Monday, June 10, 2013

Your Daily Dose

We all deserve a moment in the day where we enter the timeless; we forget our job, our responsibilities, the persona that we've created for ourselves, and abide in the part of ourselves that feels the most real. It's coming home. It's not about escaping our lives. It's about everyday building a discipline of presence and awareness where we can enter back into the conversation of what is most real and take that with us back into our everyday.  
This conversation with what is most real depends on awareness--paying attention. We experience many harvests in our lives, the opportunity to gather the richness of everyday miracles, and if we are not aware, these harvests will pass us by. The seasons changing, the seasons of our lives coming and going, the richness of sharing the lives of our children, are all examples of our different harvests. Without awareness, seasons come and go unnoticed. Without presence, we think we are living our lives but instead our lives are living us. We go on day by day simply perpetuating the daily "to do" list without ever getting the feeling like we are experiencing anything real.  But with awareness, we can fully receive the richness of the moment because we've apprenticed ourselves to see it. By practicing awareness it's not that our lives suddenly don a reality but now we open our eyes to see the beauty and realness that was there all along. With awareness, even our "to do" list will seem magical and inviting. 
To find this realness requires radical grounding, some form of practice to which we can travel each day. Coming to yoga and moving into the practice-realm of our body and breath, this nuts-and-bolts portion of being, gives us passage into the chambers of the more ethereal parts of being, mind and heart. The combination or uniting of these different elements, body/mind/spirit, is yoga. Yoga isn't the only way to do this, meditation, poetry, music, running, Ben and Jerry's (that's right) or anything else that makes you fully aware of the moment and alive are all good ways to practice this sort of realness. With its emphasis on breath and presence, the immediacy of our bodies sensation, yoga, however, is a particularly effective and calibrated method to help us develop and maintain our awareness--sort of a template whereby we can then base our life's events and decisions from.  
Once we've grounded ourselves with our yoga practice and removed the peripheries, once we've practiced being in that space that is so real,  we then go back into the conversation of our jobs, families, and relationships armed with that realness, with a quality of being that feels very authentic and very natural.  
Then, having replenished the source (us) we can benefit those things that grow out of us instead of sapping them. A medicine man once told me that if we refuse to take care of ourselves through practices like yoga, we end up becoming a burdening rather than helping those things that depend on us.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

The True Love

Yoga philosophy suggests that there are many steps that coach us along the way toward understanding and experiencing our True Nature. Some of these include the cycle of becoming pliant in the heat of our own transformation then experiencing an increasingly greater knowledge of the True Self. This qualifies us for a more refined and deeper transformation, which in turn leads us to a deeper knowledge of Self, and the cycle continues. However, to fully complete this cycle of refinement and knowledge of Self, one climactic task remains: YOU MUST LET GO! To truly understand Self, you’ve got to release your death-grip of apparent control of your life and allow yourself to see and experience the bigger picture, how you are in conversation with something, whatever that thing is, that is much larger than yourself.

This principle of final culmination of will and knowledge is known in yoga as Ishvarapranidhana. Yeah, it’s a big, fat name that literally means to “lay it down at the feet of God.” So, seen together yoga is the crossroads where a practical, get-to-work practice meets an experience of the deeper, ephemeral parts of Self. This theme of the Crossroads is exactly what we will explore in my next Summer Yoga Retreat (June 14-16, see deets below).  At its height, yoga is knowing yourself enough to work up the courage to finally step off that edge of the cliff and only when you begin to fall do you find your wings.

This concept of Ishvarapranidhana, to let go of complete control, means to reach out your hand into the darkness of the unknown and ask to know it. It is asking to be known deeper by what is in the darkness, the unknown. It is stepping out onto surfaces that you are not sure will hold your weight as you keep your fierce gaze upon that which you love.

In this wonderful place, we allow our internal achiever to crack a cold one and chill out on an Adirondack chair and open up to simply being. And in the cosmic chess game of existence, this pause is a moment that allows that which is larger than ourselves to make a move. And with this act of letting go, what we thought we knew about ourselves, what we had planned for our existence, doesn't seem to matter much anymore. The Divine (in whatever form) opens us up and we discovered something new and magical about ourselves and the world, something exponentially greater than our previous conception of Self.

Poet David Whyte points to this perfectly in his Poem The Truelove. I love this poem because like many great poems it can speak to the love of the lover, an ambition, or the Divine in the same breath.

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of the baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don't

because finally
after all the struggle
and all the years,
you don't want to any more,
you've simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

Come to class this week and let's practice ways to let go of tension, stress, worry, illness, old ways of being, etc. in body and breath which leads to heart and mind. Open up to the Divine by practicing Ishvarapranidhana.