Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Life Burning Well

Have you ever found yourself saying things that you didn’t know you knew? What’s that about? I think it’s about understanding yourself deeply. There is something in the articulation of an experience or thought or feeling that taps us into our deeper knowledge. Writing, dance, photography, and blogging could all be part of the creative process that helps articulate an experience. I love poetry and I think that’s what the essence of poetry is: understanding one’s self and life’s grand mysteries through bite-sized bits of awareness. Like the legendary Leonard Cohen says, “If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” The creative expression itself isn’t the experience; it’s a product of the experience. More than the craft and beauty of their writing, we love poets for the people they are to write such words. We love who they have become by writing their poetry.

I suppose I’ve been trying to learn about who I am my whole life. The same way writing or dance could tap this deeper wisdom, for me yoga and the separate practice of teaching yoga has been a creative avenue of personal growth and understanding. Yoga and teaching yoga has showed me hidden gifts. It’s challenged me to confront my largest weaknesses. It’s showed me how much I love people and love to be involved in their own personal growth. What a privilege! And in the process of practicing and teaching yoga, I’ve learned a bunch about myriad topics like philosophy, spirituality, anatomy meditation, etc. After learning about all this fascinating, intricate, and sometimes esoteric stuff, I invariably come to the same fat and resounding question: SO WHAT? What does any of this have to do with my daily life, or other people’s lives? What does any of this stuff have to do with going to work and walking my dog and having relationships and fulfilling our dreams?

My search into “SO WHAT?” has led me to the wonderful and challenging and enlightening practice of writing this thing every week. This weekly blurb has been my wisest teacher. It’s here, in this creative expression of my own inquiry, where I find myself saying the things that I didn’t know I knew. I’m just happy that people want read my rantings. I don’t write about what I want others to learn, I write about what I’m learning in this moment. Then when I teach it all week in yoga classes, I have so much more I want to say by the end of the week because I’ve learned so much more by the process of teaching it, a different creative expression. I should offer a post script to this thing at the end of the week to fill you in on what else I’ve learned along the process of articulating it.

I can’t be having all the fun here. I’d love to invite you into this beautiful process of unfolding, knowledge, and experience, of finding your own deeper wisdom, by making your own personal expression of anything you do in life. I’d love to hear about or invite you to find yourself saying the things you didn’t know you knew.
Here’s my invitation:
1.       Do something. Anything.
2.       Document it in some way: journal, poem, Facebook Post, blog, photo, draw, dance, whatever.
3.       Do it again
4.       Document again, maybe this time explain it or teach it to someone.
5.       Watch to see yourself say things you didn’t know you knew. Watch for the insights that come naturally.
6.       Then tell me all about it, because I’ll be curious.
The end.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Rites of Spring

Get out your running shoes. Put away your snow boots. Put away your thermals. Find your swimsuit, or at least a pair of shorts. Put away your heavy coat. Start saying your goodbyes to the the ski season. Go and tune up your bike. Store your snow shovel. Open the windows and air out your soul after a long winter of hibernating. It is officially Spring! 

Last Wednesday the sun made make its grand appearance at exactly half way up the horizon. It's a foreshadowing of the hot months to come. On that day we were blessed with as many daylight hours as nighttime hours as the sun rose directly east and set directly west.

The spring equinox is one of those cosmically sacred times of the year that marks an exact quarter-turn around the sun. It's a time for us to pause and thank the Powers That Be that the sun is coming back. The warmth of brightness and hope and resolve is rising.

The spring equinox is a great time to remember our intentions we made at the beginning of the year and see how things are progressing. If one of those intentions was to do more yoga, kindly get your asana to class.

Winter is a great time to hibernate and meditate. To make intentions. Find stillness. But now it's time to balance the mindfulness with with movement. Let's get some fresh air! In yoga, the balance between activity (Rajas) and stillness (Tamas) is called Satva. It is one of the qualities known as the Gunas. This week, I invite you to reflect on your intentions you made at the beginning of the year and assess. Make adjustments if you need to.

Come to yoga and let's practice some of this balance into Satva with a little movement, breath, and mindfulness. Let's put some action to our mindfulness and air out our soul.

See you in class. 


Monday, March 18, 2013

What Does Your Gut Say?

There is a part of you that just knows. Call it intuition. Call it your gut feeling. Call it your inner-guru. Call it what you want but I’d wager that sometime or other we’ve all had an experience that feels like we’ve tapped into some deeper wisdom within ourselves. Sometimes information or something a friend says hits you between the eyes. Other times as you might be considering which option to choose, you’ll land on one and your whole body completely relaxes. For some, this inner-wisdom is the feeling you get when you are connected to a divine source. And when we have these experiences, it feels like this wisdom is coming from somewhere different than our conscious mind of rational thoughts. It’s not an analysis. It’s deeper.

In yoga we call this the Wisdom Body or in Sanskrit the Vijnanamaya Kosha (pronounced vig-nyana-my-ah). The source of this inner-wisdom is the place between dreaming and waking consciousness. Many cultures and spiritual traditions have different names and explanations for this place of inner-wisdom. For example, in Native American spirituality it’s said that this wisdom realm is very mystical, a source of visions, and ruled by the spiritual powers of the fox.

Like all things in yoga, through practice we can develop an ability to better hear or recognize this inner-wisdom. Personally, I’ve also found a profound practice in learning to trust and act upon this inner-wisdom when I do hear it. Yoga, meditation, and yoga nidra, are all ways to practice accessing our Wisdom Body. In the yoga system of subtle body, you can access this inner-wisdom by meditating or performing breathing exercises while focusing on the Ajna Chakra, sometimes called your Third Eye (looks inward), the energetic and symbolic spot in the center of your forehead. Another way to access the Wisdom Body is through the symbols and feelings of your dreams. Keeping a dream journal is a fun way to practice hearing your inner-wisdom. Often you tap this Wisdom Body when you clear your head and do something simple like folding the laundry, going on a walk in the park, or walking your dog.

Here’s a simple practice, to experiment tuning in to this inner- wisdom.  Just have fun with this and don’t be too serious about it.  Read through this first and then give yourself 10-15 minutes or so to try it.


Lie down and close your eyes. Practice first focusing as you methodically bring your attention to all the different parts of your body: start from the top and go part-by-part to the bottom. Spend about at least 5 minutes doing this, you’ve got to let your body relax and tune in. When you’re relaxed, picture yourself sitting with someone very wise and loving. This person could be imaginary, living, passed on, young, old, whatever; it’s your inner reference so you can choose whoever you want. Sometimes, I choose Gandalf from Lord of the Rings as my wise person(can we keep that just between us?).  Picture in detail where the two of you would be, what you would be doing, and most importantly the feelings between the two of you. Imagine that this wise person knows you inside and out, they know your personality, your likes and dislikes, your past and even your future and they love every part of you. They are your biggest cheerleader. Now, imagine that this person is excited to tell you something profound about you. They turn to you and with a smile say, “You know . . .” Now, let your mind fill in the blank with the first thing that comes to mind, what they would say about you. Don’t try to think about it, let it be instinct, that’s the point. Pause and take it in. Notice the way your body feels after this bit of advice or wisdom from your inner-friend. Notice any emotions, sensations, symbols, images, or anything that spontaneously arises for you, if any. Remember, this person is just the symbol of your deep inner-wisdom. They are a part of YOU. Repeat it to yourself. This is part of your subconscious speaking to your conscious mind through the symbol of your friend. And if what this person says doesn’t resonate with you, don’t take it personally, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Or perhaps notice where the resistance is to what they said, sometimes there is a message in that, too. Or, just tell your wise inner-friend, “Thanks for the advice” (you’re choosing a different wise friend next time, but you don’t have to tell them that). Continue on with this meditation until you feel ready to get up. You might want to connect briefly with your body to get grounded before you leave your meditation. Sometimes this mediation can be profound and sometimes nothing happens but it is a great way to practice hearing this inner-wisdom. At very least, it will be relaxing.

I invite you to cultivate this listening for this wise inner-teacher by practicing yoga with me this week. Try this guided meditation, it’s fun. If you’re interested in joining me for Yoga Nidra this Wednesday night, Prana Yoga 7:15-8:45 pm, I will be leading a guided meditation that invites you to listen to your wise inner-teacher. If you really want to blow your mind with some great ancient literature, check out the Vijnanamaya Bhairav, an ancient text all about the subject. I’m sure you can Google it or pick it up at Oasis or Dancing Cranes, maybe order it from Sam Wellers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Application of Mindfulness

I think my smartphone is ruining my life. I used to be so content to answer a phone call here and there, maybe send a text once in a while. Now, I have so much at my finger tips, every time I look at my phone, this little 3.5"X 7" monster, I feel compelled to check my email, update my Facebook status, respond to texts and tweets, read up on the latest news, see what local deals are happening at this very instant and where with Google Map accuracy, continue an online version of Scrabble with my brother half-way across the continent, and look at the latest stock market and sports updates (even though I have nothing riding on either of those institutions), all the while listening to the Pixies through my headphones. I'm not a Luddite. I can see the value of this technology, especially for someone who runs their own business, like myself. I can see how it can potentially make life a little smoother, easier. But I can also see how easy it is to lose a grounded sense of Self with the gravitational pull of my attention constantly being pulled toward something else.

For me, the same way I have to regulate driving by Tulie Bakery and buying their Morning Bun, a crispy, chewy, cinnamon bun with a sugary glaze all over it, every time I feel the urge, I am also learning to regulate the instant gratification of all this information available to me on my phone. I'm discovering the value of "going off line" for even a few hours or maybe a day and choosing to leave the phone and iPod in the car and head up the canyon for a run so I can be continually updated as to the real-time weather around me, the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, the feeling of my body moving through space, the stark colors of the canyon, and the steadiness of my own thoughts.  I can choose to be more present with myself. 
Practicing yoga is a great opportunity to not only turn off the phone, but to also turn off some of the many voices in our head and apprentice ourselves to listening to something as fundamental as body and breath. It's an opportunity to hear the wise voice inside. Yoga isn't an escape. It's a refocus, a reframing. It's like the ophthalmologist saying, "Which one's clearer, number one (switch) or number two?" And seeing more clearly, we can go back out into our every-day lives focused on what's most important. Then from that place of clarity, make conscious decisions about how we will focus our energy and attention.
I invite you to try "going off line" for some time this week. It'll be an interesting practice.
My Smartphone isn't evil. It's a reminder to practice mindfulness when faced with so many different avenues that vie for my attention. Who knows, maybe with practice, I can own a Smartphone and remain conscious. I wonder if they have an App for that. . .