Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gratitude and Giving Back

With friends/students at the John Friend
workshop in College Park, MD

Well, I think the holiday season is officially here. I, personally, am definitely in the holiday spirit. My brain is whirling with gift giving ideas and I'm paying close attention to managing stress and making sure I prioritize the activities and people with whom I truly want to share my holiday.

With the shift from Thanksgiving into December we see the coming off the one time of year when most everyone turns to giving gifts in some way. I workshopped with John on the Sunday before Thanksgiving -- so naturally his themes revolved around Gratitude. But he also gave some focus to this idea of giving gifts. His thought was that the desire to give back arises from feeling deep gratitude towards a person or group.

Going a step further, he mentioned those people in his life that have truly made an influence: his teachers, his parents, his students - even those who have past on. How do you truly give to a person who has made a profound shift in your life? To the person you hold in the absolute Highest? He said a monetary gift, or material gift just doesn't do justice to them. I mean, how could I possibly give John a gift for bringing Anusara to me and all his students around the world... a pair of socks isn't really going to do it.

Instead he offers the suggestion that we offer ourselves to them. That we live our lives in a way that deeply honors and celebrates all that they have taught us. It is a subtle and deep giving back. He says, stand at the end of your mat and imagine that person is right before you. Practice with him/her in your heart. Dedicate your practice back to them and practice as if they were there to see you. To take it a step further, live your life with that person in mind. He says it is the best way to give back to his teachers to have them see the way he lives and shares with us... and then to see us, inspired by him, then go out and change the world is a huge honor to his own teachers.

I've been exploring this lately with my coaching too as Hildie's been nudging me to pay attention to my life. I've been living more and more in a way that honors the ideals I hold myself to, you know, trying to be the Woman I Want to Be. I started with imagining that John Friend was watching my every move (in a "What would Jesus Do?" sort of way). But I've found that holding my teachers, and my teachers teachers in mind - while powerful and inspiring - doesn't hold a candle to holding the remembrance that my daughter is watching. And so in gratitude to my parents, my teachers, my students I offer my practices and my life with great hopes that I will inspire (and not totally screw up) my daughter to live her life to the fullest.

I find this work a powerful practice in dedication and offering. I'm so grateful to John for bringing it to the forefront of my mind at this time of year. May I focus not so much on the material and consumption. May I instead offer at this holiday season the love, gratitude, joy, and peace that my parents, teachers, friends, and students bring to me each year. May this inspire my daughter and any others who look to me to live life to the fullest, brightest, and most beautiful!

Contemplation: I invite you to share who is most inspiring and instrumental to your life in a comment below. Let's celebrate them at this time of year!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Benefits of Going to Class

Lila Pierce Brown working with a student

I've been thinking lately about the importance of actually GOing to class. As a teacher I'm always wondering what makes people come and what makes people stay away. Mainly, I want to know because I want to do more of what brings folks in the door. Not for any monetary purpose, though that certainly helps, but because I offer practices as a service... the more people who come to class the more people I get to serve. And I definitely still feel that I am learning to serve in many ways so, the more people I get to learn from. It is a give and take.

But, while I may lament small classes or big classes or changes in classes, I've realized that I myself am out of the habit of going to asana class and learning from a real live teacher. Sorely out of the habit. {insert excuses here: no Anusara teacher for 2 hours other than me, and, you know, I've got that kid}. It's a little embarrassing. Not to mention hypocritical to say 'Come to class! Come to class!' and I'm not going with any consistency.

So to spur myself on and move myself back into the public domain with my practice, I came up with a list of 10 benefits I get from Yoga asana class:

  • Community. I get to know other students and the teacher. Hello, who doesn't want more cool yoga friends?

  • Beginner's Mind. Someone else tells me what to do and I can practice turning down my brain while practicing being Open and Receptive.

  • Novelty. Every other teacher will offer information in a different way. Even given the same sequence of poses each teacher will teach it differently. That will spice things up.

  • Feedback. The teacher will give me alignment feedback that I cannot give myself. How many times do I say: Really? I'm THAT off in that pose? Whoa!

  • Discipline. It makes me do the poses that I tend to skip, because I'm not going to skip a pose when I'm in class, I'm going to do what the teacher asks. So going to class helps keep my practice balanced.

  • Supporting the Local Economy (well if I'm in a studio) Most studios are locally owned and pay rent to local companies, they may even be the anchor for a larger shopping center. It feels good to give back

  • Supporting a local teacher. I have a friend who's class I love. I WILL go and I WILL support her, she's just too awesome not to support.

  • Shakti. Seriously. Shakti. John Friend videos move me and get my body open and work me on many levels... but they do not compare with the Shakti that can build in a group of people all doing the same thing at the same time.

  • Encouragement and Inspiration. If I'm practicing next to a strong practitioner I'm inspired to rock a little bit more. Home alone, it's harder for me to turn up the juice. I'm working on doing it at home too, but in class there's a little more power to pull from.

  • Savasana. It's so much easier to skimp on Savasana at home. I'll do it but I'm already thinking about my computer or my shower or my fridge or the clock. In class, none of those worries are able to be there and I can let the teacher hold the time for me. Let go and enjoy

With that in mind I'm committing to going to a class at least once every 2 weeks from now until the end of the year... and then hopefully moving up to once a week. I know two weeks isn't all that often but life's always a balancing act, right? I'll let you know how it goes.

Contemplation: What do YOU get out of going to class?

Monday, November 14, 2011

From the Inbox

Be there. Go there now and never leave. Imagine that your dreams have
already come true. Live your life from that mindset. Predicate your
behavior on that reality, not the illusions that now surround you. Filter
every thought, question, and answer from there. Let your focus shift
and be born again - because dwelling from, not upon, the space you want
to inherit is the fastest way to change absolutely everything.

Love, the Universe

(from an email)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Written in the stars

I found myself recently feeling a little hum-drum, run-of-the-mill, boring, underwhelming and not very special. It was bumming me out. Then a week or so ago I had my astrology chart read for the first time (and I know that may take me into the woo-woo category, but bear with me, it was a lot of fun). For the reading she took my birthdate, time, and location and then looked at the view of the stars for the exact time and location of my birth. Then she proceeded to tell me all about myself with incredible accuracy. She told me things I may have difficulty with and also what comes easy.. then she told me what my own special and unique gifts are, as written in the stars.

It was quite fun!

I realized afterwards that this experience reminded me and affirmed me as a unique Being on the planet. The remembrance of my own uniqueness made me feel so good!

The thing is, this yoga teaches us that we are all unique, we are all individuals with special gifts and ways of being in the world, that we are meant to share. It also makes space for the fact that we are human and we quite literally and often FORGET.

So we do the practice of yoga as a way to remember our own special uniqueness. You are a creation of Life, (the DIVINE), and you are the only YOU there will ever be.

During our practice we literally embrace ourselves and hug in with the quality of Muscular Energy in order to remember and honor all of our individual specialness as creations of the Divine. Self-honoring takes us deep into our hearts - the place where the Life Force pulses. When we connect there, our gifts grow and our inner light is expanded... the feeling from that? well, it’s delightful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On All Sides, Baby

We workshopped it here in Richmond this weekend. It was our first Anusara workshop at the studio where I work and so I was quite honored that many students who take my class were able to come out for Lila and Mark. It was quite remarkable, actually.

I am always interested to reflect on my take away from workshops. Sometimes I come away deeply invigorated to change my life, other times I'm infused with Grace, and still others I'm blown away by new or different technical information. This weekend was one of those last ones. She worked us HARD and deep and gave us LOTS to think about.

One of my biggest take-aways from the weekend has to be about Muscular Energy in the legs. I know, how boring, Muscular Energy. I do it in every practice, seriously! But I realized I wasn't exactly engaging in a balanced way.

Muscular Energy, as you may remember, is the current that is so attracted to your internal state that it draws everything back in on itself. One of the components of ME is: hugging the skin to the muscle to the bone in a balanced way. And that was my take away... the hugging in has to happen ON ALL SIDES... EVENLY. It's like I'd completely forgotten that part of the equation. Instead I'd been gripping my quads and under using my hamstrings. That led me to overwork in my front legs while over stretching my hamstring attachments and causing pain. Yikes!

Lila had us isometrically pull our heels back in many many poses to get us to awaken our hamstrings. That was the trick for me. Super simple and easy but a it created a feeling of balanced equal embrace on all sides of my legs, and all the way up to the very attachment of the muscle.

Amusing and amazing that this practice continues in a process of forgetting and remembering and relearning and mastery time and time again. At any rate, I think the backs of my legs and my quads are really going to thank me for this work!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Leaf

First Leaf

The first of this year's
leaves lets go and drifts,
no breeze to bear it.
With lazy grace the leaf
unwinds its growing
season in a dancing
downward spiral, lands
in silence, making of
itself a perfect offering
to the alter of the earth

-- Danna Faulds

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Burning in the Learning

And so we cross the threshold. From the Harvest into the darkness. After the play of spirits on Halloween we now move into the close of the cycle. The growing year is finished, the end of the calendar year is swiftly approaching. It is essentially the end.

Our ancestors would know it's time to burn the withered plants in the fields, slaughter the livestock that will not be kept for next year. Time for rituals of purification, like walking between two huge bonfires to awaken the inner spirit while the outer world takes a rest.
We don't literally walk between bonfires anymore (I'm sure the fire marshall would have something to say about that) but how many bonfires did you encounter during this last cycle of growth? What have you been through in 2011, even just since spring?

Now is the time, as we move into the darkness, for looking back. The time for reflection on this most recent past. It's time to harvest the nuggets of wisdom offered. The lessons offered (probably again) by the universe. Now is the time to LEARN from the experiences. And the time to drop the rest.

Remember that shedding away? It's time, burn off what is unnecessary (the storyline) and keep what is most important to your development as a human walking this life (the lesson).

I am thinking of this time of year as a time to sort of brand myself with all that I want to keep next cycle. A time to clear away the debris and wreckage, and to chrystalize my learning into simple nuggets of my version of Truth... then to burn it in. To use my practice as a cauldron of repetition and remembering it again and again like a mantra handed down from the universe so that I'll actually GET it this time.

For me some of the lessons of the year are:
  • If it is worth having, it is worth working for -- the effort is consistent and never ending
  • Beauty, Humor, Play, Joy, and Creativity are infinitely important
  • Intentions and Dreams are powerful especially when linked to your efforts
  • Radical Acceptance is the only stance to take in life
  • The universe knows much more than I ever can, Relax, All is coming
  • I have a Voice and it is POWERFUL
What have been some of your biggest lessons this year? What do you want to remember as you move into the next cycle?