Archive

blogging

To abide is to remain, to witness, to sustain and to look upon with kind regard. To abide is one definition of meditation: to remain with one’s own mind in a state of kind regard. To abide is a gift, a discipline and a way of love & I have the most loving readers in the blogosphere!

I’ve been AWOL for months, focused on other areas of my practice, following lights I didn’t at first realize would lead me away from blogging. And yet, you keep visiting, reading & letting me know you are out there. My own practice has become more vigorous and maybe you’ve been following the CampNYoga developments on Twitter or Facebook. How has your practice evolved in recent months?

So while the Dude Abides, I come & go and I’M BACK! I’ll be posting about weekly and next week I’ll have an update on the first, invitation only CampNYoga, complete with photos 🙂 Twice daily yoga and meditation classes, dharma talk with Kirtan on Saturday evening, massage in camp, gourmet organic camp cooking, wine sponsored by Meagan the Wine Goddess at ABQ Whole Foods. We’re not calling it a retreat, because it’s an advance: we’re retreating from nothing, we’re embracing our lives with Love. Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now. Peace.

Samtosha: Contentment
Power of Intention 

 
 “Contentment means just to be as we are without going to outside things for our happiness.”  ~Satchitananda
 
You might be thinking, “It’s New Years! It’s time to improve and strive and make plans! It’s time to loose weight, stop smoking, make a budget, exercise more & eat healthier! Those are the five most popular New Year’s Resolutions, after all. What’s all this talk about contentment?
 
Contentment both grows from and fuels practice.  Yoga is an empirical endeavor. All the theory in the universe doesn’t matter at all if a posture disturbs you, or tweaks an injury. Our time on the mat is an experiment in awareness, breath & embodiment. Practice gives us freedom to explore the relationship – or simply enjoy it! – between our body, breath & mind. Observing our breath as we work with opposing forces, muscularly, structurally and maybe even emotionally, gives us feedback about our mind & our relationship with the world. We adjust our posture, and maybe even sometimes our lives, accordingly.
 
As an experiment in breath-body-mind interaction, it is important to have clarity about what is the case before we start off into fantasy. Clarity can feel intimidating, perhaps even confrontational if there’s something on our mat we think we don’t want to see. Contentment comes not from satisfaction with whatever we find, nor from images of what we think we’d like. Contentment comes from realizing that what we want comes through acknowledging what is.
 
Contentment is not magic, nor is it part of the self-esteem movement. Acknowledgement of what is – called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach – brings us into the present moment. Investigation of what is brings us into this breath, how our body feels in this moment, and where in our body we feel a particular condition. The present moment is not a measure of time, which we know because of how our emotions effect our perception of time. The present moment, the Now as Eckhart Tolle dubs it, is always utterly unique in content but identical in form: it is timeless. This is our key to universal consciousness, always with us, never separated but not always acknowledged.
 
Aristotle, a yogi of a very different tradition, noted as the very foundation of his ethics that happiness is most reliably achieved not by aiming at happiness, but by participating in activity with full engagement. And his teacher, Plato, noted that all beings desire only happiness, we are just frequently deluded about what will bring us happiness. Since Resolutions are all about what we think will bring us happiness, perhaps it is wise to start with contentment on the mat: come to the mat, be “just as we are” and find out about that being. The intentions we plant spontaneously in that present moment take root in a far more powerful place than our daybooks or blackberries can capture.

We’ve just witnessed the power of metaphor on the national stage, and yoga asana practice is direct, personal engagement & embodiment of the power of metaphor. We embody particulars and so transcend the generalities of natural forms in postures,  as when we engage the majestic conversation with air that is the Eagle in Garundasana, the enduring stability of the Tree in Vrkasana, the open reflectivity of the Moon in Ardha Chandrasana. 

While performing asana, the student’s body assumes numerous forms of life found in creation, and he learns that in all these there breathes the same universal spirit – the spirit of God. ~BKS Iyengar

Yoga asana is movement in concert with breath. Each release, each opening is supported by and in turn invites more breath. Each moment of awareness is tied to a simple motion or stillness, a particular moment of physicality accessed through awareness riding the conduit of breath. Minute particulars, infinitely organizable, known only through our unique presence in this one prescious moment. The moment as it is given to us.

Even believing the force of metaphor and the empowerment of presence and embodiment, the mechanics can remain deeply mysterious. How can physical movements change our lives, change the world? While my first inclination at response is “How can they not? Aren’t our lives, Isn’t the world, a collection of movements?”, the deeper answer comes down to particulars.
“Labor well the minute particulars,
 take care of the little ones
 …
 For Art & Science cannot exist but in
 minutely organized particulars.”
~William Blake
 
Yoga practice leaves us more adaptable, more present and so more alive, creative & responsive. 
“Enhancing respiratory function is the surest and simplest way to increase the adaptive capacity in the organism.” ~Thomas Myers 
So through awareness and attention to particulars of our own ever-present existence, we train ourselves to become more responsive to our worlds and the needs of the people in them.
Still need motivation for practice? How about a recent report in Prevention magazine linking meditation to better sex? We all know better leving leads to longer lives, but if meditation can lead to sexier life, what’s not to try, to love?

Amy Nobles Dolan teaches yoga in Wayne Pennsylvania and writes a blog at Yoga With Spirit.  She exemplifies the addage that you’ll know you’re ready to teach when students come to you, and her expansive sense of generosity and gratitude, grounded in experience, wisdom and knowledge illuminate her writing. She’s an Ashtanga Yogi who brings an embracing perspective to both her choice of tradition and her teaching. On her website bio, she affirms, “…yoga works for everyone.” Here’s her reflection on why Ashtanga works for her. Thank You, Amy!

ps: also check her out at the YogaJournal website featured blog!

………….

Not too long ago my husband and I took our three kids to Baskin Robbins.  When I ordered (as I often do) Rocky Road, my youngest daughter, Sally, asked me why I chose that flavor.  Hmm.  I actually can’t think of a single reason not to order Rocky Road!  But trying to explain to my daughter why this flavor beat out the other thirty left me tongue-tied.  Where to start?  The creamy chocolate ice cream?  The delicate swirl of marshmallow cream?  The chocolate covered nuts that add a perfect textural balance?  I had no idea there were so many reasons I love this flavor!  Not wanting my scrumptious scoop to melt while I crafted my response, I bailed out of the question with a wholly unsatisfying “Because I like it,” leaving her to make her own choice without my input.

 

Shortly after this incident, a curious student asked me why I had chosen ashtanga yoga over all the other types of yoga out there.  Perhaps because yoga is a lot more important to me than Rocky Road ice cream, the retort “Because I like it” felt even more like a cop-out than it did in the ice cream parlor.  And, perhaps because yoga doesn’t melt, I was more willing to take the time to put my thoughts into words.  I’d love to be able to say that I stood in front of the ice-cream-case of yoga and selected ashtanga for myself.  But I can’t.  It was pure providence that led me to my first ashtanga yoga class – which was also my very first yoga class.  Had I turned up in another kind of class, the practice may not have “stuck.”  And I shudder to imagine my life without this sustaining daily practice.  You see, throughout the years, ashtanga yoga has always been a perfect match for me.

 

In the beginning, I was searching for a way to regain my body after years of sharing it with babies.  I craved the physical.  I needed the endorphin high of a good work-out to carry me through the grueling day ahead filled with diapers, bottles, heavy car-seats and temper tantrums.  I yearned to look good again.  Heck, I yearned to simply feel good.  Ask and ye shall receive.  Ashtanga yoga fulfilled all these desires and then some.  The challenging asanas toned and strengthened my body.  The vigorous, at times speedy, flow steadily increased my stamina and endurance.  The stronger and fitter I became, the better I felt.  My regular ashtanga yoga practice had completely revamped my physical body.

 

Time passed (as it does) and I changed (as we do).  My babies got bigger and the challenges that filled my days changed.  The demands I faced were no longer as physical.  I needed the wherewithal to focus on thirteen things at once – imagine three simultaneous requests for help with math homework while cooking dinner, folding a load of laundry and developing a marketing plan for my new yoga studio!  I needed the self-awareness to understand that my short temper had more to do with an over-abundance of volunteer commitments than with my husband and children.  I needed the prescience to see past the scowling face and rude demeanor to sense that something had happened at school to upset my child.

 

Again, ashtanga yoga met my needs.  The ashtanga series requires high levels of concentration and focus.  As my abilities to focus on one thing at a time and to stay present in the current moment developed, I found myself better able to deal with the multiple demands for my attention one at a time.  As I was learning to be curious and aware of myself – my feelings, my fears, my reactions, my ego – on my mat, I became more tuned into what was behind my feelings off my mat.  This awareness also resulted in a heightened sensitivity to the feelings and needs of the people in my life.   My regular (now daily) practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming my relationships – with myself, with my family and with my friends.

 

With time, discipline and dedication, my practice continued to deepen.  My times on my mat became more inwardly focused.  As I became stronger and more flexible, I began to be able to relax into the postures.  The more comfortable I was in the asanas, the less mental energy was required of me to stay in them.  I could now sink below thoughts of alignment and balance into the quiet of moving meditation.  As my physical practice matured, I began to work more diligently with my breath.  Ashtanga’s ujjayi breathing became a point of meditation for me, taking me even deeper into a meditative state.  And, as meditation became more natural for me, my rests in savasana at the end of my practices became richer and more rewarding.  Day after day while I practiced, I drew closer to the divine spark of life and love that is at my core.  Day after day, I recognized that same spark in the people I met after I rolled up my mat and moved on into my day.  My daily practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming and expanding my spirituality.

 

Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  Like with Rocky Road ice cream, I can’t think of a single reason not to!  Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  Like Rocky Road ice cream, I choose it because I like it!  Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  As I said before, I shudder to imagine my life without it.  Physically, mentally and spiritually, the practice is transformative — and as wholly satisfying as a scoop of ice cream.  Just as Rocky Road ice cream is the perfect flavor for me, ashtanga yoga is the perfect yoga for me.  What about you?  What do you choose?

Sometimes, most times in fact, the best way to address large projects is to take up the small things. Starting a business? Do the small, unsexy boring things first. Working on a relationship? Do the simple things and watch truth and love break through the cracks. Working on an asana? Check your feet, your alignment and your breath, make sure you can smile, set your eyes free.

Listening to Lara Hedin of YogaPeeps interview Sofi Dillof of Bow Down Yoga this morning reminded me that my focus is always best centered on the small things. Wake up breathe, smile, stretch. Practice. Be Kind. Everything in between is not only negotiable, it depends on these other small things.

I hadn’t heard of Sofi ’til this morning over my coffee & peaches. She introduced me to new things about Jivamukti, things that’ll make me take a second look. I’ll definitely be listening to her podcast. I’ve been a fan of Lara’s ‘Peeps show since my first listen and wholeheartedly recommend it for inspiration, community, reflection. She interviews the most amazing people and her own growth as an interviewer is organic, with great integrity.

Time for me to attend to the small things. May all your small things be great doorways to truth.

I asked Hillary to guest blog on the occasion of releasing her first DVD, Yoga Foundations, because I’ve loved taking her podcast class at HillarysYogaPractice.com. Her spirit really shines through and her class themes have integrity and depth.

When I chose to step into the process of making my first yoga DVD earlier this year, it sweetly reminded of how my life’s challenges have brought me my greatest gifts. In 1996 at the age of 24, I was seeking a way to become more of myself when I was presented with a huge challenge and gift – a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. With this diagnosis, I thought life was over for me, but there was a call to the yoke, to begin my practice of yoga. Early on in one of my yoga classes I heard for the first time that my blessings were hidden in my challenges. At that moment my journey of healing began, there was no turning back – I chose to embrace my situation, commit and connect to my power through the teachings of yoga.

Like any practice it takes time to find our way and stay focused. In yoga the body forms with breath, attitude, alignment and action and grows every time you come to the mat. Yoga has prepared me to see that all of my experiences are part of my foundation (good and bad); they are all there to support my process to uncover my authenticity. One of the best gifts my diagnosis offered me was the choice to shift from working in the fashion industry in New York City to study and then teach yoga in Los Angles.

After a few years of teaching, I took on a new challenge and expanded into producing my Yoga Podcast, Hillary’s Yoga Practice – this totally was scary for me. I had to take on the obstacle of learning the technology but then discovered hidden in this challenge that yoga is also technology. Now after almost 2 years of producing my podcast, yoga helped me once again to embrace this next challenge to produce the DVD. While in pre-production, production, up to the day of shooting, I was living on the edge, holding steady, doing my best to not retreat from the fear of the unknown.

At this point I am able to be grateful for all that I have learned over time.  As I moved through my obstacles more would appear and by embracing them, it becomes easier to use them as a roadmap for my own growth into becoming more of myself.

Here are 3 steps you can use to begin to discover the gift in your challenge and become the best you.  You are invited to do this daily, weekly or monthly.

Please keep a journal by writing lists or creating some other visual image as a way to help the mind and body connection.

1. Embrace your challenge by practicing gratitude.

  [Ex: I embraced my diagnosis of MS and was grateful that my body was calling for my attention]

2. Empower yourself by asking what you can learn from this specific challenge.

  [Ex: The first time I asked this what came up was honoring my boundaries.]

3. Evolve into the best you and uncover the gift. 

  [Ex: The gift was to love myself and to be kinder to myself. Over time I had to work on this and    discover ways (empower) to create those boundaries I me. ]

 

Hillary Rubin , a certified Anusara Yoga teacher has taught nationally and internationally including Yoga Month 09 Tour , Agape International Spiritual Center’s University/UTSLA, Paramount Studios, City Yoga , and the Mind Body & Beyond Expo.  She is passionate about sharing her story to inspire others to become empowered through life’s challenges and has been featured by Fit Yoga Magazine, Conscious Choice Magazine, Whole Life Times, Lime.Com , Yoga Mates, and Yoga Peeps

 

 

 

Welcome to a new monthly feature, the guest blog.  Craving community , practicing letting go and so continually amazed and inspired by the creative beauty of fellow bloggers and yogis, I’ve invited some of these artists of life to share their work here. I hope you find them as igniting as I do. Stay tuned for installments from Hillary, Amy & Elsie… and more to come!

YogaCowGirl shares her eclectic and grounded mix of yoga, music, chanting, farming and husbandry through her artistic wordsmithing on her blog and on her CDs. Just witnessing her productivity and clarity will help you find your own. Here’s her reflection on effort and stillness as the yoga of husbandry. Enjoy!

 

For me, yoga practice has been a quest to pay attention.  Yoga meditation helps me pay more attention to my relationships with others, to slow down and breathe rather than have knee jerk reactions to the words and actions of others.  Hatha yoga helps me pay more attention to the body, to which muscles need loosening or strengthening, to where tension is creeping in, to the effects of food on my well-being.  The study of yoga philosophy helps me learn more about the world around me and how science, philosophy and practice can improve life for me and others who connect with me.
 
As the owner of a 40 acre property, I pay attention to the land and its cycles as well.  From year to year, we see the effects of global warming as trees bloom earlier every year, as wet summers beset our typically Mediterranean (dry summer) climate, and as winter storms grow increasingly violent.  Paying attention to all these macro environmental changes, in fact, provides this yogi’s call to action to steward the land.  If I care deeply for the land, then I must do the most I can possibly do to stop aggravating global climate change.
 
Sometimes stewardship means just leaving the land alone.  Last year, we put a conservation easement (http://www.trlc.org) on 19 acres of forest to ensure that future generations would leave the land, its trees, and the stream running through it — alone.  Our job now is to simply pay attention to the forest, assist in a few ways (like removing invasive weeds), and allow it to thrive.
 
Sometimes stewardship needs to get more active.  In order to be as responsible a world citizen as possible, I decided to go completely organic on the entire property, including the remaining farm acreage.  We passed our third organic certification inspection (http://www.tilth.org) this year, and happily added every flower, shrub and tree growing here to our certification list of plants that we are allowed to label “organic” when we sell them.
 
Being organic means I have to pay much more attention to my crops and plants than the typical farmer does.  I cannot pre-spray for anticipated pests or weeds, like big agricultural operations do. I must hand pull every weed and use non-toxic soap on pest infected plants.  I also use predatory insects that eat pests and then leave the site to integrate into the land.  Predators can only be applied at the moment a pest is attacking a plant or they won’t have anything to eat. I rotate crops to “fool” pests into thinking their food source has left the area and to distribute the feeding needs of various crops.
 
This attention paid to plants develops my love for them and for witnessing their life cycle.  Keeping the property free of harmful chemicals has invigorated our bird, bee, and insect population.  We feel that the property is becoming an oasis for life through our actions of stewardship and attention.
 
Isn’t that what every yogi wants, to be an oasis of life, of calm, of peace on this planet so that we may help bring others to drink from our waters of self and be calmed and invigorated?