Important Message for You

Found myself lately hearing from so many dealing with their physical pain and issues this week.  Some come up after yoga and they want postures to stop the discomfort which I do understand.  I ask them to consider why they think it is happening and they don’t have an answer.  I heard a meditation message a while back and found myself thinking of my own message.  As I meditate more I’m able to witness the messages my body is telling me.  Therefore I found myself up early this morning to write this letter:

important-message

Dear Self,

I have been trying to send you signals that have gone unanswered so I thought I would write you this message instead.

Let me introduce myself to you. I am your symptoms. I am your pain, agitation, fatigue and exhaustion. I am your herniated disc; headache; cramps; elevated blood pressure; upset stomach; pulled muscle; bloated stomach; swollen ankles; discomfort in your forearm; heartburn or chest pain.

You may be aware of your symptoms and I know I have been your causes for concern and worry.  Still you tend to suppress, ignore or disown me; complain or dislike me. Yet I am simply here to remind you to seek out your health, wellness and best interest for a long and happy life.

You usually want me to go away fast, disappear or you end up irritated or shocked that I showed up to begin with. Because of this, you tend to suppress or medicate me, instead of recognizing or exploring me. My request is that you to see me as a messenger. I want to help guide you back to the places that you can be more loving, caring and compassionate with yourself. A place of honesty and balance.

For this reason, I may ask you to consider exploring your life; health, diet, sleep, exercise, relationships, and work. I may remind you to stop and be more generous and giving with yourself. Spend more time “un-doing” the knots, laugh more, have fun and be still more.

I hope someday you’ll come to see me as a friend. I am not the reason for your pain, discomfort or suffering. I am only pulling at your hand like a child asking you to listen to them. You are so amazing and I just wanted to remind you of the beauty that is naturally within you.

Sincerely,

Your Body

“Curving back within myself I create again and again.” ―The Bhagavad Gita

“If you do something long enough, something will happen” – as the wise words of one of my yoga/meditation teachers at Kripalu said recently. It doesn’t mean the something you wanted to happen will happen, but of course “something” will happen. By building awareness more of each moment you can be a witness to what that something is.

Case in point, I was at Kripalu again for the summer and my second training towards my 500 hour license. This time the focus was on meditation and pranayama. I knew both can have such a profound impact on emotions and change but I didn’t quite expect it to do what it did. I found myself putting my “teacher mind” aside and diving into the experience myself.

A few days into the class we were practicing a form of walking meditation. We walked for a long time around the room, down the hall and moving fast or slow. Each time we circled I kept passing a table. To many it is just a table. However it looked just like the kind of table I had in the hospital last year; legs on one side, long and open to be pushed under a bed or chair. Therefore I found myself reflecting on the past each time I passed it. Not to mention I was trying different kinds of walks and found myself remembering when I couldn’t even do this much back with my mini-stroke and therapy lessons where I was learning to walk again.

Now I know it sounds crazy to personalize the table; believe me I kept telling myself “this is silly”. However it kept coming up for days. I was completely aware that I wasn’t present each time I passed it. I found myself ready to break out and cry ,and one moment I recall I was ready to run out of the room screaming. This day though I stopped and instead of pushing it away I took a deep breath. I found with the meditation practice I was learning, that it wasn’t necessary to quickly let it go, go blank or move on. Actually I found it better to be aware of that moment even if it was a bad feeling. I would tell myself “I’m feeling sad, or angry or scared”. It was better to notice the feeling and pause in it. Then I could gently let the breath be an anchor back to the present moment.

As I was pausing to notice the feelings, it did include being aware that I was too much in the mind of the past. How can we not float from past, present to future? The scars of the past are there in the present and even here was a reminder each time I came around to this table that it was there in my face. Yet I would just gently bring it back to the walking meditation focus of counting the steps. Once we stopped though we took a seated or laying down meditation. I was in stillness but I found myself crying and allowing myself to just be sad. My breath was faster and then suddenly I found myself slowing it down. Observing this place. Using the words “I’m aware of”. I’m aware that I’m sad, I’m aware of the floor, the sounds of the birds…” This place I was at right now. It was a good place; the room was peaceful, the people are amazing and I’m so blessed that I could afford to be in this class. So was the present moment wasn’t so bad? This reminded me that I could have those feelings but being so far removed from the present moment that I wasn’t aware that the feelings may be quite real but not true.

The truth came to me and suddenly I started thinking I wonder how this table came here? A smile came upon me as I started to wonder how I got here. Would I have chosen Kripalu if I hadn’t gone thru what I did?  I don’t think I would have been on this path. Maybe the table and I met each other at this point and have our past that was in a different place, doing different things, but here we are now. The Gitta says that nothing on the path is a waste – even our failures or set-backs. Therefore maybe this was meant to be.

So many elements I hadn’t thought of all came from my meditation on this table. I started to move my thoughts away from all the table reminded me negatively and started to think about all the table did for me. I’ve felt punished by my medical situation and was taking it out on this table. Yet this table took care of feeding me, teaching me and even resting upon it while I was in the hospital. Maybe it was my guide on a new path. In this moment I was trying not to resist any longer and as strange as it sounds, I felt an urge to go up to the table and touch it. I waited till everyone had left the room and slowly walked over. Putting both my hands on it I started to cry. I know the table isn’t a living being but it was quite an amazing moment of forgiveness – to myself that I hadn’t experienced in my healing process. The table was just a symbol of this.

I am quite scared to share this story because of the judgement those may have, but I feel that it is right to just put it out there. If you find it silly just move on of course. However to those that may relate or understand I hope you find some healing in knowing that there are others who have had trauma or pain that have pushed it away but there is still so much to be released deep down inside. Meditation and growing awareness only helped.

All I can tell you is that after this moment my throat which has had a tightness on the right side for the past year unlocked. I felt it unlock and I heard the sound it made. I’ll never forget it. It was as if my body was holding physically not just mentally. I am so glad for increasing my awareness in my yoga practice with meditation and pranayama. Growth of trusting my own judgement comes from this and discovering that the answers were there all along within. We just have to take a step forward and trust it is right  for us even if others find it strange.

Jai!

**To my teachers and my teachers teachers  – I thank all of you for your lessons. Many times you don’t hear the positive or follow-up. Just know that you are in my heart along with your wise lessons.   I thank you for each moment.

The people we meet…lasting impressions

It is the summer of 2008 and I’m on a train ride to my new company headquarters for job training and orientation. It is so hot and humid here in June.  I wish didn’t have to wear a suit.  I’m already sweating at it is only 9am.   I haven’t taken the train since I was a girl and I’m not sure of the procedure so I am here early.   To early as it turns out.   I didn’t realize you can practically walk onto the train from the station which is so small and seems to be a throwback to an earlier time.  I step on and grab a seat next to the window that I want so I can watch the views go by.  I carefully remove my jacket, put my bag away, and grab my book, headphones and music.  I’m all ready to sit back for a couple hours, cool down and relax. After sitting for a bit we take off and a few minutes later arrive at the DC station stop Union Station; this is a much larger station and many start to board the train.  The seat is empty next to me but I have a feeling it is about to be taken.

With my headphones on and reading I’m hoping to avoid any distraction from anyone who may want to sit and talk the entire time.   Suddenly someone takes the seat next to me.  It is an older black gentleman. I’m awful with age but I know he is older; possibly 80’s.   We smile and I turn back to my book.  I can see out of the corner of my eye that he is wearing some kind of brown uniform.   Looks kind of like a military uniform.  He removes his hat and puts it under the seat.   At first I just stay still, hoping to avoid further eye contact.  I had plans and excited to see what happens in the next chapter of this book.

As we start to pull away from the station he starts talking to me.  I have to remove one headphone but hoping the way I did it shows him that I wasn’t listening and desire to keep it that way.  “How are you? Where are you going?”He says.  I tell him I’m off for work.  Keep it simple.  “I’m Joe and my wife back there and I have been married for almost 50 years.”   I think maybe he would want to be with her but obviously two seats weren’t available.  “Would you like me to move so you can sit together?” I say thinking that was his point of talking to me.   He responds “No it is quite alright.   She is fine – see.”  I look back and see that she is quite fine – reading her book.

“We are heading to a few schools. I often travel and visit schools to see the young kids.” He says.  “I was in World War II and I go to tell them my story”.  Ok now I’m interested.  What is this ‘story’.   “Back then in the war we were segregated as part of the US army; so I wasn’t allowed to fight, live around or eat with other races than my own.”  He said it so calmly and matter of fact; really no emotion to it.  He went on.  “I traveled and saw much of the world though.  I learned so much from it. Also I watched many of my closest friends die.”  I really stop and listen now as I can only imagine what that feels like.  I say “How do you come back from that and move-on with life?”  He smiles and responds, “That is what I’m doing at the schools.  I’m there to tell the students that you have choices and each of us can make a difference.  Sure life can be hard but they can learn from it and be anything they want to be. Our country may not be perfect but we have so many great choices available  Life is too short to walk around with all that hate and anger.”  He says with a big tooth grin.

We passed the time as I sat listening to his stories about the war, coming home, meeting his wife, having kids and growing up in DC.  He told me about raising his kids and the kind of lessons he provided them as a Father.   He has seen so much change in his lifetime and now goes to schools at his own cost to share his story.  “So many of the young kids haven’t seen or been through a war.  I don’t want the memory of what my friends died for to be lost.  I feel my destiny is to speak, pass it on and help others.”    He reaches out and pats the top of my hand as if I understand this.

I like the word ‘destiny’ as I find so many don’t listen to what is right for them.  Yes even I have had many times where I didn’t trust myself but when I return it feels right – like home.   “I too feel my destiny is to help others”  I tell him. I go on to tell him how I help others both by helping others find new jobs and by teaching yoga.  He smiles at me in such an understanding way.  “I think we were destined to meet.  Do you believe in angels?” He says.   This puts a smile on my face.  No further words are required as we understand each other.

Before I know it the hours have gone by.  His stop arrives and mine isn’t far ahead. We say good-bye and instead of feeling as if I wasted the time or missed reading my book I’m left feeling a sad loss that I won’t know him again.  He has left the train with his wife and the seat is once again empty next to me.  Yet I feel great in knowing that we shared this brief moment.  All the worries or concerns I had about my life, the new job, future, expectations all slowly melt away.  Maybe my angel needed to remind me and sent this stranger to me.   `

*****************************************************************************

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow…. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision…. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone… I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn… I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou  RIP May 2014

One size fits all – Right?

Here is a story for you. A person goes to see their doctor as they have a bad cold. The doctor prescribes a skin ointment to help them and they leave not sure how this will help the cold, but do as told. Another person comes in with a sprained wrist and the same doctor prescribes a skin ointment. Once more the patient leaves and does what they are told. The doctor must know what they are doing. A third patient comes in and is expecting a baby and the doctor prescribes a skin ointment.

 
Easy to see that this story is an exaggeration but we all go thru examples of this each day; Yes even me. Obviously we can see from this story that something is wrong with the doctor; no dismissing that. What if I told you that the patients were seeing a child’s doctor they grew up with and just continued to go to them right or wrong? We see quite clearly that going to someone that what was right in the past doesn’t mean it right today.

 

one-size-fits-all-300x223
Still many of us return to things we did when we were younger and then wonder why the result is different. There may even be cases where we saw great results so it must have worked. Right? However just like the patient with the cold, they could apply the skin ointment but the cold simply ran its course and went away; had nothing to do with the skin ointment.

 
To all those ready to respond to me and make their arguments – I’m not saying don’t trust experts.  There is a time to consider what the doctor, lawyer, home-repair person etc… is saying. You hired them for their expertise as they were educated in that area, they may have a license or years of experience in the area. Does that mean you throw-out your own judgement? Times have changed in the past 100 years alone. Gone are the days where you farmed, grew your food, built your home and went to the doctor that has seen you since birth. We move away from childhood homes and specialize in work areas. So we are left being the only ones that really know ourselves the longest. Even with medical databases I find that your history will be overlooked due to human error.

 
What to do then? I suggest to ask more “Why’s” Why am I doing this? Kids are great at asking why? Can drive you crazy because you respond and here comes a why again. You start to laugh because the kid has a point. By asking you can pause and see if the answer or response is right for you. I’ve had ladies in labor tell me that their doctor wanted to perform a C-Section. They learned to ask more “Why’s” to find out it was a scheduling issue –not that that the procedure was a medical emergency.

 
To build more awareness meditation helps. I often say that prayer is describing your wish list and meditation is listening (to what you need). I see so many go to yoga with expectations they have; things they have seen, want to be and end up hurting themselves. They may be doing the same yoga that they did in earlier years and wonder why it isn’t working for them now. The blame is placed and instead of listening to what is real, they would rather hear what they wanted. Smash Mouth has a song called “All-Star” that has a line “Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb”. We may grow up, learn a lot but still be so clueless about ourselves.

 
I like guiding yoga students with observations while they are sustaining postures. Telling them “there is nothing wrong with this place; nothing wrong with who you are right now.” The negative responses start to go drift away, take us on a meditative journey. Often the students laugh because we all do it. We are upside down in downdog and start thinking about the posture; “I wish my heals were to the floor like the person next to me.” Constantly letting the monkey mind jump around with our judgment and thoughts that often many rush out of yoga class, turn the phones on and start driving down the street screaming at traffic. Therefore the posture didn’t help beyond the ego of that moment. “Look I put my foot behind my head!“ Great but a moment later you are still a mean person. So Yoga must be more than what can be seen physically.

I love teaching prenatal and beginners in yoga. Often the student hasn’t developed bad habits in yoga and their changing bodies are forcing them to consider something new or different. Sometimes I have more experienced yogi’s consider something new. I had one who came to my Flow 1 the other day. We moved into Bridge Pose and she quickly decided to do Wheel. I have spent a lot of time training to understand the various physical and non-physical reasons that one posture is different than the other. I don’t expect the student to know this but they can feel it. I asked her to consider joining us in the next set of Bridge; because I ask them to repeat it a few times. She did and was shocked to see that what may appear to the eye as easy, was actually quite different and for her challenging. For her it was more of what she needed as she was flexible in her hips and shoulders but needed more strength back building.

 
I’m also so glad that I teach smaller groups now. I haven’t taught large groups for a while now and if you have ever taught one on one you know it is different. As a teacher your communication changes as I believe it should; about offering that person what they need. Instead I feel that yoga teachers, especially the well-known stars of yoga, become circus performers. There to entertain, demonstrate their yoga practice and ramble on about sequences or postures that they too were told to do without any other possibilities or considerations. They video and post themselves doing very advanced postures. What can’t be seen though is the deeper element of the mind. Examining the mind and choices, we can use the tool of movement to examine “Why” more. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love arm-balances. Yet there is a difference when I go into a pose to show off to others or do it with a calm moving breath and end up feeling the effects that balance has on the mental body. When we choose the latter, a place that allows us to sustain, be there, without pain or injury, it takes us to a place that often can’t be easily described but can be felt. Yes even in the well- known advanced positions. My focus as a guide to yoga is to help each person examine their choices; to do more or less. They practice it on a yoga mat and then it goes out into the world from there.

 
Last night in my prenatal class I was focusing on empowering the ladies with the right of asking “why”. I feel this way they can do this for the rest of their life; not just for labor. They of course shake their heads and agree that it makes sense. Then I had them put their blankets down and said “we will now move into headstand.” They stopped and looked at me like I was crazy. “Oh you mean you are questioning why you are about to do this?” Great! It was a joke of course but one that allowed them to question. That is human nature and history has shown us why conformity fails. We are each unique and different. Let’s celebrate it instead of punishing ourselves.

 
There are times I wish more of us could be like an expecting Mom’s body. The ladies bodies are already responding to nature; dropping, opening and letting go. They often don’t have a choice in the matter and I’m there trying to get them to stop fighting with the mind. Often too their babies kick and respond and they are forced to think beyond themselves. I only wish everyone walked around with that same focus and intention. If you can’t think about doing what is best for you, think of your body as a temple, then do it for another person. You find that you start making your choices from this place; from eating, work, sleep and exercise. This place is real and true.

Let your Yoga be what fits you right now, this moment. There is nothing wrong with it.

Quiet Time, Self Examination & Introspection

Last week I was teaching a Flow 1 class and a woman who is new to yoga came up to talk to me after class. She saw a workshop on the board called “Hoops and Meditation”. She liked the idea of trying hula hoop movement but wasn’t sure if she could meditate. I smiled and asked her what she thought she was doing lately? Unaware she was practicing meditation the past few weeks, she was able to laugh and surprise herself.

The word meditation is a broad term, much like yoga, that has different techniques designed to promote relaxation, develop awareness, compassion, patience, generosity and forgiveness. While we may understand that there are many health benefits from meditating, it is doing it that we often stop short. We will try a new sport over observing our thoughts. If I call it “quiet time; self examination or introspection” many are inclined to give it a try.

Last year I had a mini-stroke and found myself using many different meditation tools to help me in the hospital and rehab. From MRI’s, blood-work, headaches, and even physical therapy where I was learning to walk again – I used different meditation tools. They aided me in the restoration, pain management and observing moments that will pass.

The practice of meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. There are many different styles, traditions and beliefs. Often many of us know it as the internal effort to self-regulate the mind. We may have had an expectation of how we would look, feel and then we quickly get disturbed and give up. But don’t. It is right there that I suggest it is normal; tell yourself there is nothing wrong with it. Stop trying so hard, finding excuses and start over. As you keep doing it over and over you’ll see change. Notice I didn’t say improvement though. We think of improvement as an upward scale. Instead of forcing the focus on improvement start to let that go. See it right now as it is.

Additionally I have seen those who have practiced one style of meditation for years come up after class and tell me that they just can’t do anything else. I smile as they too had an expectation that they allowed to stop them. They thought that their ‘true self’ stopped right there and couldn’t see any other way. This isn’t real though. Just as in nature, we are all changing. What works today will change tomorrow. There will be days where meditation can be easy or hard. Point is to notice it, smile and stop beating yourself up. One minute of meditation is better than tossing it aside and giving up.

There are many kinds of tools that can also be used in meditation. Prayer beads, sounds (mantra), mudras, concentration, sitting, standing, laying down, walking etc; these are various styles used with meditation. These tools are there to keep track, remind or draw the person back to the focus. So much more than sleep – you are witnessing the moment and thoughts. Sometimes before settling into a meditation you are talked thru a visualization; either of the physical body or a place/scene.

In the Yoga Sutras, meditation is one of the eight steps. I’m sensitive to various prejudices against the word though so I don’t call it meditation while teaching it. Instead I like to have the person do various styles and start to witness the moment; sometimes this is done with movement and sometimes being still. Not always knowing the trauma someone may have had I like to offer various tools that may make them feel more comfortable; Eyes open or shut for example. Eyes open may seem unusual but for many just starting, it allows them to focus less on the physical body which they may need to concentrate. For those who have had a trauma shutting the eyes may be a scary place. I find open eyed meditation is a great tool that allows that person to heal themselves. Not touching or adjusting them during this process.

The perception for someone who wants to start a meditation practice is that they will wait to start – waiting till they have ‘learned it’; read up on it, get a video and learn it completely. Really the hardest part to meditation is doing it. You can’t give up on it. With practice you’ll start to witness each moment more, stop and pause. Nothing wrong with sitting in the car, bus or waiting room at doctors office and doing meditation. We all find excuses that stop us. “I’ll meditate when I have a quiet place.” Then we get there and find another excuse.

In June I head to Kripalu for my 500 hour teacher training (part 2 of 4) which is 9 days of Pranayama and Meditation. I can’t wait to spend time in this area as I find there are so many teacher trainings on asana and anatomy of the physical body. I’ll continue to share my yoga journey and what I learn as I go along. There have been some amazing responses from those that are following my blog from different parts of the world. Many who aren’t yogi’s yet they have a desire to improve their health.

I hope this helps and that you find a moment today to stop, find a point and sit still for a minute. Count your inhale and exhale. Start there, not worrying if you are doing it right. Instead ask yourself after – how do I feel? There is no right or wrong answer. It just is. Enjoy!

images-1

 

 

Let it Be – but how?

I recently taught a Yin Yoga Workshop for 2 hours. It sounds like a long time for a yoga class but the time flew by! In designing this workshop I found that unlike other styles of yoga, this one allows the practitioner time to reach different phases of the pose that goes way beyond the body. (The physical postures are held longer; anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes.)

Many run all week long with errands, rushing around and trying to fit just one more thing into our agenda. By stopping, observing we can let go for sure. You may have heard a yoga teacher say “let go” but weren’t sure exactly how to do it. So instead you went to sleep, laid there making lists of things you’ll get at the grocery store or just got up and left.

How do we learn to let go? Lets talk about the phases I mentioned earlier. The first phase is one where we are quick to respond to the physical body; often this is a negative response. We get upset, irritated and angry as the mind yells at the physical body for doing this. Even blaming others. The mind likes to say “I would rather be anyplace else but here.” Kind of like a child having a temper tantrum. It is there we stop and focus on the breathe instead. This allows the muscles time to relax and allow the mind to calm down. (The mind isn’t just located in the brain – it is in the entire body.)

From there we may find that the panic we were experiencing wasn’t real and see ourselves loosen up, become less tense and maybe go further physically; only this time without trying so hard…less effort. This is where many styles of yoga may move on – off onto another physical position.

In the moderate flow I teach each week we hold postures longer than vinyasa styles. For those that feel a resistance to Gentle Yoga, this moderate flow finds a nice middle ground. It is here in this third phase that I suggest to let the Physical body go (Anamaya Kosha) and as they have been observing the mind body already (Manomaya Kosha) I offer that they Witness this moment. Witnessing is another step in the Koshas called Vijnanamaya. Here though I am not asking them to change or mold it to what they wanted. Instead take it for what it is. Suggesting to them that there isn’t anything wrong with right there. Enjoy this moment as you won’t have it again.  I’ll say “even if that moment is WTF”.  Laughter happen because of the truth in this moment.

Often we try to be so many things to the world. We have an image of what we want to be and work so hard at it. We fight being where we truly are and it is that struggle that may be hurting us; our afflictions become the source of our suffering. Funny though when we move on in life or in postures we look back at that time and have a different view of it. We can spend so much of that time looking back or wanting that moment to return that we can’t just be right here.

This is the truth or reality though – you can’t make it be something else. For example in yoga I like to have the practitioner do tree pose with a block – either standing on the block or placing the it on the head. Fact is there is fear that rises and the ego knows that they may embarrass themselves if they use the block- others will see that their tree isn’t perfect. The block won’t lie and “I can’t pretend to be something I want to be”. Phases of the posture can take place by witnessing it. Seeing that the fear wasn’t real. Falling – doesn’t mean you failed. Often you just get back up again and try. You learned more from that anyway.

Additionally in our busy lives we start looking for problems or keep busy to avoid being still. If someone does something, says or writes something, someone is there quickly to respond to find a problem with it. I see this even in teaching yoga. Being around other teachers where they want to study the postures, bodies and how to assist – I think many are missing the bigger question. It isn’t about that person’s body looking a certain way; even the way I intended. Instead – I ask “is that person doing something harmful?” Are they hurting themselves? If not – why modify or adjust it? Even as a yoga teacher it is possible to look and find problems in those we see.  I have to witness that and let-it go.

This is why I believe many come to yoga for a short time only to move onto another sport or activity. They become unhealthy, hurt themselves and become tired when they don’t see the results they wanted. They wanted something in themselves that may not be real and as a teacher I feel we are there to help them experience some peace with that.

Instead of resisting we can go to another phase – just being. It is that place I like to think of as “I’m ok”. You don’t feel amazing or bad. You are seeing yourself as it truly is. You just find that middle place where you are ok and don’t have to seek problems. Most importantly when faced with someone else’s comments, anger or hurtful actions, you pause and are ‘ok’. The reality of the moment reminds you of the true self; not the ego that wants to protect itself and hit back in response. This is that final phase of the Kosha’s called Anadamya or Bliss.

Bliss is an interesting word. I used to think of it as this amazing carefree happy place. I think there are clouds with harps playing in the background there (LOL). Suddenly I found myself responding to friends asking me how I was and when I thought about it, I was ‘ok’. Then I sat and thought that isn’t good enough. I would become easily obsessed again. “I should have another goal to achieve.” But I asked myself why? Can’t I just enjoy right now? Then I did. I just stopped and my mind calmed down again. Then later I started to think about bills, house improvements and retirement. I tell myself ‘stop it’. I’ve always been ok and all the worrying didn’t help at all. There are always piles of clothes, dishes, deadlines and bosses at your heals. It takes work each day and even being a yogi doesn’t mean I’m free from the struggles. It means I see it faster, identify it and let go. Now knowing the tools of how to ‘let-go’.

I believe many confuse my message – even in yoga. I’m not saying do nothing at all or never try to go further than you thought. It has to do with the effort to get there. It can happen when I let go. That letting go is mind over matter. I had to realize that I’m never crossing that finish line or celebrating that the “To-Do” list is fully checked off. Life never gets to that place – until we die! Thank God for that! We aren’t dead and very much living. That is why with life changing events many start to see that the things they thought were important weren’t. Instead we start to live each moment just as it is right here and now. The beautiful place that is very much alive and real.

Hope you find these tools helpful to letting go.

 

“I carry your heart”

“I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)” E.E. Cummings

I love these words from Cummings as Valentines Day can get lost in all the romantic commercialism.  I look at Valentines as a time of getting out of our head, busy schedules, daily activities and focus on our heart.  Here in the Anahata Chakra where we often guard and protect our feelings.

It is here in our heart that as humans, life is worth living, being.  It is for love that we hope and although there are other emotions, we focus here.

I was recently asked tips about teaching yoga to a mixed group of parents and kids.  I gave my suggestions and interesting enough in my fondest memories I remember watching a Mother take her child into her arms and just hold her, while others were in bridge posture.  This Mother saw that her little girl was bored and the Mother stopped her practice and held her daughter tight.  I remember watching this act of love and even felt I had experienced a small part of it just by watching it.  Yoga doesn’t have to be a posture.  Maybe it is holding a loved one tight and both of you breathing together.

I believe deeply in the power of touch and what it can do.  Done appropriately, it has the power to heal and let out emotions.   I recently watched the movie “Captain Phillips” and the end with Tom Hanks was amazing.  It stars a real life rescue nurse and if you study the effects of human anatomy, as I do, you see what happens when she asks him to breathe, touches his chest (heart) and then lifts one arm up above his head.  It is here that he opens up his emotions, starts to heal and come out of shock.  Yet it doesn’t surprise me.  We still have ways to go at understanding the power of breath and touch.

Additionally I have seen the power of love and touch when I take my dog, Sadie, to see my Mom in her assisted living center.  So many therapy dogs bring smiles to the faces there.  We walk down the hall with Sadie and so many faces light up and we just allow them a moment to pet her and I see how happy they are from that.  After all many there in these homes probably receive medical nurses touching them but aren’t the ones reaching out to touch others; which is why therapy animals help so much.

Additionally to kind love, we carry those that have hurt us in our hearts too.  We talk about being stabbed in the back but that is really the effect of descibing the heart.  Often times we can go a long time, locking up our feelings and storing them, not even aware that we are carrying that baggage with us.

Love sometimes means having enough love for yourself to step away from those that are hurting you. This may mean those that society dictates you should always honor; family, mentors, teachers.  It certainly won’t be easy following your own path, but you don’t have to delete them from your thoughts forever.  You carry them in your heart.  I think about those who hurt me and offer them my forgiveness for not knowing better, for not thinking that there was another way and I hope that they find peace.  I learned so much from their lessons, although they hurt, that I thank them from afar for this development in who I am today.

Therefore instead of spending this day wishing you had a romantic love or telling people “Happy Valentines Day”, consider with honoring yourself.  Take your hand to your own heart and close your eyes.  Take a deep breath in and out.  Start by witnessing the pauses between the inhale and exhale.  After a few minutes slowly open your eyes.  Now to the first person you see, ask them what they did today that made them feel appreciated.  Love them by listening to their story; not offering a quick response, joke or comment.  Just listen.

 

Peace.

The World is like a Chakra Mountain for me

Here I am standing at the base of a mountain staring at the top. It looks so very long and far from down here.  To be honest, I never thought I would be here at the base and yet here I stand.  I have fought, kicked, stomped and resisted coming down the mountain.  I spent a long time to get where I was; lots of costs, investments, sacrifices to get up the mountain. Even with all that, this is where I’m at?  Are you kidding me?

Ok so be it, I dust myself off and put one foot forward, then the next.  Wow that is different.  Each step reminds me that I may have to reconsider going up the mountain differently.  Now what?  Wide walking stances I go at it slower.  No rush.  No hurry.

I can hear the water flowing at a nearby creek so I stop to sit and think about my approach.   I never noticed this creek before though.  I clean off and stock up on water for my trail.  There are others just hanging out there and we talk for a while.  With an approach in mind, I stand up, say my good-byes and start forward. There are those who would disapprove of my approach but something inside me says this is just right for me.  Some want me to just hang out at the creek.  Yet I know I have to move on.

The wind and cold start to pick up by mid-day.  Oh no – not so soon I tell myself.  I just started.  Fear comes in – will I make it or find myself stuck?  Will others judge me, be happy I fell and say “I told you so.”  I stop and take a deep breath. Standing still, I start to see many going past me on the trail and others who are being taken back down.  I can’t help but want to be like the ones moving up the mountain; so fast and strong. I remember being that person.  I can’t help but also watch those going down; oh so glad that isn’t me right now.  One step forward – just do that much – is what I tell myself. So I start again.

By nightfall I find that there is a meeting place for dinner.  There are those who want to hear about my journey so I sit at a table to share with them.  It is clear that some don’t want to hear the story, so they quickly get up and leave the dining table.   Something in them though looks annoyed and upset.  “I’m sorry” is what I think.  I didn’t mean to bother anyone else. By morning it is my journey all by myself up the mountain.  How do I want to go about making my trip today? I never thought much about how I wanted to go about the trail before; I just did as I was told.  This is a new experience.  You mean I have options?  I start lifting my head and observe the sun shining thru the trees, watch the birds fly and smell the fresh air.   I start greeting those passing me, wishing them a great morning, waving and smiling.    Who cares if they think I’m strange – I like who this person from the inside.  It is a wonderful peaceful feeling.

Along my walk, I stop and take out a compact that has a mirror.  I haven’t seen myself in a while so it surprises me.  Who is this person looking back at me?  I look different than the image I had in my head.  Which is true? The mirror or my mind?   I see all the differences, changes and bad points. I wonder if I could ever look at myself and be happy again.  “Not now” I tell myself.  Just move forward.

By late afternoon a storm comes in and I try to push on as if the storm doesn’t exist.  The rain is  coming in so hard and the earth turns to mud. I slip and start falling down the mountain.  I cry, grip and hold on as hard as I can.  I scream: “I don’t want to go down the hill.  I don’t want to fail!”   Just that moment someone hears me and runs over to offer me shelter.  After helping me to this safe, dry place, she suggests that we just wait; pause.  While sitting I learn from her that she heard my story over dinner the other night, but had left the table to avoid talking to me.  She shares that she too fell down the mountain – many times she says, and didn’t want to be reminded of the feelings; yet she shared with me now and that meant so much to me.  We exchange stories, fears, cry and laugh together.  She says that we both will be fine and yet I know she can’t guarantee that; no matter how much I wish she could.  Once the rain starts to slow down we help each other to get up.  Standing firm, we start walking together up the mountain.

We traveled on the trail together for a while.  Enjoying each other’s company and pace.  However soon we reach a place that she wants to stay at, so I hug good-bye and start to move on.   Something is leading me and I don’t know what it is.  As I start on my own again, I look over from the trail and see a path off to the right that I never noticed before.  It doesn’t look like a direct route, yet an inner force is telling me to give it a try. It is less steep and has a wider trail, so I think I’ll give it a go.

It definitely takes longer to go this new route but I am happy I took it.  It isn’t the route others are taking but I’m no longer finding myself mentally distracted by watching or comparing others momentum.  Nothing against those who are moving faster but this moment is just what I need.  Really nice to slow down and worry less about getting somewhere.  Just be right here. Eventually the modified trail starts to join back to the main one; the one I know so well.   From here I know it is stepper and harder.  Yet I’m no longer afraid of it – I can go about it faster, slower or stop anytime I need.

Nightfall is starting and I start to see fireflies.  The sun is setting and the moon is just starting to reflect its shape.  Climbing higher I feel the altitude changing.   I remember this place and yet it seems different.  Wait – did someone make changes?  Or could it be that I am seeing more than I ever did before?  By morning I wake to see way out to the horizon.  The sunrise is allowing me to see the colors of the suns rays off the clouds I never noticed before.

Just as I’m moving up my trail, my heart starts to beat really fast.   I see a group taking someone down the mountain.  He looks hurt or injured.   I step out of the way and I see that I know him.  I know there isn’t anything I could say or do right now though.  I simply have to let him just be and hope that those helping him will help him on his path.  My way of helping him was just to get out of the way.

By late evening I find myself at a strange spot.  This was it.  This was where it happened.  This is where I had reached before I fell.  Wow – this took more time to arrive at.  Yet I’m standing here and I’m definitely not the same person.  It isn’t different or better.  It is just a place.

That is when something dawns on me.  Each step on the journey was better for me when I just experienced the moment. When I stopped focusing on looking so far ahead – where I wanted to be.   It was never about reaching the peak, place or spot.  We are all going up, down and side paths of the mountain of life.    The wisdom comes from seeing that the fear of falling doesn’t mean that you failed.  You tried – congrats you won!

If you are lucky, like I was, there are those lovely people on the trail that will help you if you ask, those that come and sit with you in silence and those that you never had to ask at all.   To all of you who came to me, especially these past 12 months, I want to thank you for helping me on my mountain trail.   Jai Bhagwan!

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next things that comes along.’  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  Eleanor Roosevelt. 

A week away at Kripalu for me

Here as I sit in this big circle on the floor at Kripalu, so many of us sitting close enough to touch and yet we are keeping our distance.  I look out into the room to see who catches my eye.  We bow to each other and I wonder what this week of exploration will be like; this journey will be together and how we will change.    There are those I’m sure I will know more and those I may never know more than from a distance.  Very much like the ocean, our relationships take on different forms.  We experience calmness, storms, even tsunami waves.  Who gets to see that inner layer of who I really am?   When do I ask for help or realize that the answer was always there?  The key is in the door.

As the week ended, the circle closed in and we were hugging each other good-bye as we backed out and into our lives.  Our hearts filled with love, anger, sadness and fear.  Emotions mixed in together and knowing that is what makes life so amazing!  How boring it would be if it didn’t have the mix – kind of like missing an ingredient in a recipe.  You kinda need them all.

The scars we live with: My Healing Story – part 2

I just had an angiogram and they had to make an incision in the groin area to see and pump iodine up to my neck.  You forget just how much you use this muscle until it has been cut into.  Sneezing, coughing, and walking, all very hard. It had me thinking of scars though.  We all have scars in our lifetime.

Although each scar is unique, some physical and some emotional, often we try to cover up our scars.  Understandable as I hate re-explaining what happened, reliving it over and over, answering if I’m “better now” and then have that sad face look back at me.  I’m not looking for pity and I’m so much more than my scar.  Yet sometimes that is all we can see of a person.  We do it in so many areas – typecast the person who is divorced, has credit problems, is in a wheelchair, or using an oxygen tank.

Let’s face it, I’ve had a bad year physically and this includes weight gain.  I know under it all though that I’m definitely not lazy and have good eating habits.  My body reacted to the stress, less activity, change in age and it reflects physically.   I don’t come out often and tell people about what I’m going thru.  I can tell that judgment is there just based on my outside physical appearance.  I’ve been passed over for some yoga teaching positions based on this.   Society views those strong and skinny as healthy after all.

With yoga I’ve often been interested in our scars and using meditation to help relax the mind.  We often run off and can’t settle our mind.  Meditation isn’t about sitting cross-legged and looking like Buddha though. There are many forms which is great because each of us can find styles that help us; never just one method.  I used mediation a lot the other day in my procedure;  I did a mix of mindfulness and sound.   I could tell from my breath I was getting excited, stressed and anxious.  To calm down I used visualization and sound.

I have a great appreciation for the hard working people at hospitals but one nurse came in and started to give me so much information on what to expect including the feedback they have had on the pain, pinching and complaints.  I do appreciate it but it was right there I decided to just breathe.  Counted my breath first, long inhales and exhales.   As I settled down I moved on to sounds – I would just hum a tune of positive words over and over.  (“Candy Girl. You are my world’) Lastly stuck in a strange, cold room, with a machine all around me, feeling a bit scared, I focused on one staring point above me.  Eyes open I watched this one point and counted my breath; Inhale (one), Exhale (two), Inhale (three) etc.

Turned out meditation helped manage the pain and experience.  The procedure was over before I knew it and the hardest part was lying on my back flat for 6 hours.   I had to stay on my back and eat that way as well.  That was quite an experience.  Don’t choke, do eat something and lay flat.   I’ll spare you the details of trying to use the bathroom lying down.  But just know, it is quite hard.

Now days later the pain and recovery is from the muscles.  The emotional healing is taking time as well to heal from all that has happened in the past 11 months.  Last week I walked thru the halls at the hospital where I was earlier this year; found it strange that I wanted to cry.  It was here in these cold halls that I would be wheeled down to MRI rooms, going slowly over bumps, wait and wait, then wait some more.  Did all that with such pain.  I had thought so much was behind me until I walked these halls last week.  Maybe I’m still healing then.

We are often so quick to cover up our scars, make others feel comfortable.  I know I did.  Let’s cover that up and act like nothing happened.  I’m fine. That is what others want to hear right?  Then comes the comments from others like “If anyone can kick this you can” or “You can win this war”.  Don’t get me wrong I do understand the comments and always appreciate those that care enough to follow up.  But let’s face it, the comment is there to help them – not me.  The person in the midst of any pain, health crisis, trauma etc feels alone.  This is their experience and sometimes it just happens as a part of life.  There don’t have to be reasons why.  Sure there are things that may help ease but then again it may not.  I often used to say control is an illusion.  Not that I’m giving up but let’s face it, I’m certainly not in control, don’t have all the answers and as we often say in yoga, I have to – let go.

It is hard enough keeping track of my medical history, prescriptions, dosage and records.  Not to mention various passwords I have in my life. (Topic for a different article though).    I see areas in medical practices where so many are running around, aren’t eating healthy, over-working long 12 hour days and with all the data to track on each person something is missed.   Therefore you have to be your best advocate.    Know yourself.

I saw my family doctor the other day.  She and I were talking about the fact that so few have a family doctor who knows them anymore.  This doctor would have seen you healthy, knows what is normal for you.   I was explaining to her that I see her even though her location is not as convenient as others.  She knows my background, that my temperature runs a bit below normal, so 99.1 definitely makes me feel quite warm and that I prefer to do without prescriptions as much as possible.  This doctor would know what is common or unusual for you.

I see the same with yoga though.  So many jump from yoga class to yoga class – moving around to places for the best financial deals, locations and time slots.   Never a concern for the quality instruction they are receiving.  Furthermore I know from a student/ teacher prospective that the more you see the same person, even for a bit, the more you learn about yourself thru them.

Every class I teach I see those with various injuries.  Each time I’m hoping they will return again as I know it would only help them and me to work with  them.   Yoga was never about the position they wanted to get into.  I just want them to heal and to do what they need to grow awareness.  Not worry about being  some image they want to be.  For example,  I have a young lady who has scoliosis and is also pregnant.  I know that the shape of her spine is changing during this time and what I do is offer her positions for one side of her body.  So much in yoga is taught linear, done in a line and then the same pattern repeated immediately on the other side.  What I’m trying to do is separate the comparison for her and just watch one side for a while.

It takes a lot to let the scars show and then try to love yourself just as you are.   There may be those that understand where I’m coming from and that I’m not weak for sharing it.  Instead I’ve used what happened to me to teach others; pay it forward and understand the mindset, obstacles and fears.  I’m not there to do more than listen, guide and sometimes I just have to tell them “that sucks”.  Now let’s move on with who you are right now; after all it could be worse.