Monday Yoga- I’m Happening


During my Therapeutic Yoga Workshop I spoke about the concept of being with whatever is happening in the moment. I think that our society gets caught up in the idea of having to be happy all. of. the. time.

I think that’s ridiculous. Sure, I try to live life peacefully and that can be joyful. However on some days I feel meh. Or tired. Or even depressed. Trying to be one thing consistently isn’t how we work. The one that is constant is our fluid life.

And that’s okay because it’s living authentically. If I relentlessly pursued the notion I should be happy all of the time I’d be setting myself up for a crushing blow. It ain’t happenin’. Life has seasons. Our bodies have rythyms that work to keep us in a state of harmony. I like this. Congruity. Things fit together in a way that is balanced. Can you imagine if your body lived in the pleasure center. All ‘dopamined’ up with no place to go.

So let be. No need to chase a happy dragon. Thich Nhat Hahn says that by following our breathing we invite ours to be in the present where we have an appointment with life. That moment may be full of joy, completely fucked up or blissfully dull. But life is in that moment. Not in the future or behind us in the past.

Happy? Sure, sometimes. But I think I’ll opt for what’s happening all of the time. That’s where my life is.

Namaste y’all.

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Sunday Yoga –

mine of gold

Today I got lost in my sit. This was the intention. I’m meant to stay present, but I wandered deeply into my thoughts. During meditation I have a teacher that says, ‘Notice the vastness of your inner world.’ That is exactly what happened. Inside me seemed never ending. Some areas felt strange, others felt beautiful but it was all mine and so rich. Why hadn’t I seen this before? Spending so many years distracted by outside things kept me from seeing that so much was inside me.

2015 is my year of living mindfully.

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Meditation 5am

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At 5am there isn’t a lot of noise on my typically busy city street. But today as I sat in meditation it was my mind that was full and endlessly moving. At first, it was connecting with my breathing. Noticing how the air was moving in and out of my body.

Staying steady. Holding. Being. And then a distraction.

An announcement of the next stop from the bus outside.

I came back to my breathing. Noticing the expansion and contraction of my diaphragm. Another distraction. My dog’s breathing. And a thought. Is she asleep? A new sensation rose up. Heaviness and tingling in my eyelids. I think I am sleepy. Gently, I bring myself back to my breathing.

I notice the inhales and exhales, how the air moves inside my nose. My nose is dry I think. It must be the heat. And then another thought. Is it cold outside? Gently I bring myself back to my breathing. A sensation, this time in my belly. It feels soft and I feel a pang of shame. My stomach is not flat enough. Pretty enough. And a surprise. Instead of another thought there is another sensation. Tightness. In my chest. And a thought which is expected. I am not enough. I am not doing enough. I am not successful enough. 

More tightness. And then something changed.

I came back to my breathing and decided to stay with this emotion. I noticed the tightness and shame and stayed with it.

Breathing. Letting this be as they were. No changing. No shifting. No squashing down.

Things dissolve. Tightness lifts.

Just because I feel shame does not mean I will die from it. And if I sit with the feeling it will pass.

More thoughts and feelings came and went. And each time I came back to my breathing.

In 35 minutes the bells chimed indicating that my meditation was over. Normally, I feel a sense of completion. But today, I felt something new. A sense of renewal, that this was the start of something new.

Something present and mindful.

It was a challenging sit. However, I felt more like myself than ever before. Pena Chödrön says that mediation is a way to befriend who we already are.

I beginning to see the glimmer of something. 2015 is my year of living mindfully.

Namaste y’all

Time is Not on My Side

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Time is not on my side.

 

On New Year’s Day I took a 3-hour class with co-founder and master teacher David Life at Jivamukti NYC. Being with 80-100 yogis at the start of the new year was special but hearing David Life talk about time resonated with me.  It stirred up a lot of ‘stuff’ that had been hanging around for the past six months or so.

 

The notion of time can be overwhelming and disconcerting. I realized that I’ve been racing against a clock. Freaking as time ticked on, chastising myself for not getting certain things done. But rather than sweating the passing minutes, hours and days, I should be breathing and acting. It’s the small steps that make progress.

 

I felt this as I practiced. We started class extending our inhalations and exhalations to 30 seconds each. This made time seem deep rather than long. Working with breath and movement I become more aware how I felt in certain poses and more importantly how I can look for depth. Because let’s face it, that’s where magic happens. Changes happen when you reach into the unknown. And it can happen in a moment, but the trick is, you have to do something. David said the origin of time is in stillness. But my growth occurs when I reach deep down pulling out the weeds, my exhales letting go of fear, embracing anxiety and opening my heart up to the possibility of whatever is to happen next.

Inhale.

Exhale.

 

Time is not on my side. No, it isn’t. But knowing that- I have every ability to make the best of it.

 

Namaste y’all.

Wednesday Yoga- Things Change

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As the year comes to an end I’m astonished at how much has changed. I’ve transitioned to teaching yoga therapy, discovered a deep and passionate calling to teach meditation and realized that being a yoga teacher isn’t something I want to do, it’s what I am supposed to do. And yet, these discoveries didn’t jump out and slap me in the face. Day-by-day, week-by-week I plugged away and listened to my voice and made some practical choices. Let’s be real, I also jumped off a few cliffs without a net.

I’m where I’m supposed to be.  And happy. Happy with what I doing for a living. I’m feeling peaceful in my personal life. And lastly, I understand that while a plan is critical, I also need a little bit of faith. When I stay in the present I can hear myself and trust my instincts.

Mindfulness is my roadmap and breathing is my vehicle.

Inhale. Exhale. Stay present.

Namaste y’all.

Friday Yoga

Yogi Bhajan

I love this quote but it can be challenging, especially if you haven’t made it a habit to of listening to yourself. I don’t mean listening with your ego-centered thoughts to an ego-centered mind. With practice you begin to hear the whisper of something deep and lasting; the wisdom of your spirit.

I have found that by practicing mediation my inner voice is strong and sonorous. It says things that I never heard because I was too busy looking outside of myself.

Be still, it says.

Trust yourself, it says.

Be strong, it says.

Be vulnerable, it says.

Serve, it says.

Serve, it says.

Love, it says.

There are times that I still get distracted and feel lost. When those times arise, I come back to what I know about my best self. This gets back in touch with my center.

 

Namaste y’all.

Start Now- Beginner Meditation (Audio included)

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Meditation may seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before. Here are three tips to get you started:

1. Just try- don’t worry about being perfect, or getting it. The act of being still, even for a few minutes will benefit you.

2. Get comfortable. Sit in a chair or on the floor. You can also lay on your back, but don’t get in bed. Remember the point is to relax, not sleep!

3. Have no expectations.

 

Included is a recording that guides you through a brief session. The audio is nine minutes long from start to finish.

Give yourself a break and woosah!

This meditation is perfect:

  • First thing in the morning
  • When you need a midday break at work
  • When you are feeling stressed
  • After work
  • Before bed (but not in bed)

 

Namaste y’all.

 

*Do not listen to this while you are driving, walking, biking or using any other vehicle. 

 

Adventures in Teaching Yoga- Prison Yoga (Liberation Prison Yoga)

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This is a teaching on a Tibetan word: shenpa. The usual translation of the word shenpa is attachment. If you were to look it up in a Tibetan dictionary, you would find that the definition was attachment. But the word “attachment” absolutely doesn’t get at what it is. Dzigar Kongtrul said not to use that translation because it’s incomplete, and it doesn’t touch the magnitude of shenpa and the effect that it has on us.

If I were translating shenpa it would be very hard to find a word, but I’m going to give you a few. One word might be hooked. How we get hooked.

Another synonym for shenpa might be that sticky feeling. In terms of last night’s analogy about having scabies, that itch that goes along with that and scratching it, shenpa is the itch and it’s the urge to scratch. So, urge is another word. The urge to smoke that cigarette, the urge to overeat, the urge to have one more drink, or whatever it is where your addiction is.

 

– Pema Chödrön

 

Hooked.  It’s been a part of my dharma talks in my studio classes. But when it came up as a topic for my Riker’s students, it felt sticky and tricky. A lot of the women in my class are at Riker’s for alleged drug related offenses. Because of my hammer personality I tend to see all problems as nails. However, I thought that approaching addiction from a unique angle may bring a new perspective. To add a little more tension to the mix, the B side of the dorms had their bunks searched in the middle of the night- so needless to say things were running a little…

When I got there- everyone was still cleaning up. The A side of the dorm didn’t have a teacher that day- so instead of sitting around waiting for the B side to get ready- I decided to do yoga with the A side as well.

 

Before our practice we talked about attachment and how the asana practice can get the mind ready to meditate. Taking it a step further we discussed how meditation can help us deal with that ‘hooked’ feeling or itch that Pema brilliantly articulates. I made our practice a bit tougher than usual, discussing throughout how when we work our bodies hard it helps clear the mind and is a distraction from looping thoughts or old stories that we tell ourselves. As a class we went through sun salutations, warriors, lunges, standing backbends, balancing poses and a brief standing meditation. By the time we hit the floor everyone (including me) had worked up a bit of a sweat.

 

I brought my copy of Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön and read a paragraph before guided meditation. One of the students translates for a friend who doesn’t speak any English and I found her voice soothing as I guided the class to a place of stillness.

 

When I finished a few students helped me take the mats and bolsters to the B side where I found some students ready and waiting. A few of them told me that about the search. They were ready for yoga. With this side feeling a little more tense we worked even harder. It was a good move. Every time we came to a balancing pose I reminded them not be attached- to the pose, to expectations…to anything. Everything changes because nothing is forever. We could have gotten down and dirty with the murky shit that surrounds addictive behavior- but they have group all day. In the moment it felt right to take a yogic approach to letting go.

 

And when we were in tree the Jane’s Addiction’s song Jane Says started playing in my head. In a brief moment I thought about addiction and some of the dumb things that I did in high school and college (and who are we kidding in my twenties)…it’s a roll of the dice. I was never addicted to drugs- but easily could have been. A one bad decision can lead to another. And when addiction gets hold all the great parenting and supportive home structures can’t save you. There are less differences that one might think between people inside jail and outside of jail.

When I’m there I focus on the things that make us the same.

When I am there- we are all yogis.

We are all the same.

 

By the time we were on our mats the room was breathing differently. It still felt a little tense but it was decidedly better than when we started. I used to think energy was woo-woo- but you can sense how a room feels and that’s not bs. The guided meditation helped to dissipate more tension. And by the time we ended, things felt better. I won’t say that things were great because I can’t imagine that a yoga class can take away the fear from a late night/early morning dorm search- but there were some smiles of relief and the question that never gets old. ‘You’ll be back next week?’

Definitely.

Namaste y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Yoga- On a Train At 2am

Listening to Tvarargen’a Everything Can Be Invented while taking the train to Providence. It’s 2:52 a.m. The guitar soundtracks this quiet moment. Most people are sleeping save for the two guys next to me
– chatting away not loudly, but in a way that’s oddly comforting despite them being strangers.

My mind wanders and as I listen. In the beginning of the song it feels like someone is leaving. Leaving. Leaving someone? Leaving something? I look out of the window and lonely streets roll by. For an instant I feel like crying- I’m swept up by this delicate moment and wish this I could capture it on film- just for me so I’d never forget it. And just as quickly I realize that if I don’t come back and enjoy it- it’ll be over sooner than I planned. 

And I listen. As the song comes to a close the leaving I felt at the beginning is gone. The end of the song sounds like a beginning- a sense of arrival…maybe it’s me.

Maybe I’m projecting. Maybe Everything can be invented I suppose. I stop worrying about preserving and I just watch the lights in the dark. It’s all happening right now- and I’m not missing a thing. 

This is yoga. 

Namaste y’all. 

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