Sunday, February 22, 2009


Yoga Sutra 1:2 Yoga citta vrtti nirodhah. Yoga is the cessation of fluctuations of the mind.

One of our principle objectives in yoga is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is awareness. We can practice mindfulness while doing almost anything: walking your dog, riding your bike, practicing yoga, or just sitting.

Getting quiet and drawing in to stillness is necessary for any good work to happen. It's this quietness, this stillness, that allows the busy waters of our mind and emotions to settle enough for us to see what's down in the depths our being.

When we find this True Self, our work becomes effortless because we no longer feel that we are trying to affect anything from a personality we've conjured from a pretense. Rather, our work generates from this deep relationship with who we truly are. Our work is simply an extension of our deeper selves, the self that knows everything.

Our work, our medium is, as one good friend says, the loudspeaker of the soul.

To find this voice, we get quiet.

Can I suggest a stillness challenge? Give yourself 10 minutes of meditation each day this week. Devote a time, lock the door, turn off your phone, let your family members and pets know that you are having some alone time and even set a timer. Start with 10 minutes and if it feels incredible, go longer.

Here are a few simple ways to practice:

There Is Practice
Simply sit, close your eyes, and acknowledge what you sense, all of your senses. Without value or judgment, simply state what you are experiencing. Rather than identifying with the pronoun "I" simply say in your mind, "There is the sound of traffic, there is fatigue, there is worry, there is an incredible urge to rush to Hatch Family Chocolates and eat 40 pounds of truffles." You know, whatever thought, emotion, sensation occurs. Simply state what is. Try not to identify with it. Just watch it.

Count Your Breaths
Choose a number and count your exhales down from that number to zero. When you loose your place start back at that number. If you get to zero, start back at that or a different number. Keep you mind only on your breath. This is a deceptively difficult practice, I feel.

Mantra means to transcend through the use of your mind. Simply find a phrase that means something to you, a scripture, a poem, some tidbit of inspiration, and repeat it in your mind. Words are powerful. You are your word.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valuing Perplexity

We all have problems. We all grapple with the unknown, about the Universe, sure, but more specifically about our own complicated life. We all want to solve our problems as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Sometimes it is only by questioning, or struggling, that we are driven to understand an otherwise hidden part of ourselves and our potential. Our questions fuel us to open our hearts, to seek for inspiration, to perform the necessary work, and more profoundly, to abandon our will to the grander wisdom of the divine. We must at once be willing to seek and do, and also sit comfortably and simply be with what we don’t know or with what doesn’t feel comfortable-happily resolved with the phrase, “I don’t know.” And sometimes to get real answers we must be willing to sit in our own darkness for a while.

This human tendency for control occurs regularly in our yoga practice as many of us strive to either know everything there is to know about yoga or try to perfect our poses; we usually eagerly fill in whatever blanks present themselves in our life’s scripts.

Instead, let us practice this week the yoga principle of Santosha, or contentment, by learning to sit with and even value perplexity.

The following poem by David Whyte seems to speak directly to learning from the darkness, instead of running from it.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

~ David Whyte ~

See you in class!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ananda: Finding Joy, Learning to Laugh, and Not Taking Ourselves TOO Seriously

Ananda is a state of complete bliss, sometimes achieved by experienced yoga practitioners. One never achieves ananda by perfecting any certain yoga posture. You may feel that you have accomplished something if you are able to understand the principles of and manifest a technical asana, however there will always be another asana that will be too hard.

Instead, we can use the asanas simply as tools to help us strengthen our bodies, find our breath, and hone our concentration, all of which will lead us to feel good and find similar joy as the blissed out yogis. Most everyone who has been to yoga, even a few times, has experienced this bliss, to some degree, upon rising from savasana, our resting pose. Bit by bit, we may see that despite life's challenges, there is much to be happy about. In fact, it may begin to feel that joy is our most natural state of being.

If a good sense of humor isn't listed in the Yoga Sutras as a pathway to our highest selves, it should be.

You know, we don't have to be so serious all the time. Take a room full of barefooted, lycra-clad, sweaty, heavy breathers and throw in some gymnastics and breakdancing, a few droning chants and there's a lot to laugh at. Especially because you know that every one in the room at sometime or other is experiencing gas anxiety . . .(you know who you are).

My favorite (and I'm guilty of this too) is to see the yogi "look-how-awesome-my-yoga-practice-is" photo performed by being photographed in some outrageous and death-defying yoga posture at the edge of a scenic cliff. How yogic is that? They'll be saying at my funeral, "he was doing yoga right up until the end. . . literally." Then in heaven, I'll have to sheepishly tell all the other people in line to get into The Pearly Gates specifically what stupid thing I did to end up dead. They'll be undoubetedly curious and want me to show them the pose. I'll tell them that I'd like to but that " . . um . . I'm not warmed up." I can see them looking at me and then taking a long look down and say, "well, maybe not yet."

There are all kinds of yoga poses we encounter in daily life. One of my favorites is the balance-intensive, Putyourunderwearon asana. Click here and comment on what your favorite daily-life yoga poses are.

If you're feeling down (or not) and want to read something really, really, funny about yoga check out this New York Times article called Guns And Yoga by Patton Oswald. My favorite line is, "Shooting guns and taking yoga on the same day was the biggest "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" moment I've had so far in my life."

Some people even practice "Laughing Yoga," where someone just starts laughing for no reason and it catches on until no one can stop. This happened to me last April. I couldn't stop laughing for a full 30 minutes. I think about the moment and it still makes me smile. Crazy!

Let's enjoy yoga this week.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Essential

The Little Prince is a sacred book to me. It is about a man who is stranded in the desert and meets The Little Prince, a young man who is visiting from another planet. The Little Prince is on a journey to get a little space from what he considers some of the problems in his small world, namely a rose who needs a lot of attention.

The Little Prince also finds a few friends along the way one of whom is a fox who shares a simple yet vital secret with him. The fox tells The Little Prince, "One cannot see well except with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes."

A few months ago, I was on a journey of my own. I found myself sitting with a group of close friends in the living room of Gratitude, a special house overlooking the Maine coastline, while I read the fox's passage to my friends.

Just like The Little Prince, I discovered something about my world. It's perfect. Perfect because of the way I love it, the way my heart is connected to it. even with its problems. I belong to it and it belongs to me.

The formula for this understanding is simple, look with your heart.

Yoga gives us this perspective. It trains our inward vision and teaches us to trust our heart more than our eyes.

I hope to see you in yoga this week.