Monday, September 30, 2013

Where Is Your Life Taking You?

What if where we wanted to end up (read: job, relationship, finances, yoga practice) weren’t dependent upon how much effort we could muster to get there but rather on our ability to place ourselves into the flow and allow ourselves to be carried? 

What is this alleged flow you speak of? Well, it’s the animating force of everything. In yoga we call it Prana, accessible through breath but coursing through everything. It’s what makes the seasons change, the wind blow, and everything in the universe move. It probably has a million names. So maybe the question is how to tap into the already existing current and literally go with the flow. 

A good place to start is to ask where your life seems to be pulling you. Do you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of energy resisting something, maybe the inevitable? What if you were to go with the flow and spend your energy managing what seems completely natural rather than trying to carve a new pathway for the river? 

That’s not to say that there isn’t any effort involved with going with the flow. It’s just the effort we spend could be used to keep us in the central current rather than to swim the entire length of the river. It’s going there anyway, right? Use the effective balance of steadiness and ease, effort here and yield there, to keep yourself into the current.

Maybe you’ve been fighting to keep your mind still in a restore yoga practice when all along you could be using that energy in a power vinyasa class. Maybe you’ve been working all this time at a job that doesn’t feed your soul and you know perfectly well that your desires and interests and gifts would take you into a different direction. Go with the flow and allow the situations that arise to do so. Through practices like meditation and yoga, you’ll know what to do with those situations when they come because you’ll have practiced sourcing your deep inner-wisdom.

Come to yoga this week as we practice balancing steadiness and ease in our yoga practice as a way of inviting us to balance it in the practice of every-day living.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

To Whom Are we Beautiful as We Go?

I Wish I knew the beauty of leave falling.
To whom are we beautiful when we go?
David Ingnato

And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss. Such a beautiful concept. Such a bittersweet truth. And perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.
Many of the Hindu icons tell storie
s. The Dancing Shiva is a story-telling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates the five acts of Shiva. The concept is the same whether you call the creator, Shiva, God, the Universe, or Krusty the Clown. In this statue, these 5 acts are depicted by his many arms, one of which is celebrating creation, another that is sustaining his creation, another is allowing death, and another that is not only inviting things back to life, but to live again with a higher consciousness than before. This statue reminds us that our job is to allow Shiva to lead in this dance of life, to follow along as we are slowly refined into greater beings. It reminds us that death is a part of life and with a broader perspective, we can, to some degree, appreciate it as a necessary part of the cycle.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dancing with Destiny

When I was 22, I worked in a different town for a little loan company , processing loans. The man who owned this company (we'll call him "Jeff," mostly because that was his name) taught me many valuable things, many about people, others about myself. He taught me that even more important than processing people's loans, my real business was connecting to people. Among other things, he taught me how to focus under pressure and how to organize around priority. He taught me principles which I've used every day since then. He showed me parts of myself waiting to come out.
Everybody has their Kryptonite. Despite Jeff's shining attributes, he wasn't a very good business person. And I grew very concerned the day that my paycheck bounced. When I approached him with this dilemma, he asserted that even though the company was in a little slump, everything would soon be ironed out.

Things never got ironed out. 

When I finally left the company, he owed me about $2,000 in wages--a lot of money for a starving student, right before Christmas, who needed to pay tuition for next semester's classes. Come to think of it, that's a lot of money, period.

I became bitter. I wasn't going to easily let this go. I called the Utah Labor Commission and filed a complaint. They began to subpoena Jeff to arrive in court. The process was unfruitful and painfully slow. I soon realized that I could easily gain my $2,000 back if only I were paid five cents every time I heard the Labor Commission say the phrase, "your file is under review and we'll notify you once we know anything different." This empty search continued for over two . . . (I pause for effect) YEARS. Each new attempt to resurrect my file brought more pain and frustration.

Then I had a dream. I dreamed that I met Jeff. I saw him not as the evil person I'd made him out to be but as just a simple dude with a five-O'clock shadow (that's the way he was in my dream) who fell on rough times. In my dream, I forgave him of the whole thing. Completely. In my dream, he didn't seem very thankful or changed, nor did he seem really to even care, but that didn't matter because I had changed. Instead of angry and dark, I was light and free. So, I woke up that next morning let it go. I let it all go.  I felt better Immediately. Incredibly, I forgot very quickly about Jeff and the whole sordid mess.

It took me several years to understand that even though Jeff wasn't a good business person and I had suffered because of it, he still taught me some very valuable things. I began to think that my lost money was a tuition paid for some very valuable lessons. And unbeknownst to me, my lessons weren't over yet.

I hadn't thought of Jeff and that incident for almost a decade when one day something on the radio jolted my memory of Jeff. And so many years later, I didn't remember so much his faults but rather all the positive things he taught me about people, about focus, about priorities. Not only did I harbor no ill will, but remembering Jeff, I felt like I'd even grown from the experience. Proud, I said to myself out loud in my car, "If I ever meet Jeff again, I promise that I will vocally forgive him and thank him for what he has taught me."

Something else I've learned: when you call Destiny out for a bare-knuckle brawl, know that she'll come. She'll test you just like you asked her to. She'll give you what you wanted but expect a little more blood--your blood.

About an hour later I was sitting in the Beehive Tea Room taking a break between yoga classes, nursing a cup of Raspberry Mint tea when over my shoulder I heard a disturbingly familiar voice. I didn't have to turn my head to know who it was. It was Jeff. 10 years later, a different town, in an entirely different context and the first thought was, "Dammit! I already promised Destiny that I'd forgive him.  

I sat there in a cold sweat. Now that it came to it, I didn't know that I go through with it. I hadn't seen him in several years. It felt like I'd just seen an old girlfriend who didn't leave on very good terms. I'd had even subpoenaed Jeff in court. There surely wasn't a good vibe between us. He started to get up to leave and I realized that iIf I was going to act, it had to be now.

I took a deep breath, stood up, and turned to face Jeff. As I stood there, I reintroduced myself. It took him a minute to remember me but when he did, he sort of stepped back as if I were about to throw punches. As I explained who I was, I reminded him of how he had hurt me and with a genuine smile, told him, "but you know what? I forgive you." I also explained all the things that I learned from him and how valuable that information was in everything that I do. He stood there for a silent second, stunned. He didn't know what to say. He made no apologies. He didn't try to explain. He simply told me that I made his day. I made mine, too. At the end of the day he gave me his business card, I don't know why. Maybe it was a token of remembrance.

And no, he didn't write me out a check for $2,000. He didn't need to; I had already received my money's-worth.

In addition to all the things Jeff taught me while in his office, Jeff also taught me volumes about forgiveness, and how that incredible act  can make a person whole. I also learned that intentions are powerful. Our yoga practice is one way to act upon the privilege of dancing with Destiny. I've come to learn that in yoga we practice experiencing ourselves as whole. With this regular feeling, we have less and less a tolerance for any less, even grudges and hurt until one day we choose to give them up.  

With clarity and self-awareness, we can see through the muddy waters toward the lotus.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Art of NOT Doing

What is the art of not doing? Seriously. Not as an excuse for getting out of work, but rather in a cultural climate that values production almost above anything else, how do we practice not doing? This a perfect topic for Labor Day, a day where hopefully we were able to have a break from working.
There are a couple of components I’m thinking about here. First, Relaxing is a practice. Like anything you don’t do regularly, if you don’t relax regularly you might find yourself like the cartoon of Mickey Mouse as the magician’s apprentice whose master goes out (to play poker, I think) and comes back to find that Mickey has found his magic hat and wand and in an effort to make his chores more efficient and easier, created a the chaotic army of self-operated mops and rivers of mop water. In an effort to make life easier, Mickey forgot to discover where the off button was and consequentially instead of creating ease for himself, he literally made and ocean of chaos. Ever feel like Mickey, like your life doesn’t have an off button? Gentle practices like Restore Yoga and Yoga Nidra are all about discovering the off button, not as a way of tuning out but as a way of replenishing the source. 

Try coming home from work and dedicating 20 minutes to relaxing before you take on anything else. Your family will get used to this ritual and may even join in. Turn off the phone, dim the lights, lay down with your legs up the wall ( the yoga pose Viprita Karani) put on some Kenny G and practice resting, like a savasana at the end of the work day. The Kenny G is optional. Wouldn’t that be cool if there were a mandatory 15 minutes of savasana to end the work day? Welcome to my world. With a facility and familiarity with rest, we actually become more effective at what we do because we have taken a moment to replenish the source and clarified perhaps the reasons we do all that we do. 

Another component in the art of not doing is very skillfully holding steady and not reacting to a situation. Sometimes, we simply need to hold our ground and see how the situation matures. Often, this is the harder practice. In yoga there is a principle called Ishvarapranidhana. Yeah, sounds serious. It literally means “to lay it down at the feet of God,” to let go of the reins of apparent control and allow God, or the Universe, or the World to make its move. Sometimes, it’s allowing your children to go out into the world and face the hazards of life to learn. Sometimes it’s building something and handing over control to someone or something else and walk away decisively, not beaten or defeated, but as a powerful choice. Letting go can be a very difficult practice but one that ultimately can lead you to understand your own inner character and true being.

In some way or other I invite you to practice not doing this week. Maybe try one of our Restore Classes at Prana Yoga, Wednedsay and Friday mornings at 10:15 am, Mondays 10:15 am and 7:15 pm. This Thursday night is the last opportunity to try Yoga Nidra (guided meditation) until we run the series again in the fall. And if not by a yoga class, discover a way of consciously resting on a regular basis. Or maybe look at those opportunities in life to decisively not act.