Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace, and certain transformation.”
I thought for a long time that Spiritual Seeking meant looking for answers. It does not. It is the experience of life that fulfills the spiritual seekers mission. That experience of the unfolding. On the mat we put this into practice time and again. Each day so different, no reason to be upset with what we can do with our bodies today that is different than yesterday – there is likely exact explanation anyway. Instead enjoy the experience of your soul self as you are. Let that be enough. Love in all ways, Silvia
PS When you forget just say this mantra to yourself:
I won’t wear my effort on my face
I don’t let my effort overwhelm my breath
I pace myself to enjoy my life
APPRECIATION OF THIS MOMENT
There is that tendency we have to want things to be different than what they are but spiritual maturity impresses upon us to learn how to find a way to be content with what is in the present for it is a gift. To help with this growth simply listen to your heart as you watch your thoughts. This study of oneself will open up channels of stuckness in both the physical body and channels to deep reservoirs of clarity and wisdom within our minds. This cultivates appreciation. And there is an inherent gentleness when we practice appreciation for who we are. Please make your observations not from a place of judgement but of understanding, compassion and self-love. Know that you dissolve negativity through appreciation for this is the real enemy of love. Practice appreciation and love triumphs!
So today take time to appreciate your breath, to appreciate your feelings (whatever they may be – joy, sadness, peace, frustration, love), appreciate being in your own skin. I know this is not easy. Just like the poses we practice on the mat are not easy. They are often very uncomfortable.
So I’m asking you to be uncomfortable. To actually stay with the discomfort of your reactivity until you can turn it into a loving response. With time you’ll find the action of appreciation gets easier and this is the answer to dissolving the negative from all areas of your life. And as luck has it life is going to keep giving us opportunities to evolve this practice. From one perspective what we are talking about here is Santosha, to be with what is and find the good, experiencing contentment within the situation, with the person instead of getting angry or having to change the thing, situation, weather or person. Now that’s the advancing of our spiritual selves. Let the door of appreciation open the way. Love you, love serving you! Silvia
RELEASE, REMEMBER, RECYCLE
MAY 6th, 2009: We are experts at Resistance. We are actually well trained in resistance, in fight or flight response. The thing is when feeling resistance to life due to fear or anxiety or stress we are not able to either release or remember. We just stay in this state of fighting and doing battle with everyone and everything. We make war with what we think we're supposed to be doing with our lives and from there resentment towards others builds even more strongly. We even get mad/angry at ourselves for making other people's opinions (or societies perceived opinions) more important than how we know we feel. For prolonged periods of time this will make us either dumb down, lose hope, flame out or give up. This is toxic. And no one need live like this.
This practice of yoga psychology can help us to put aside the old habit of Resistance and begin the focus on Releasing, Remembering and Recycling.
With this or any spiritual practice we can not do multiple things at the same time. Often energies are mutually exclusive, they play together but as counterparts not occupying the same space at the same time. It is just like the fact that constructive, healthy dialogue between adults means we can’t all TALK at the same time. Healthy conversation means one person talks at a time and the other person listens, with both people breathing. Once we put aside our resistance and fear monsters then we can begin to RELEASE and let go of those things that no longer serve our lives. Ask yourself right now what do you want to let go of that is not helping your life evolve? Can you use even the most challenging pose or moment or person in your life to release some of the crap that holds you back?
REMEMBER: Once we do Release the negative then we create clarity of mind and heart to remember those qualities of ourselves that have made our lives better. Think back on your 5 year old self – remember that ease of not having any burdens, think of your 10 year old self – remember the endurance you had to play for 8 hours in a row, think of your 13 year old self – remember that thirst for adventure, think of your 23 year old self – remember that desire for new experience. So take what qualities you remember from your life that you want to bring with you into the next chapter of your life.
Essentially what do you want to RECYCLE as part of a healthy life?
Bottom line is if we don’t stop RESISTING and continue to make war with life then we will Fall Apart. If there is no Release of pain or frustration we will remain Angry, if we remain angry we cannot have the clarity of mind to REMEMBER to choose love.
This and all spiritual seeking is not about seeking love and happiness but about seeking to REDISCOVER that happiness and peace exist within us already. We are seeking to remember to remember. Once you remember you can than decide the qualities you want to recycle into your next moment and keep making each and every consecutive moment more delicious, more amazing, more loving! I wish you all the courage to stop fighting (out of duty, out of fear, out of anger) and just start loving yourself more and life more, Silvia
Donald Walters says, “There are realities we all share, regardless of our nationality, language, or individual tastes. As we need food, so do we need emotional nourishment: love, kindness, appreciation. We need to understand our environment and our relationship to it. We need to fulfill certain inner hungers: the need for happiness, for peace of mind for wisdom.”
We all need to be nurtured. If you look up Nurture in Webster’s dictionary it defines it as a “form of nourishment” and to “educate”. These are both spot on with the philosophies of yoga. In class teacher to student we are educating you on techniques you might use how to self-comfort yourself. The flow of this self comforting is love. Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself- if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person. “In the Buddhist teaching, it's clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.” [Shambhala Sun March 2006]
We all deserve to love and be loved.
Love is a form of nourishment. It requires action in thought in words and movement.
So we meditated together on how we might nourish our spirits through our inner dialogue, how to speak words of kindness to nurture others, how to take actions in honoring our bodies as sacred, nourishing their health. For a healthy heart lives in a healthy body. We spoke of the junk food of life things like gossip or complaining and that these do not nourish us but leave us empty and drained.
I so want you to appreciate the forms of nourishment: Breath, Thoughts, Words, Actions, Sleep all of which make for a sweeter life! Please let your time on the mat be that opportunity where you learn how to nourish yourself with bigger breaths, poses and self-observation. All of this leading to greater and greater self-growth! Happy National Sleep Better Month! Love you all, Silvia
THIS WEEKS THEMES: LESSONS
Sunday May 3rd - Discover the Truth of Who You Are
Monday May 4th - How to Nourish Yourself
Tuesday May 5th - LoveFire: Burn off negative emotional baggage - ignite a love letter to yourself
Wednesday May 6th - Release, Remember, Recycle
Thursday May 7th - There are no Disasters
Friday May 8th - Potentiality: More than 1 Right Way in Life
THEMES IN CLASS THIS WEEK: NEW INSPIRATION!
Love to you all dear friends!
Just got back from healing spiritual adventure in Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. I feel newly inspired. Come join me this week for the sweetest rasa of the trip. From my heart to yours. Love your day, love your life! Silvia
Monday April 27th: Get Lost: Why Getting Lost is OK
Tuesday April 28th: Facing the Unknown - stare down the fear monster with fire & laughter
Wednesday April 29th: Drunk on Life
Thursday April 30th: Are you a Serious or Casual Student of Your Life? Yes or No?
Friday May 1st: Delight in New Experience
EARTH DAY MEDITATION
APRIL 22, 2009: How to Go About Decharging Negative Energy
Negative energy is blocked or excess energy that needs to flow. Negative energy can be stress, frustration, anxiety or anger for instance. Depression is feeling negativity but being unable to decharge that. Nature makes you feel closer to Universal Source Energy, because Source energy is flowing in nature. Nature can heal you!
Once you've learned how to feel the energy during meditation, you can begin using the Earth element to decharge. A good way of decharging using the Earth element is to use a plant for decharging excess energy. Take a plant, point your fingers near it and say the mantra, "Oh Spirit, my heart is open to you, please come. I know you are in this plant. Please use this plant to decharge my negative energy. Thanks". Do this for about 15 minutes.
Depression, anxiety and stress will flow out of your fingertips into the Earth. As you do this and repeat the mantra a lifetimes worth of negativity may flow out. You have a second chakra in each fingertip for giving or sending out energy. Don't worry about the plant. The plant takes this energy and uses it in a positive way. It's not bad for the plant in any way. Having a channel to the Earth brings huge peace and happiness. Although you may have problems you no longer care about them. The Earth also helps open your heart. It allows you to live on Earth happily. The Earth radiates huge energy and can magnify any type of emotion. When you purify the Earth element in you, the magnetism of the Earth will automatically suck out your negative energy.
PUT SOMETHING DOWN: REMOVING OBSTACLES TO LOVE
APRIL 21, 2009: The heart is a bit foolish you know? Overall, life is really lovely. Each day brings its own charm and delights (even as the shadows of fear and self-doubt add flavor). Yet we often catch ourselves up trying to “carry too much” in our arms. And then funny thing we ask ourselves why can’t I invite anything else in? Why is this stuff all in the way? Well the easy answer is that we have to put something down in order to pick something else up. So today’s class is from a Western view “STRESS MANAGEMENT 101”. From a yogic view we are focusing on Chapter 2, verse 10 and 11.
We begin with a moving meditation: Imagining that as we stand tall, shoulders back, palms together that as we inhale and separate our hands we are pulling back the curtains of Fear, Self Doubt, Worry. This curtain is paperlight, see through and by observing it as such we can essentially dissolve it away. This reminds us that the Obstacles we have to face are really of our own mental creation. They are not insurmountable. They are just like a veiled curtain waiting to be pulled open so we can see to the other side. We know this as we held our arms out to our sides thumbs inside peaceful fists for 2 minutes imagining a 4 oz cup of water in each hand. It is not the absolute weight of the water that matters. It is about how long will we force ourselves to hold on and carry around the mental obstructions? If we hold our arms out 2 minutes that won’t hurt us, but an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, years? Then even though the water is light in weight the duration of carrying the burden of the water will do us harm. So it is with our thoughts. Replaying disastrous thoughts over and over for 2 minutes won’t kill us, but doing this day after day will create the stress that destroys our lives.
So really take 5 minutes to ask yourself what is it that needs to be released from my life? What mental obstacles can you put down right now? What can you clear out that is detrimental to living happier, lighter? Are there old habits you can release that don’t reflect your current needs and desires?
Then once relaxed and refreshed from the burden of carrying so much, ask yourself what is ready to be born in my life? What do you want to pick up?
And remember that only you can welcome the positive changes that transform your life. But don’t make it such a big deal. Remember as Sharon Salzberg writes in Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, “The next step is not the last step.” In order to take the step, we have to put something down, in order to pick up something else. So let down the obstacles, and pick up LOVE. Let love heal. Love your day, love your life! Silvia
BELIEVE IT: LOVE HEALS
APRIL 20TH, 2009: Spiritual practice doesn't mean we don't ever face self doubt or worry. We do. The difference for me in my life is that when this happens I know better questions to ask myself. Then it’s a matter of believing, trusting, having pure faith. In what? It's easy, LOVE.
Love does heal, will heal, if you step into the currents of grace and allow it to flow into your life.
What blocks the flow is fear, the enemy of love. Fear is any form of negativity. Don’t wait, remove the blocks of negativity that is slowing the flow of love into your life and you'll come to believe this yourself.
In yoga we are the lover and the beloved: As Rumi writes, We are the mirror as well as the face in it. We are pain and what cures pain both. He encourages you to, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” He puts it most simply when he writes:
I love myself...I love you.
I love you...I love myself.
5 ELEMENTS MEDITATION: LOVE HEALS
Part of my healing took place as I practiced a technique based on the teachings of Swami Kaleshwar. You sit or lie down, holding your hands just above your shoulders. You repeat the mantra, "Oh God, my heart is open to you, please come sit in my heart". You say this once for each fingertip. Your thumb is the Earth, your index finger is the Fire, the middle is Sky, the ring finger is Water and the small finger is Air.
You say the mantra for each fingertip giving each one a little wiggle as you say it. You may feel heat or a tingling sensation after a few weeks or months of practice. Each fingertip contains a chakra for receiving energy that corresponds to the five elements energy. When you are asking God into your heart you are drawing natural energy in through your fingertips. Performing this meditation technique for 15 minutes twice a day will open your heart to pull the divine energy in you. It will help dissolve your layers and problems in love. It is said that Shiva (Father energy), is flowing in the five elements. Shiva is said to be the Lord of five elements, Namashivaya. He is the pure consciousness, the highest person to reach in the universe. He's where you will find peace. Connecting to Shiva brings you the deepest peace and silence. This deep peace helps you transcend your problems and emotional blocks. When you are in a negative state of mind it helps you come back to your natural states of Love, confidence and happiness. It aligns you with divine peace, intelligence and creativity. This technique is for charging and aligning yourself with LOVE energy. Try it for yourself and see. Big love, love, love to you all, Silvia
LOVE & SURRENDER
April 14th, 2009: My totem recently changed, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the space of surrender. In the practice it is the space of
Space itself equates to time. Of which we have ample amounts. I used to say Time is Big, still like that, but also like the feeling of saying that we have ample time. So today take your time (on the mat or not) to be inspired. Ask yourself: “What are my passions” “When am I happiest” :What would make me happier” “What do I really want”
In the practice today we breathed in, we breathed out and then we held the breath out in every pose. This helped us to slow down and appreciate what it is we really need to be in order to be in love with our live’s. As we know from the law of attraction as my friend Sadie Nardini says, “we attract the people to us who reflect the relationships we’re having with ourselves.” If you say what relationship??? That’s it exactly, you have to make space in order to have the relationship to yourself. The whole practice is designed to help us promote self-love. This means loving ourselves unconditionally. Once you figure this out you realize the universe wants to love you back, spirit loves you, nature loves you and then you are free of all mental tortures. Ultimate freedom and surrender is yours!
Well it makes sense. Now the question is how do you surrender enough to slow down and meet yourself. If you’re in a funk what do you do to get back to loving yourself? One way is to chant 50
ANGRY? LET YOGA HELP
APRIL 9TH, 2009: As long as I believe that others are the source of my suffering, I will continue to suffer. Others may be the stimulus for my suffering, but they are never the cause. My thoughts are the cause. Today remember that others are not the problem whenever you can, and it will soften your day. - Judith Lasater. It is easy sometimes to get lost in angry feelings, that's part of our humanness. It comes about mostly when our mental state is uneasy, restless, anxious. We then can't think of ourselves. Instead we agitate ourselves by only thinking of the person, the situation, the catalyst for our anger. The more we think about it the more angry we get. And the cycle continues. Sigh.
Yoga works to calm the anger because the poses and the breathing techniques (Like the one offered below) remove tension. Anger subsides and we feel more sane. An easy way to think of this is that Anger is too much PITTA (fire dosha). So if a fireman was entering a home on fire what would he/she do first? Answer? They would put out the flames first. Only later would they analyze why or how it got started. So do the same for yourself. Use Yoga, Breathing to put the flames of anger out there is time later to observe why or how we came to be angry. Let love heal. Silvia
Breathing in, I know that I am angry
Breathing out, I know that the anger is me
Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant
Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass.
Breathing in, I am calm.
Breathing out, I am strong enough to take care of my anger
YOGA TIME OUT
APRIL 8TH, 2009: I came to the practice because of pain in my body but what has kept me coming back for 15 years is the relief this practice gives my mind. I was always a good kid, so I never was given a forced time out but I like the idea. Maybe I didn’t have to get a time out because I gave them to myself. When I needed to I’d go chill out and rest. I like time outs.
So when you come to the mat, give your mind a TIME OUT from having to figure everything out. Tell yourself for this class or even just a few minutes “you are not going to solve any problems or think about anything stressful.” Even right now at your desk while you read this join me in a virtual TIME OUT.
Take a big breath, draw your shoulders back.
· Inhale Peace, Exhale “I am Worthy”
· Inhale Patience, Exhale “I am Great”
· Inhale Love, Exhale “I am Present”
We all need time out’s. Otherwise we can overwhelm ourselves on purpose with the vast amount of knowledge we take in every day. Knowledge is important but it is not enough. We can know everything and still be unhappy. You can know all the facts and still be miserable. Information is not sufficient for a happy life. If it was we’d all be blissed out all the time and no one would stressed out.
The answer is to take the time out, open your heart and feel the moment, feel your breath instead of only engaging your analytical mind. I want you to understand the practice but more importantly I want you to feel the energetics. Happiness, true happiness, is an inside job. It lies deep within us (regardless of whether or not all the surface stuff is going smoothly or falling apart). Take the TIME OUT and you’ll find you will love your life more! With great affection, joy to the world within you! Silvia
STOP THE NOISE: CHOOSE PEACE
APRIL 5, 2009: I humbly suggest everyone take a Peace Break everyday. I time we disconnect from all media and all noise of any kind. Even if its just for 5 minutes. Now when you first start being "by yourself" in quiet it can be scary. It's like when we were kids taking our first camping trip and we were freaking out because of all the wierd nature noises around us.
Thing is, the biggest noise of all is in our own heads. The only way to hear the noises and shed light on them is to quiet the external noise. Then we can identify and name what noise we are experiencing in our brains. You take away the power unpleasant emotions have by seeing them rather than ignoring them and allowing the pretend drama of them to overtake you.
Two key areas of noise are written about in the Yoga Sutras as Attachement and Aversion. Chapter 2.7 says excessive fondness for pleasant experiences causes longing and Chapter 2.8 excessive avoidance of unpleasant experiences causes disdain. So the noise in our heads develop from either pushing thoughts away or pulling thoughts in to avoid other stuff. If we can stop pulling and pushing we will find peace within.
All you have do to is really want peace. So say to yourself, I CHOOSE PEACE INSTEAD OF THIS. No matter the thought you're having and see if that doesn't start to quiet your mind. I know it will just stay with it for 2-3 minutes and breath! Love your day, love your most peaceful self. Silvia
MAKING UP THE BED OF OUR MIND
APRIL 4TH, 2009: When I went to military school we were graded on how we made up the bed each day. We'd receive points or demerits. I always wanted the points. So I came up with ways of how to get the most points for the least amount of work. I tried sleeping under the covers but not moving all night long so i'd have less bed to make up in the morning. I figured the less wrinkled the bed the less work I would do and still get all the points. Well that didn't work so then I tried sleeping on top of the bed and not under covers. Still no luck, bed got messed up anyway. Then I slept next to the bed on the floor. Well it worked but I felt terrible and cranky. So eventually this is what I learned:
Enjoy the bed. And accept you have to make up the bed every day. It will keep getting rumpled. That's ok.
So in yoga what we acknowledge that our minds get rumpled up just like our beds. So the breathing and poses help us tidy up our minds, taking the wrinkles out. It requires perseverance because we have to practice this everyday. Why? Well because our minds keep getting agitated due to the chaotic world we live in. But somewhere inside we must believe an orderely bed is possible just like a peaceful mind is possible.
A favorite line of mine from a John Mayer song titled "Say' is "fighting with the shadows in my head". Yup been there, feel that, and can get lost in those shadows. This is why we have yoga, to help us reclaim MENTAL PEACE and the serenity that wants to fill our lives. So don't feel powerless, you can do something when your shadows are making your head messy. Just get to yoga class, meditate and make up the bed of your mind.
Love your self, love your mind, love your world! Silvia
COMMITMENT TO KINDESS
APRIL 3, 2009: The John Mayer song “Say” has this lyric that goes, “Even if your hands are shaking. And your Faith is broken. Even as the eyes are closing. Do it with a heart wide open.” It’s easy to stop being kind to ourselves and to others when we’ve been hurt or we see negative behavior around us. But that’s not excuse. To me it comes down to this, If tomorrow is going to look any better than today we have to commit to the possibility of kindness. We cannot abandon it. If the tomorrow after tomorrow is going to look better for our children and the children of our children we must commit to kindness.
A great way to change our energy and perhaps wipe the slate clean from previous negativity or frustration or hurt is to practice the Metta Meditation. Metta is the pali word for Lovingkindness. Here is my version:
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be peaceful
May I be loved
This then sets the tone for our practice and for our day. I don’t want you to get all worked about about what you look like, how you practice and whether you're doing it perfectly. I really don't want your yoga to be another opportunity to practice the self-abuse of perfectionism or be less than kind in yoru thoughts or actions. I just want you to be YOURSELF.
You need not overwhelm yourself on purpose. To practice lovingkindness go easy on yourself STRUGGLE LESS, STRIVE LESS, ATTEMPT LESS AND ENJOY MORE! Pace yourself to enjoy your practice to enjoy your life and let the ripples of lovingkindness impact the way you see the world. Or as Swami Satchidananda says, Look within. If you don't see the peace in you, you won't be able to see the peace outside. You have to have that peaceful vision, because it is you who sees the world outside.
HAPPINESS TRAINING - SPRING HAS BEGUN!
MARCH 25, 2009: Now as Spring has started is the perfect time to go back into training if you stopped along the way this Winter. What training you ask? Well, HAPPINESS TRAINING. That's what I like to call Yoga. Just like if we were training to run a marathon happines takes practice and training.
Now although the two have a lot in common where they diverge is that if you practice, then run the marathon it is completed. With happiness training, the training never ends. It lasts a lifetime! Why do we need training in happiness? Because most of us don't wake up happy every day. Even science says that our braings are wired to look for what's wrong. According to Martin Seligman in the book Authentic Happiness this is known as the catastrophic brain. He goes on to say that in neurological testing humans viewing unpleasant images showed activity in the primitive parts of the brain. Humans viewing pleasant images showed activity in more recently evolved parts of the brain.
So we are at the the cutting edge of our evolution! The great news is that you can start training anytime. In the words of Lama Yeshe, "it is never too late. Even if you're going to die tomorrrow, keep yourself straight and clear and be a happy human being today. If you keep your sitatution happy day by day, you will eventually reach the greatest happiness of Enlightenment."
So join me on the mat for continued practice reversing the negative stories we tell ourselves and strengthening ourselves with a positive life perspective. As Thit Nhat Hanh says, "people deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try to see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?"
May all beings be happy, loved and peaceful! JAI! Silvia
RIDE THE WAVE
MARCH 23, 2009: Life is like a wave. A wave may seem to have a beginning and end. A wave might be seen as high or low, big or small, different or not different from other waves.
No matter what we call or title the wave, the wave is at the same time the water. Water transcends the form of the wave, the idea of beginning, ending, high, or low. These notions apply to the wave but not to the water.
All watery things have to do with Second Chakra (circulation, orgasm, tears, urination). Water is always changing it flows and when your 2nd chakra is healthy it allows us to transcend the form of the wave and be the water. This means that we don’t try to force things to be different, who are we to demand to know why stuff happens anyway. Instead, this healthy chakra promotes that we just feel whatever arises and that we accept what is in front of us with grace. You will see for yourself the moment we relax our resistance to life it gets easier.
Just like the moment when the wave realizes that she is water, she loses all her fear and she enjoys much more being a wave. She is free from birth and death, being and non-being, high or low, because when we are able to touch our ultimate dimension, we are no longer subjected to fear-- fear of being; fear of non-being; fear of birth; fear of death; and most of all fear of change.
So together we practiced slow flow vinyasa and did our best to realize that we are not our thoughts, we are not our bodies we are the water. We are spirit and ultimately what we’re talking about is that we are LOVE. So that’s it. Be love, ride the wave. Love to you all! Silvia
MERGERS NOT ACQUISITIONS
MARCH 21ST, 2009:
THE DOOR TO MY HEART IS WIDE OPEN
THE WINDOW OF MY SOUL INVITES THE BREEZE
MAY THIS PRACTICE CLEAR THE OBSTACLES TO MY TRUE SELF
MAY I HAVE THE COURAGE TO FOLLOW MY HEART WHEREVER IT MAY LEAD
So that meditation came to me on its own. It speaks from my heart to yours about the Yoga of UNION. It is spirit saying use the yoga as a unifying force. A coming together. During the Winter many of us hibernate a bit. We don't see our neighbors or friends as much. We're stuck in our cars more and we physically contract from all the cold. The happy news is now that we start to peel back the first layers of Winter we again expand! This is our time to praise the abundance and new beginnings of Spring and reconnect.
As Yogis we are meant to connect. The word Yoga is that idea of merging together, to yoke, the union of humanity as well as the union within our own hearts and minds. In the greater world this is a time of change so perhaps more than at any other moment in our lifetimes this is a time to unify, to come together and be supportive of your friends, family, neighbors and yoga studio (whether your home studio is us or another.) So carpe diem dudes and get yourself to class, make new friends and reach out in happy new directions.
This Spring make a courageous fresh start and come celebrate community and experience the "yoga party" of practicing together! Love unifies! So Love everyone, serve everyone, Silvia
MAKE DEPOSITS INTO YOURSELF TODAY
MARCH 14, 2009: Today we're going to the Bank. The Spiritual Bank where we make deposits into ourselves and our capacity to love and appreciate who we are so we can life more fully. How do we make these deposits? The answer is simple - by meditating on GRATITUDE!
So you might ask, what is my role in this? Well, in the words of Albert Schweitzer "sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. each of us owes our deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light." I have had the patient support of many friends through the years that in times of challenge where my deposits were low or I had overdrawn my spiritual account helped stoke the fire. I pass this light to you when you need it most.
Today as you ground down lift your heart and align to making the commitment to breathing in a way that encourages you to expand. Be grateful for what is available in your body on this day and let it be enough. This will help us make the deposits of love into ourselves that we take with us the rest of the week. Or in the words that came to me in meditation last night, we leave the yoga mat with pockets full of love (like hundred dollar bills stuffed to overflowing). That way we have a little extra to share with our friends and families. Love in all ways! Silvia
Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn't die;
so, let us be thankful.
MARCH 8TH, 2009: I mediate often on the power of freedom and what this means in relation to having room to breath. Some years ago I read the book by Thit Nhat Hanh Peace in Every Step. In the book there is a story titled "Breathing Room". Sorry to say I didn't read the story until recently. But just the title had a huge impact on me.
What does that mean to you "breathing room"?
So you can interpret it in different ways. I took it literally, like wouldn't it be cool to have a room where we breath. That is in many respects the sacred space of the asana room at the studio. Interesting enough this is also what Thit Nhat Hanh is suggesting as follows:
"We have a room for everything - eating, sleeping, watching TV - but we have no room for mindfulness. I recommend that we set up a small room in our homes and call it a "breathing room", where we can be alone and practice just breathing and smiling, at least in difficult moments. That little room should be regarded as an Embassy of the Kingdom of Peace. It should be respected, and not violated with anger, shouting or things like that. When a child is about to be shouted at , she can take refuge in that room. Neither the father or mother can shout at her anymore. She is safe within the grounds of the Embassy. Parents sometimes will need to take refuge themselves. Therefore, that room is for the benefit of the whole family. I believe that every home should have one room for breathing. Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important. They can change our civilization." (the rest of this story is found in the book Peace Is Every Step)
Please enjoy this and look around your own home is there a closet, a corner, a room that you could designate as your BREATHING ROOM? I know there is. Why? Because we all had this as children except we called it a tree house, under our bed, secret spot by the big tree...you still have that available to you now (it just might be fancier). Wishing you freedom in breathing forever! Big Love, Silvia
MARCH 6TH, 2009: Interesting enough, children laugh 300 times or more per day while adults laugh an average of 17 times per day. We clearly have lots of catching up to do according to Heather King. When it comes to yoga it is as my idol Judith Lasater who says, "yoga practice is important but not serious. Practice is too important to be serious." RIGHT ON! Life can appear pretty serious so as a result it can be easy to take it and ourselves way too seriously.
That’s how yoga can help. It works to maintain our balance by really finding the FUN on the mat through playful practice. This idea of Lila Tandava, “the playful dance of life” helps us to find the humor in even the most ridiculous and most challenging poses on the mat and off. We discover there is always play even within the most serious moments – this is how we thrive not just survive difficult situations. Even if you walk into class and don’t feel very playful it still works to help us soften our edges and be a little less rigid. Yoga helps make us feel lighter!
Of all the ways that yoga has saved my life. Without a doubt it is the Sacred Fun of the practice that has helped me live life more fully and with greater enjoyment. I implore you then today to waste not a moment longer stand up, wiggle, sway your arms, dance, move, breath. Reconnect to the kid inside your adult body! And feel how this helps you in the words of Tagore “attend the birthing of the radiant light within you.”
HOW TO REDUCE NEGATIVITY AND WORRY
FEBRUARY 28TH: In the Yoga Sutra’s Pantanjali gives us a four part process to help us clear our hearts of any negative energies as a means for quieting our minds and reconnecting to the deepest reservoirs of unconditional love. The sutras advise we:
1. cultivate maitri (friendliness) toward pleasure and friends;
2. karma (compassion) for those who are in pain or suffering, yourself included;
3. mudita joy for those that you are happy and whom we admire;
4. and upeksanam equanimity toward those who have hurt us.
So simple. Try it this week as we learned it in class today and see for yourself if this doesn’t indeed change your life! May you feel the power of transformation grow. Peace to you, Silvia
FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF
FEBRUARY 24TH, 2009: "Love calls on parts of you that cannot speak." To me the highest practice of yoga is self-love. Time and again this is the purpose of practice. And just like loving another person we have to work at it. We must make an active effort to fall in love with ourselves on a day to day basis (or at the very least week to week).
The act of falling in love gets you centered to go to the next step in your spiritual journey!
This is Puja for your body. In India Pura is a ritual where they take idols that represent spirit and give their love to them, feed them, sing to them. Yoga poses (yoga asana) is like praying with our bodies in that the idea is that our bodies are temple. When you practice giving love to every part of your body through the nourishment of breath and movement you plant seeds of love and when they grow you will love, honor and respect your body even more. Life can be super easy when you LOVE yourself, when you LOVE your way of life, when you see everything through eyes of LOVE!
In the book Four Agreements a key section speaks to this, "in the search for self-love you will discover that its just a matter of time before you find what you are looking for. It's not about daydreaming or sitting hours in meditation. You have to stand up and be a HUMAN. You have to honor the man or woman that you are.
- Respect Your Body
- Enjoye Your Body
- Love Your Body
- Feed, clean, Heal Your Body
- Do what makes your body feel good
Today please repeat this Toltec prayer before bed and when you wake in the morning to promote this act of falling in love with yourself again and again: Today help me to keep the love and peace in my heart And to make that love a new way of life, that I may live in love the rest of my life." Be love, Silvia
A STRONG FOUNDATION: BEING AUTHENTIC
FEBRUARY 21, 2009: Our foundation both physical and spiritual provides us the opportunity to be ourselves. The stronger our foundation then less inclined we are to be pulled away from our center when we face obstacles. The objective of yoga as is written in the Yoga Sutras is to remove the divisions within yourself so that you can immerse yourself in the beauty and goodness that is you. This is the spirit of sutra chapter 2, verse 46. In the Bhagavad Ghita chapter 3 it is is said, "it is better to fail at yourself that it is to succeed at being someone else."
Thing is, it is a whole lot easier to be ourselves than it is to be who everyone else wants us to be.
So ask yourself, how do you see yourself right now? How can you be more you today?
I truly intend that this practice helps you build such a strong self-esteem and sense of self that you will be able to make all future decisions independently. That you will do what is most right for you in the face of life's obstacles. Sending you your best courage and wishing you your own best strength! Peace out, Silvia
THE GENIUS THAT YOU ARE!
FEBRUARY 16, 2009: Every single one of you is vitally important to the universe. You are genius! The world needs your genius now more than ever before. In yogic terms all human beings have within themselves the same essence of consciousness and one attribute of consciousness is genius. Yoga asana and pranayama help us remove the mucky muck that impedes our alertness to our inner genius. As Buckminster Fuller says, “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.”
So this practice performed regularly helps you reveal your best self. It will help you live more fully realizing your greatest potential. Yoga is a process of helping you become who you really are. As Dr Dyer writes in power of intention, “If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.” Whether you want to or not life is moving forward. Leo Buscaglia writes, “The easiest thing in the world to be is what you are, what you feel. The hardest thing to be is what other people want you to be, but that’s the scene we are living in. Are you really you or are you what people have told you you are? If you are interested in really knowing who you are because if you are, it is the happiest trip of your life.”
In class we talked about the shared characteristics of those whom we all honor as bringing forth their genius into the world like Jonas Salk, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Madam Curie. More was offered in class with the poses serving as the true contexualization of the philosophical but in brief qualities such as trust in your inner wisdom, optimism, spirituality, simplicity, appreciating the genius in others, joy for life, love for what you’re doing, self-love, love for what makes you unique and special (honor your funkiness). Finally at the end of practice we pulled this together by practicing a gratitude meditation. Gratitude is where what you know and what you intend for your life merge. I hope the written journaling you did at the beginning and end of class on your immediate and longer term intention offered each of you great insight. May we all be grateful for gratitude expands us! It is in the state of expansion that our genius will surface most easily. You are wonderful you guys! Love to you all, Silvia
LET GO - LIBERATE YOURSELF!
Today we devote to Liberation (Jivamukti!) to clear space for change. What is the ultimate key to liberation? Well it's as Michael Franti sings, "Love will set you free." Take this practice to liberate yourself, how? Let go of your worries. Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras, “What you’ve already done, you’ve done – LET IT GO,
Let It Go By Danna Faulds
Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold; the holding of plans or dreams or expectations — Let it go. Save your strength to swim with the tide. The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for.
Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes through your days whether you receive it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders. Take this on faith: the mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless. Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace, and certain transformation.
A Meditation on Letting Go By Ajahn Chah
If you let go a little
You will have a little happiness.
If you let go a lot
You will have a lot of happiness.
If you let go completely
You will be free.
"Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be."
FEBRUARY 13, 2009: It is really impactful to think that we have been chosen to breath today on purpose. That not everyone got picked to breath and so in a sense we won! the lotto of all lotteries. The most fundamental cause for gratitude is life itself! I start every morning with a gratitude meditation that is pretty sijmple: you say to yourself "I am grateful for...." then fill in the blanks for a few minutes or however long you comfortably can. Two of my favorite inspirations about gratitude are below for you to enjoy! Peace out, Silvia
“Gratitude is confidence in life itself.
Gratitude gladdens the heart. As gratitude grows it gives rise to joy. Like gratitude joy gladdens the heart. We can be joyful for people we love, for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees, and for the breath within us. And as our joy grows we finally discover a happiness without cause. We can rejoice in life itself, in simply being alive!”
Gratitude gladdens the heart.
As gratitude grows it gives rise to joy.
Like gratitude joy gladdens the heart.
We can be joyful for people we love,
for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees,
and for the breath within us.
And as our joy grows
we finally discover a happiness without cause.
We can rejoice in life itself, in simply being alive!”
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie ~
YOUR APPOINTMENT WITH LIFE
The words of Thich Nhat Hanh spoke to me, he says it like this: “We have an appointment with life, and that appointment takes place in the present moment. If we miss the present moment, we miss our appointment with life, which is serious.”
I get it. If we put more value on our oil change appointments, dental appointments, business appointments, hair appointments than we do on our life appointment something is amiss. We aren’t really living life. John Lennon says, Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans. Dude that’s it. So a favorite inspiration I handed out in class this morning is below so you can all enjoy and remember. Life is now. Keep your appointment! From my heart, Silvia
From A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, 2000
You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at your desk, or your life in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your HEART. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broken, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the check X ray and it doesn’t look so good.
Take a moment: Think about your resume, your resume of heart.
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: GET A LIFE. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Get a life where you pay attention. Keep still. Be Present.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time I look at my diploma, I remember that I am still a student, still learning every day how to be human.
BE PRESENT: BE MORE THAN OK
FEBRUARY 5TH, 2009: It is easy to see everything as flat and "ok" but that means we really aren't paying attention. This is when we aren’t really awake for if we were living in the moment (where true happiness lies) then we'd see the depth, like the mountain ranges I experienced last weekend. It really is just that SIMPLE. As is written in the Alchemist, “It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.”
When we are present, our minds become clear and still. This is a fundamental truth from the ancient writings of yoga. From the Bhagavad Gita 6:19-22, translated by Eknath Easwaran: The mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, the Self reveals itself. Beholding the Self by means of the Self, we know the joy and peace of complete fulfillment. Having attained that abiding joy beyond the senses, revealed in the stilled mind, he never swerves from the eternal truth. He desires nothing else, and cannot be shaken by the heaviest burden. Two of my favorite writings about being present are offered below. Enjoy! BE PRESENT. LOVE LIFE. PEACE TO YOU, Silvia
Look to this Day! - an inspirational poem -
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day! - Kalidasa - 5th century Sanskrit Poet
By Thich Nhat Hanh titled Twenty Four Brand-New Hours from Peace in Every Step:
"Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty four brand new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others.
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don’t have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. Even the air we breath can be a source of joy.
We can smile, breath, walk and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment. This is an invitation to come back to the present moment and find peace and joy. Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand. Bon voyage."
LESSONS FROM MY TRIP THIS WEEKEND
FEBRUARY 2ND: My Dear Yogi Friends, as you know I was away this weekend for four days in Colorado. I was totally getting that Rocky Mountain High: breathing, skiing, yogaing, enjoying the sunshine! I benefited from many life lessons as a result of this trip that I will share in classes this week related to yoga philosophy. As always the most important of which is to wake up, pay attention and BE PRESENT in order to live life more fully in each moment. A fave quote that speaks to this is:
“Most of the time we don’t even pay attention to the depth of life. We only see flat surfaces.” -Anonymous
Some other topics that came up during this weekend: AHIMSA - a fundamental principle of yoga often known as non-harming, kindness and safety. Every day we are fighting for our lives but how do we do so without hurting others. How do we create a safe situation for ourselves where we aren't driven by fear but by the desire to be kind? COURAGE - not the front page stuff but the quiet courage that requires trust, faith and a really brave heart. HABITS - those habits with attachments that prevent us from growing spiritually. You know those one's that give us a false of sense of ease because we grow dull doing the same thing over and over again. OPENING UP - When we close down we are like fish moving towards dry land, when we open up and even allow vulnerability we flow with grace towards the ocean. The mountains helped me remain open even though all I wanted to do was contract during challenging moments. BE PRESENT - It is easy to see everything as flat and "ok" but that means we really aren't paying attention. This is when we are not awake for if we were living in the moment (where true happiness lies) then we'd see the depth, like the mountain ranges I experienced this weekend.
Ok, many other lessons learned over the weekend like Managing Doubt, Simplicity, Facing Our Fears, Body Prayer, Spirtual Seeking, Peace of Mind, but I'll save those for my book. Please join me this week to learn more about these key one's above. I look forward to being with you on the mat! And remember today is not a rehearsal - this is IT! Love to all, Silvia
YOGA INSPIRES CHANGE
"Attend the birthing of the radiant light within you" - Vijnana Bhairava Tantra
So for your contemplation I asked the following two questions:
Q: If you had all the time, money, and energy you wanted, what would you do?
Q: If you were dying, what would you wish you had done that you are not doing now? Why aren't you doing it?
We have an opportunity here to make a difference in the world as Ghandi says “to be the change we wish to see”. Or Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the
Get to the mat, use it as your personal laboratory to safely test out for yourself changes in the way you respond to stuff. Like responding to challenging poses with kindness, non reactiveness, laughter, compassion, non-judgement, and ultimately acceptance. This then translates into how you live, interact and relate to your external world. Know that without a doubt your time on the mat is bringing about the peace we all aspire to – you are changing the world! Or as Michael Franti (Power to the Peaceful, Spearhead) says “One thing that yoga has taught me is that the rate at which the world changes is exactly the rate at which I change”
RIGHT ON! ROCK ON! BE ON! Silvia
CURRENCY OF YOUR THOUGHTS
JANUARY 12TH, 2009: We have 60,000 thoughts per day. If I said to you I'd give you this much money each day and you'd have to spend it that same day with no carry over how would you spend it? Would you buy things that didn't fit you, purchase furniture you didn't like, buy a car that wasn't your taste, order food you were allergic to? Of course not!
So why then would we ever spend the currency of our thoughts on things we Don't Want?
Today, practice spending your currency of thought and energy on what you want MORE OF IN YOUR LIFE. Spend wisely, you don't get to do today over and once today's currency is spent it's gone. Peaceful courage, Silvia (May the pretend money I gave you in class today serve as an ongoing reminder, or if you missed class take a dollar bill and write yourself a note on it.)
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT THRU YOGA
JANUARY 11TH, 2009: Yoga can make everything in life easier, even though everything else in life makes our yoga harder. Yoga itself is full of lessons for life and rest assured when we practice stuff will come up. When you want to get into a yoga pose, feeling the alignment, feeling really good and studly and all of a sudden something lines up and you’re in that place of bliss (ananda)! However before we get to the BLISS state there are a lot of other cycles.
You can apply this to the daily To Do List you have going. It likely is ginormous. What happens to the way you feel if you don’t get the things done on your list? Really the fact is we have little control over what gets done. We like to think we have more control than we do. WE can work hard and show up consistently to cross stuff off but the extent of our own authority ends with us. The outcome is beyond our jurisdiction.
From this often conflict arises since we are not playing a game of solitaire here in the real world. So what do we do? We should, instead, focus on what we can control. How we are BEING is the only thing that we can do something about.
THIS HELPS US MANAGE ANY CONFLICT
Try my favorite mantra when you face conflict something like "I am at peace, no matter what goes on around me," or, "I choose peace instead of this."
Don’t deny the conflict, face it see it and consciously take control of your own actions. That’s all you can do. Courage, strength and love to you all, Silvia
JANUARY 3RD, 2009: So this morning I was engaged in my regular ritual of making chai tea but as I was doing so I was also preparing my practice, finding smarties for class, you know I fell into that trap of multi tasking. As I was going about this I forgot for just a moment to pay attention to my tea and it spilled over. Forgetting to pay attention happens to the best of us.
WHY PAY ATTENTION? Because we aren’t going to get to do TODAY over again.
That’s why its important to be here NOW, right HERE, right NOW.
THERE IS NO WAITING.
We can begin right now paying attention to our own enjoyment or capacity to enjoy life: The Yoga Sutras say “enjoyment is the sweetness of noticing your life right now – smell, taste, feeling, sensation”
In class we each had 3 smarties to experience for ourselves how paying attention is a bit of a skill and we can improve it. This comes as a result of using the science of yoga breathing to train the mind in concentration while radically improving our ability to use the energy we receive from the air we breath. Equally we learn what paying attention is not: which Sean Corne says so well, *Well what it isn’t is trying to rewrite the past, we can learn something (even from those that have hurt you or things that didn’t go the way you wanted them to) and move on.”
So today really use the practice to quiet your mind by paying attention to what you can let go of. (Judith Lasater) And most importantly releasing your mind from constantly wanting your situation to be different. There is no reason to make war with what you feel, see or experience. Just open your heart to what you might be missing and repeat this mantra: My life is precious and glorious! Love to you all, Silvia
THE THEATER OF YOUR LIFE: REFLECT & GROW
DECEMBER 20TH, 2008: The winter solstice is Nature's New Year!
YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP
DECEMBER 2, 2008: Here's the good news: Better sleep has been noted for years as one of the great benefits of yoga! So today we learn about Yoga for Sleep and improved emotional well-being since there is a link between inability to sleep and anxiety.
What is Anxiety? It is how we manage stress. What is Stress? The opposite of relaxation.
One of the most important things you can learn from a yoga class is that your thoughts have the ability to affect your overall contentment and health. During the deep relaxation pose (corpse pose), one systematically relaxes every part of the body, even suggesting that the brain itself is "relaxed." During conscious relaxation, thoughts are experienced more as an energy, which is associated with the brain than as the sum total of who we are. We have thoughts, but those thoughts no longer take over our bodies and minds at large -- triggering tension, anxiety or other responses. Yoga teaches us that consciousness and thoughts are not the same thing.
When we are relaxed we are able to let the thoughts flow through us without dancing away with them to the past or the future. We remain conscious, allowing the thoughts to come through us, but we learn not to interact with them. We can say to ourselves, "Oh, there's another thought of dinner, or of person 'X' or of fear about tomorrow's meeting." Then we can let go of that thought and return to the relaxation at hand. This is a meditative practice, which gradually over time allows us to "dis-identify" with our thoughts. When thoughts are experienced just as thoughts, not as reality itself, then the path to freedom which yoga promises begins to unfold naturally.
A handout was provided with suggested bedtime Mantra, Meditation and Poses. If you want a copy of this just email email@example.com SWEET DREAMS! Silvia
DECEMBER 2, 2008: "Throughout life, we get clues that remind us of the direction we are supposed to be headed. If you stay focused, then you learn your lessons." -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
One of the greatest strengths we possess is the power to focus our thoughts. The value of the currency of our thoughts is worth more than anything else we can imagine. If we don't focus our thoughts they will end up scattered leaking energy in all directions. Pure thought is the idea of being totally undistracted. Now here's the coolest part: the energy of our thoughts are like a magnet and they will attract similar energy. If you are focusing on what you don't have, on anger, disappointment, fear then you will attract more of this same energy. We don't have time to waste a single thought on negativity. What you focus on gets stronger. It is such a blessing that we get to choose where we place our attention so we might as well pay attention to our strengths. Today DO YOGA. TRUST YOUR STRENGTHS. AND LOVE EVERYONE! Peace to all people everywhere, Silvia
A philosopher said, "In a civilized world, if our strengths are not determined to be valuable, we spend our life shoring up our weaknesses."
THE HAPPINESS LOTTERY: REAL OR FICTION?
NOVEMBER 15TH, 2008: Last night watching again the movie Indestructible I am deeply touched by Ben's desire to find inner happiness in spite of what is happening to his body that is out of his control. The Yoga Sutras speak to this directly.
Sutra 1.30 The perception of our true nature which is JOY is often obscured. AND Sutra 1.24 The divine consciousness is self effulgent like the SUN. We are self effulgent like the sun!
Now what interests me the most about Happiness is that we aren’t going to run out of it. There is no HAPPINESS LOTTERY with only an occasional lucky winner. Yoga teaches us that joy is the true nature of each of us. So today and moving forward we no longer have to limit our perspective of happiness or decide only some of our family members get to be happy and the rest don’t. Everyone can be joyful. Here’s the challenge, can you wake up every morning and choose to be happy? Can you face conflict and choose not to get totally upset. And if you do get upset, can you choose to feel happy again? I say YES! But it takes practice and what we practice we strengthen. So keep planting positive thoughts at least as often as you refresh your email or check voicemail. And as an at home practice try this Happiness Meditation:
Close your eyes and notice your breath entering and exiting. Count 10 deep breaths and then relax deeper into your seat. Allow the breath to move freely in and out. Move your awareness to the word "HAPPINESS". See it printed on the back of your eyelids. Hear it spoken by your inner voice. Feel it connected to your breathing. As you breathe in say "HAPPINESS"; as you breathe out say "WITHIN". Repeat with each breath: "Happiness - Within". Continue this breathing meditation for a few minutes.
Just five minutes into your meditation notice a shift in your attitude. Maybe you can't put your finger on it but it's definitely there. You realize that you feel better, you feel happy just because you chose to. It's within you all the time. So when in doubt: BREATH HAPPINESS – WITHIN.
MEDITATION MADE LESS SCARY
· Walking meditation
· Moving meditation: Hasta Vinyasa, Classical Salutation
· Supine Meditation: 3 Part Breath Pranayama
· What is Meditation – Everything
· Asana Refinement as Meditation: Basic Vinyasa Techniques, why this is meditation
· Seated Meditation: Count fingers, Breathing (pranayama) as meditation
· Savasana as Meditation: Not sleep - peace meditation by Deepak Chopra
Also I promised to send a daily meditation for a week to anyone who attended class or if you are reading this and want to be included just let me know. “When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the Self reveals itself.” Bhagavad Gita 6:19-22 Excerpted and translated by Eknath Easwaran
I hope that through yoga, which is a form of meditation, that you begin to reveal yourself more fully. This is the way to living the life you truly deserve. Peace in thought, word and action, Silvia
WALKING MEDITATION POEM
Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.
Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.
Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.
Thich Nhat Hanh,Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press,