Sunday, April 26, 2009

Riding the Wave

What we need, what we really want is here. Now. It's about learning to get still and allow your mind to process exactly what's happening at this moment. Don't second guess, rationalize, justify. Simply be honest with yourself about what is real for you in this moment. There is nothing good or bad here. There is only the reality of what is.

So, rather than spending enormous amounts of time planning for a future that logically sounds like a good idea, how about instead getting really clear with what's going on with you in this moment. Sink deep inside yourself and get really clear with your current emotions, thoughts, worries, fears, joy, pain, grief, etc. Once we are clear with what is, with what makes us feel alive, (knowing that all of this could change tomorrow) we've established where we are on our map of our path, our Dharma. Then, with this real information we can skillfully choose our next step. We'll begin to see where our destiny (Dharma, the path of our life, our Truth) begins to direct us. As we bravely follow this path, nothing will feel so natural. Then we can offer another step forward toward a direction that makes complete sense. This doesn't absolve us from problems, but at least we'll know that we are leading the life that was meant for us.

I was recently invited to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony conducted by a Lakota medicine man who travels the world sharing sprit. He is very gentle, honest and real. Together he and I were preparing for the ceremony by digging the fire pit and began talking. These are often my greatest teaching moments, indeed part of the ceremony. I asked him how he made his connections all over the world. He stopped digging rocks, put his hands on his shovel and looked me in the eyes and said, "I'm surfing. I'm just riding the wave of my passion and this is where it takes me. Are you following your passion?" He was asking if I was following my Dharma.

Are you following your passion? Come to yoga, get still, and see where your Dharma is leading you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Coming Home

Sometimes it feels like we are a house-full of sorrows. Every corner, under every piece of furniture, in every drawer, memories, thoughts, regrets, disappointments, worry, grief. It's all there and what do you do with it?

The ancient Sufi poet Rumi suggests we welcome our sorrows, make them a cup of tea, sit, and listen.

In the highly relative world of emotion, one thing that is certain is that those sorrows do exist, at least for the moment. They feel so real because we can feel them. This is countered by another thing which is true which is: when we learn to uncover our True Nature through practices such as meditation and yoga, we see clearly that what we are is deeper than even these pervasive, transitory emotions which seem to rule our lives. From the grand perspective of our True Nature, which, the ancients say and invite us to discover for ourselves, is boundless equanimity, we allow ourselves to experience our emotions fully, knowing that when all is said and done, our emotions will come and go but this True Nature will stay constant. By experiencing our emotions from this perspective, often these sorrows seem to get whatever it was off their chest, finish their tea, and then see themselves out. Regardless, each thing that comes to our door, like Rumi says, is our teacher.

In yoga, it's nice to know that we're not trying to "fix" anything but rather simply uncovering the most True part of ourselves, the part that is not subjective like our emotions. Plus, it just feels really good to be with that True part of ourselves. It's like coming home.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is yoga where we find our True Self by exploring all of our complex layers in a way to see that who we are, fundamentally, is bigger than those simple layers. We call these layers Koshas.

Some of the Kosahs include a body layer, an energy layer, a mind layer, and so on. By exploring these layers through simple means of listening to a guided narrative, we can experience ourselves just as we are but against a backdrop of our own awareness--our consciousness. From the bigger place of our awareness, we see that those smaller parts of ourselves, like body or illness, emotions, thoughts, though still important, don't have to monopolize all of our energy and attention.

Through this process of Yoga Nidra, many of our problems (physical, emotional, etc) seem to sort themselves out because it's like they finally find their own role in the bigger scheme of who we are. Our problems often stop the narcissistic show of attention they've been asserting all this time.

Perhaps the best thing about Yoga Nidra is that it's for everybody, old young, beginners, pros. Everyone. Plus, all you have to do is lay there and listen to the facilitator talk. And pay attention. It's very relaxing. Many people say that after Yoga Nidra they feel like they've had a long nap.

Once, after a session of Yoga Nidra, I felt like I was as big as the whole universe and as small as the smallest particle at the same time. I felt like everything was okay and my old problems seemed important but relatively insignificant from this larger perspective. This largeness, this awareness seemed to be choosing to live in my body and it was my job to experience this awareness in the form that I had been given.

While still blised out, in my mind I felt curious about this body in which I was experiencing this awareness. I had an urge to pull over to the first fast-food restaurant I found and stuff myself with tasty but unhealthy food. Fortunately I was aware enough to realize that though my awareness may exceed my body, I was still attached to it and as my vehicle for this awareness, I'd better take care of it.

That same night, I went home, put on some jazz music, sat in my favorite chair and simply cried. Life seemed all so close and present to me. It felt like all that mattered was this moment.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Feed What You Love

I love The Tandoor Grill (Indian restaurant) because they were my neighbors, they are my dear friends, and the food is amazing.

I love the Hatch Family Chocolates because they are local, friendly, and an integral part of my Thursday morning ritual: treat myself to a saxophone lesson, then treat myself to chocolate at Hatch just down the street. (Click here to read something I wrote: Alive on Jazz and Chocolate).

I tote my yoga mat in a beautiful bag made by my good friend and master seamstress Kiri Manookin. It was made just for me and made for me with love.

When my car needs repair or service, I take it to John Peake because he's a solid, honest friend and because he's the best mechanic I've ever known.

I love the Band of Annuals because they are a tight, original band first and because they are local second.

When my good friend said that her daughter was selling Girl Scout cookies, I told her that I'd buy 1 box of each kind because they make great gifts and it supports a special little person. Besides, those Samosas are better than crack.

When Karen Baynard came up with her line of gorgeous natural, healthy, delicious ice cream, I jumped for the opportunity to buy, for her first and for the ice cream second.

In a world of chain restaurants and big box stores, it's nice to know that you can choose to spend your money and energy on products and people that have soul and support those you care about.

This follows an important yogic principle of Samtosha or contentment(rhymes with Samosa). Perhaps better said, Samtosha is the spiritual practice of choosing to be happy with what you have and choosing to love those things around you. It's about refining your taste for what's around. And like in the famous book The Little Prince, what we choose to cultivate in our world becomes sacred to us.

One of my teachers told me once, "You have to feed what you love." It's nice to know that every time you go to yoga at a local studio, you support local business. Every yoga instructor at these studios is essentially an independent contractor and therefore also a local business. This is by no means a way to guilt you into coming to yoga. I'm just belaboring my point.

By supporting what you love, you give someone else the opportunity to give what they love and both benefit. This is why local business is so rewarding. This is why things like the Farmer's Market is so fun. It's a true connection with people, like everything else. This is yoga.

I invite you to notice those things around you this week and feed those things that you love.

I hope to see you in yoga this week.