Monday, December 30, 2013

The Vision of Every Day

During a meditation this year, I had an astounding vision. In my vision, I was sitting in the office of one of my favorite college professors. He leaned back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head and looked at me very seriously and said, “No matter what you believe, practice it every day.” For me this encouraged me to sit on my meditation cushion regularly, to practice yoga regularly, and to practice loving kindness every second of every day.

 This vision reminded me of the importance of daily practice. Whether a practice of yoga, meditation, writing, compassion, prayer, or anything else, a daily practice could look very different for each individual. And it should. This vision reminded me that some knowledge can only be learned by continued and dedicated practice. There can be no substitute, no book can give you that knowledge, no web site or Cliff Notes version can suffice. It’s about putting in the dedication every day. 

This is that unique time of year when Top Ten lists abound, people have totally bombed out on sugar and everybody seems to be inspired to start the new year committed to work hard to be their best selves. Resolutions, intentions, hopes, and dreams, drive us into the next year. And moving forward, there is nothing that we can’t accomplish. Anything can be learned, dreamed, achieved, built, changed, forgiven, moved . . . . Whatever you dream for yourself in 2014, I invite you to practice it somehow every day. Without fail.  
And whether it is related to yoga or not, let yoga be a catalyst for that daily practice. Let it be the practice or a compliment to it so that your body moves strongly and freely, your mind is focused and open, and that your heart is expansive and accepting of all the beautiful things in this world. 

Join me and Jennifer Ellen at Prana Yoga as we honor 2013 and usher in 2014 with ceremony, meditation, breath, and movement. Allow this to be the first mindful action of 2014. Begin your year with intention, purpose, vision, movement, breath, and focus.
Let yoga open you up to your visions of 2014.

Here’s to a new year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jazz for Jesus

You know what I like about the Little Drummer boy? Well, besides the departure from the tired story of a drummer’s death by tour bus or pyrotechnics accident, I like that the only thing this cat had to offer to God was some sweet beats, he gave what he had and he did his best and that was better than good enough for the Lord of Lords. Maybe I can relate because I once had a dream where I was standing there in heaven next to the gods of jazz Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, and Bill Evans when Jesus walked by. I play sax but Bird was already putting down so I picked up what was left, bass. So as Jesus walked by we did our best to swing for the cat of cats, JC, not John Coltrane (even though he is a saint, even has a church devoted to nothing but him) but the one and only JC. These gods of jazz and me subbing on bass played our hearts out. And it was enough, enough to honor God.

Something my teacher taught me years ago was that if you take one step toward Spirit, Spirit takes a thousand steps toward you. All these years I’ve sought to understand that but I think that the Little Drummer Boy sums it up perfectly. When we show up to practice, we offer whatever we’ve got, quantity doesn’t matter, flexibility doesn’t matter, strength doesn’t matter. What matters is that you offer what you’ve got. Anything else would be an inappropriate offering. I believe that God comes in many forms and what does God care if your offering comes in the form of Downward Facing Dog or Cobra Pose, or Supported Child’s Pose? Show up and give it your best. Write off the rest.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Singing in the Dead of NIght

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
All your life, you were only for this moment to be free.  

People have problems. We grant ourselves a certain majesty by allowing ourselves to simply see, and be a witness to our own circumstance, even before trying to change them. Just be there. I suppose this being where we are is what we practice when we do yoga poses.

The Sanskrit word for yoga posture is Asana. It's sometimes translated as your seat. In yoga, like in life, it sometimes feels like you're in the hot seat. Sometimes it feels like you're sitting in the epitome of bliss. And sometimes it feels like you're sitting behind the wheel of a 1960 Ford Falcon with whitewall tires, red leather interior, and a tired song on the am radio as you travel down some unknown dark road (random, I know but work with me). It's hard to imagine that even in the darkest of nights, in the deep, cold winter when it feels as if the world will never warm again, that something miraculous can happen. But just like flashes of brilliant or subtle insight can come during a difficult asana, the light can shine in our dark moments of life and something inside us will illuminate.  

Maybe it's because in these difficult places there's no other choice. From the bottom and the dark there is only up and there is only light. Learn to fly with your broken wings because we're all broken and maybe that's the only way to fly. Everybody's going through their own stuff and that's why it's wonderful to practice with other people, because it's comforting knowing that we are all working our stuff out together. And despite how destitute your situation may seem, this is the moment for you to learn to fly. Now, because there is only now. There is only the present. This is what we are practicing in yoga.

Let's take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were waiting for this moment to arise.

See you in class.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Shoveling Snow with Buddha

 In this fantastic season of snow and cold and shopping and parties, it's easy to get lost in the motion of our own minds.  To offset the inherent busyness of the season perhaps we  could borrow the tradition of indigenous cultures who use this time of winter and cold to come inside, both physically and mentally, to spend a few more minutes exploring the solace of our hearts the quietness of our spirits. 

Here's a simple practice :
2.Close your eyes.
3.Find your breath.

Then when you find your beautiful state of stillness, try to carry it with you into your shopping and be a little more generous with the sales person working the seasonal job, perhaps a little overwhelmed, who has been thrown into the lions den of commercialism during the craziest season of the year. Maybe we could be a bit more conscious of those who have less than we do. Maybe we could also explore ways to give that are more meaningful than just the quantity of digits on the price tag.  Perhaps we can find the stillness in everything we do and share that with others.  

Oh, and turn shoveling snow into a yoga practice. When you do find yourself shoveling snow, that stuff can be  heavy so make sure you go slowly and use your core strength. Then come to yoga to help strengthen your core, stretch out those shoulders, warm up, and help you find that center you can carry with you during this season.

Here's one of my favorite winter poems that speaks to this perfectly. 

Shoveling snow with Buddha

n the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok 
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.  


Monday, December 2, 2013

Thank You!

We did it! We opened our new studio, Prana Yoga Station Park. We had a fantastic Grand Opening complete with a ribbon cutting with the mayor, a bunch of yoga classes, food, a DJ, the works. I am particularly touched by all the people who offered their hard work, support, and presence. Our opening was a big success thanks to the many people who joined together to make it happen. This is truly the essence of Yoga, Oneness.

I will be teaching primarily at our Trolley Square location except for one class a week at Station Park, Hatha Align at 10:20 am. Come up, take a class, check out Station Park, maybe grab some lunch. You can even take Front Runner and get off right next to our studio!

I want to offer a big thank you to everybody at both locations who helped make this possible, for the Station Parkers who helped open this joint, and for the Trolly Squarers who have been patient with me and my crazy schedule, often subbing out classes to have time for this new studio. My schedule will return to normal soon.

I invite you to stay centered this holiday season with yoga and mindfulness. I hope to see you at one of our studios!