While I was editing this weeks newsletter I was listening to a podcast about "Disconnect Syndrome". It was an interview with a father and son team of M.D.'s who have done massive research about what makes us continue to make bad choices. Regardless of what we know is best for us, and as motivated as we may be to do it, we continue to make choices that we know are not going to lead us to feeling our best. (Did I mention I was also eating a triple chocolate brownie at the time? More about that later).
Listening to this coming off of a 2 month adventure through an amazing book on neuroscience was an added eye-opener. I will include the link to the podcast, and name of the book at the bottom if you are interested. For now I will just give you a very short synopsis now. Basically what dad and son were talking about is the loop we get in to that doesn't allow us to access our pre-frontal cortex, or the decision making part of our brain. They said even one night of too little sleep, or a one-night indulgence with brownie bingeing (oops) and social media will knock us out of access to this part of our brain that encourages action based on what we know to be true- not just because we read it somewhere, but because we have the experience that it is right. We know what to do, and then we don't do it, and then we wonder who turned off the lights while we were walking down the path towards well-being. Who jumped out of the bushes and said "quick, over here, I have a triple chocolate brownie for you!!". (My defense about the brownie is that I know and love the person who made it, so to me it was like eating love shaped like a square.)
Will the sugar I just ingested make me do something I later regret (like writing this post)? Sugar causes inflammation, and inflammation changes your access to your pre-frontal, rational portion of your brain. So does lack of sleep, too much screen time and not enough out-door time and lack of social interactions. These things weaken your decision making muscles and increases your disconnect to the home of good decisions.
According to the Doctors, I am doing a lot to counteract this one-time slide (were it actually just one time, lol) by:
Spending time in the healing arms of nature was another suggestion, and of course getting enough sleep.
We can not deny that the brain is a formidable force to reckon with. There is so much going on, so many things that can go awry, so many things we regular people don't understand about the circuitry. And so much rides on well balanced transmission. So what to do? I guess we listen to the advice of people doing the research and follow their suggestions and stay present to our habits. Another thing they suggested is find some way to push us towards the things that, at a time of clarity, we knew was right action. Something like setting a timer if you plan on going on social media, using a friend to work-out or go to yoga with, having ingredients for good meals in the house. If we don't enact a plan, we are going to be battered about by the soup of neurotransmitters that are responding to doughnuts and brownies, and late night TV, not the ideas born during clarity and connection to the cortex. Yes, this is what a class block WITH expiration date is all about. Pay for it in advance, when you have the clarity of yoga brain, and let that motivate you to keep going.
If you are ready for such a motivator we have a class block on sale this week, 20 classes for $202.00. You can scroll down for the link to this product. And if you would like to listen to the referred to podcast you will find the link below. As well, the Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean. (I listened to it on Audible). Link to Amazon also provided.
Happy reading and listening and see you all in the frontal cortex soon!
The readings from Mother Teresa this month have really inspired me, I hope they have done the same for you. Most of my inspirational readings have come from Andrew Harvey's retelling of stories of Mother Teresa and other historical figures that are recognized as great humanitarians, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. In Mr. Harvey's book, "The Hope", he writes about many leaders, some of whom he has spoken with directly, and relates to the reader the commonality among these noble beings. They all pointed to the same activity that offers, or offered, them strength and inspiration- spending time every day praying and meditating with the god aligned with their beliefs . It is in this communion they are filled and fortified with the juice that keeps them going in the difficult work that they do. This is a quote from "The Hope" from Marion Woodman, a pioneer of the Divine Feminine (pg 133); "Continuing to do sacred work in a world as crazy and painful as ours without constantly grounding yourself in a scared practice would be like running into a forest fire dressed only in a paper tutu".
If you have had the benefits of meditation and prayer proven to you and believe in its power, and you are not able to be consistent in a practice, the question to ask is simple- Why not? What is it that is pulling your attention away from doing the thing that you know brings harmony to not only your life but the life of others? Only asking the question very directly will bring you the answer, and empower you to engage in the actions needed to do what you know works. It is not uncommon to be confused by your own resistance.
If you are not engaged with some sort of quiet contemplation and self-care, what is holding you back? Mr. Harvey encourages those interested in being Sacred Activists to be active in caring for their bodies, making them strong containers, and filling them with the energy that comes from meditating and/or praying. It is only a healthy, fit body that can be a suitable container to hold high levels of consciousness.
On a practical level what does this mean for those of us who may not go as far as Sacred Activism? Maybe you just want a peaceful Thanksgiving, with minimal drama. Or you find that you want to begin to respond differently, rather than react in the same old way. Consider this - if you are unwilling to "fill" yourself, unwilling to attend to your own body, how can you expect to be able to do the same for someone else? And why expect someone else to do for you what you are not willing to do for yourself? Yes, it seems selfish to sit in meditation or quiet contemplation, it seems like an extravagance, and at times it seems like it is not working. Yes, it's difficult! Yes, you might convince yourself you have many more important things to do, but do those things ultimately offer you true contentment? Look at what others have accomplished, and imitate them. They have already invented the wheel, you can just borrow the blueprints.
If you were to approach this scientifically, and you want to see change in this world (or just in your family, or at work) you know a catalyst has to introduced. You would then look to see where change has been accomplished historically by others, and you would try to replicate what they did to get the same results. (You don't have to choose something as dramatic as moving civil rights forward in the US and South Africa, or Indian Independence.) Look towards the others who have done great work and do what they did. Imitate what you admire and you will become that. Be bold, be the catalyst, and see what follows. Be consistent, because as Rumi wrote "Prayer is not just for the set times of kneeling and bowing; the real challenge of prayer is to prolong that state of absorption always, to keep the heart in a constant fire of adoration, whether you are asleep or awake, writing or reading..."
If you already have practices, such as meditation, tremoring, asana, try to be consistent, starting today, and see how it affects your holiday this coming week and in the weeks ahead. If you don't have anything to work with, download the meditation to follow along with. See what happens! And please let me know the outcome.
Superpowers seem to be coming up in classes a lot, perhaps because we have been working with mudras this month. Mudras are gestures that harness prana. Once harnessed, this prana can help clear your mind, shift your energy and give access to intuition and other subtle energies that can enhance how we live our lives. When I was at the Yoga Therapy Research conference we started and ended with mudras, as was explained by the facilitator, so we could sit and listen for more than 18 minutes at a time, which is the max time for most human brains to stay attentive. And since the schedule was set at 2-3 hour blocks of lecture, the mudras were much appreciated by both listeners and presenters.
So what can we do with this access to energy and the shifting of prana? One thing is we can hone in on what we do really well, what our gifts are, and the best way to use them. It is a question many of us have, right? We innately realize this is a way we can feel good! Please note however this is different than becoming full of yourself. This "feeling good" comes from us connecting to a divine part of ourselves, the part of us that just knows and does not doubt and does not fear. This is the power in acknowledging what we do well- we confirm we have that non-doubting, non-fearing aspect in us. And guess what? Connecting to that non-doubting, non-fearing part of us is an encounter with Divinity! We don't need to travel to a vortex spot, pay priests and facilitators to make a connection, study sutras or religion, and learn a new language and rituals to experience Divinity- it's in us and it is guiding us to do those things we do really well, and when we actually engage our superpowers, Divinity is right there in our finger tips and hands, or in our voice or writing, or in the faces of the others who are witness to your well-executed and divinely loaned actions. If we are also able to acknowledge that this ability is in fact a way of downloading the Divine into this realm, we realize our obligation to harness, hone and share those gifts we have been loaned. That is why we have it. We are stewards of this or that ability, and our lovely, capable human body is the perfect vehicle to express whatever the Divine desires to express through it.
Anodea Judith, well known for her work with chakras, gave an amazing presentation that I was fortunate to attend last week. It was about the evolution of our civilization. She corresponds this evolution to the growth and evolution of our bodies and subtle energies. It was both depressing and inspiriting. When asked by an audience member how we can possibly attend to all the heartbreak in the world, she quoted Andrew Harvey who said "Wherever your heart is breaking that is where your service lies". Ah, stunning! The heart tells us where to go and what to do when we allow it to break. Now, can we stay quiet and still, and hear those messages from the heart? Maybe not, often it is confusing-what is the heart and what is the mind? Now, that is something I love to explore and can speak hours about- in fact I will be doing just that at the Dakini Mandala retreat November 16th and 17th. During this 2 day workshop we are going to be looking at our own individual internal noise, the noise that keeps us confused about, and distracted from the message from the heart. When you know what that distracting noisemaker is inside or yourself, you will be able to pull the plug and hear where your service lies. These noisemakers are obscuring both the things that break your heart and the things that makes your heart soar when met with your competency.
Try it now- think of when you did something that was easy, joyful, was in service to something, and also happened to be something you know you do well. What do you feel when you recall it, and what was the nature of the act? Can you own this as a superpower? Now, what breaks your heart? What does it feel like, what is the nature of it? Does it align with your superpower in any way? Maybe there is a link you can't make, or maybe its another branch completely, but if you are interested, stay in the investigation. It is just another way to stay in connection with your deepest truth.
And if you fret over not being able to connect to a power higher than your own noisy mind, recall what you have done well and what has broken your heart. That is Divinity right there. Sit with it and you will know.
Click here for more info about the Emotional Liberation through The Dakini Mandala retreat
If you have been to one of my asana classes you have probably heard me talk about “superpowers”. I believe everyone has one or two or three (or more!) and that when we recognize what they are we have an obligation to hone our superpowers and use them in the world for the benefit of all beings. I think our superpowers are clear indicators of our “dharma packet”, the actions that are to be completed while we are in this body during this lifetime. If we work towards fulfilling that packet, which is individual to each of us, we contribute to the maintenance of harmony, light and love in this world. The ironic thing is we don't usually recognize what our superpowers are, and when others point them out to us, we shrug the information off in an attempt at humility or because we are embarrassed or confused.
We don’t usually realize that not everyone sees things the way we do, or knows things that we know. Not everyone can calculate the gratuity on a bill just by glancing at the total, or find a 4 leaf clover in a sea of grass, complete a jigsaw puzzle in a few hours, or craft the theory of relativity. Not many people can recognize a note out of tune, see a in a person's eyes when they are untruthful, or hear the proper course of action for someone who is at a crossroads. We might think people understand and hear things the way we do, and when they don’t seem to notice what we notice we either think there is something wrong with them, or something is wrong with us.
This was really driven home to me during my trip with my family this past month: Imagine traveling to foreign country with a man who is colorblind, hard of hearing and is on the continual search to make new friends, a 19 year old who can't bear loud noises and crowds, doesn’t want to make any friends, and can tell what cell phone a person is carrying by the set of their jaw, a 17 year old who sees patterns in all things, eavesdrops on conversations (even if they are in a different language) to see which person is going to be her new friend, and is constantly on the lookout for her next feeding, and a person who has the worst sense of direction in the history of directionless people, over-appreciates textiles and footwear to the point of dangerous distraction, and is seriously invested in keeping her family out of harm's way (that’s me!), you begin to realize that when you all walk into a new room, everyone in that small group of 4 just saw and experienced something completely different. What we notice is driven by our own personal superpower (or super- annoyance) to experience, or not experience what is in that room.
But really, that all is not what I wanted to focus on in this writing. That just slipped out, and maybe it will be useful to someone. What I wanted to highlight is that for some reason, even after seeing clients for years now, I just got (I mean really got it) recently that a lot of people just don’t know what to do about their aches and pains. People don’t know how to find a comfortable way to be or the right questions to ask themselves. This realization, after so many years working with people as a Yoga Therapist, was actually startling to me. Crazy, right!?
I have been studying people's bodies for about 45 years now. I imagine it started because I couldn't understand why my parents bodies didn't move like everyone else's, and of course I wanted them to be able to move like everyone else. What kid wouldn’t? I remember sitting with my mom and saying “But can’t you just move that finger like this?” And no, it wasn’t possible. I have never stopped looking at people's bodies and imagined how they could move more efficiently, gracefully, joyfully and painlessly. My recent ah ha moment was less about my knowing that this was one of my superpowers, and more about me realizing it is not everyone's superpower, or even an interest. Remember when you were a kid and you had a favorite toy, or food, and you wanted everyone to have the same thing because you figured they would like it as much as you did? I think that is what I was thinking, everyone has this, or everyone wants this. But really, not everyone wants to know the ins and outs of body mechanics, fascia and prana. I get that. Now. When I was younger I worked for a woman who thought everyone in the factory we worked with in rural Tennessee wanted to be like her and dress like her because she lived in NYC. I remember thinking how crazy that seemed. So now I get it that not everyone wants to know what I know, it would be just as crazy to think that was true.
It has been part of the journey as a yoga teacher and therapist to recognize that not all people care about maintaining their bodies according to classical yoga systems, or even any system. It is something that I try to stay observant about- watching how I might react, judge, or take it personally. Seeing through the lense of one of my superpowers, which desires a harmonious working of all body parts and pranic systems, it can be hard to step back and know that even if I might be able to assist with this or that, it doesn't mean I should. I think it's important that all yoga students recognize this struggle that their teachers must at some point address in themselves. My experience is that it is quite obvious when a yoga teacher has not chosen to look at this. I think it comes across quite plainly in their teaching and assisting. But that is my perception because I am watching for it in myself, and at times it is all I see when I enter a room.
If you are one of my students, I thank you for your patience with me as I work this through. Clearly, from this rambling, you can guess that new layers are either being torn away or forming. One thing that I am clear about is that we have to balance our superpowers with appropriate action. Know that I will always offer information, and if you are interested, I am willing to share what I know, see and perceive. And if you are not interested, it’s ok too. It is your body after all.
Now to the real point of all this rambling! I started to write this to simply offer a new course that I am very excited about. You can read more about it here. I hope during this course to give those who want to know, practical advice and tools to address mobility issues. I hope to instill a curiosity in you about your body, with this curiosity leading to concrete questions, experimentation, data gathering, and action, that will help you get to know your body more, and help you to maintain it. Here is my reasoning on why you should consider this course, putting aside my compulsion about harmonious body structures: If you have not recognized your superpowers yet, you need more time on this earth to do so. And more time on this earth requires a healthy, mobile body. That is not always true of course, but it makes the journey easier. What do I get out of it? I get to fulfill one of my dharma packets, maintain my business, and I get to ensure that there is one more body out there who is actively searching for Steerum Sukam Asana (steady comfortable seat, Yoga Sutras 2:46). It is only from this steady comfortable seat, the yogis tell us, that we can find the light in ourselves and so be able to shine it outwards to the rest of the world. If you have any questions about the course, please email me!
Hope to see you in the space, searching for and honing your superpowers!
The wisdom of rental cars
When I was in Spain a few weeks ago we rented a car that apparently had a really cool feature that I was totally unaware of. My son let me know about it just around the time we were returning the car. Apparently there was an indicator that told you what gear you should have the car in based on the speed you were going. I thought he was referring to what we called in the old fashioned days a tachometer, but no, there was actually a readout on the dashboard that said it was time to shift to 3,4 5 etc. gear. I have been thinking about that indicator since I got home from two different angles. On the one hand, I was surprised that I didn’t notice the indicator. Because the car was so quiet, I did find myself in 3rd gear driving 100 k/hr a few times and thought, wow, I better shift! I realized I had been so focused on driving correctly in a foreign country in a foreign car that I ignored a feature that would have actually helped me drive better. We are like that, aren’t we? We are so desperate to get things done that we don’t always see the thing that will help us do the thing we are trying so desperately to do. Then I started thinking about how, in the old fashioned days, you would know when to shift a car by the sound of the engine or the feel of the ride. My 1965 Harley does not have a tachometer OR a speedometer, and the only way to know when to shift is to listen and feel.
We have gotten far away from knowing what to do by feel and by trusting our senses in so many ways. Yesterday I went to see Toy Story 4 with my kids (I totally recommend it and I don’t think I am giving away any spoilers here) and there was a running theme about listening to your inner voice. Woody tells Buzz he knows what to do because he listens to his inner voice (meaning his conscience) and for much of the movie Buzz Lightyear would push one of the buttons on his space suit and a pre-programmed message would play and he would follow that course of action, without any hesitation, believing he was listening to his “inner voice”.
I know for me sometimes my inner voice is pretty loud, and it does seem like it projects out of an amplifier (except it doesn’t sound like Tim Allen usually) and I move forward without hesitation. Mostly though it’s really quiet and I have to listen deeply to realize it is talking to me and to understand what it is saying. It is a long time practice indeed to trust what you hear.
We touched upon this idea this month when we talked about rajas, sattva and tamas. Listening to the inner voice can help us to know if we need to act more, less, or not at all and just be. Hopefully it was helpful to get a feel for this while doing asana. Our asana practice is designed to lead us to stillness. If we find that as we are moving through a vinyasa (more rajasic) or holding a pose (more tamasic) and we fall into a deep stillness, our work is done! We can just stay there and enjoy that place that we have worked so diligently to get to.
It is important in the heat of the summer especially to trust our inner voice and know it’s time to take it down a few notches if we are being too rajasic. Rajas, tamas and sattva are not meant to be used to define us as a personality type, they are to guide us in our action. So even if you consider yourself to be the most rajasic person on your block, looking to see when you can add more tamas to your life style could result in making it through the summer with energy and clarity.
One of the things I realized being in Europe during the heatwave is that staying in the heat 24/7 is very draining. It was very different than going in and out of air conditioned houses, stores, and cars. (We were tempted to stay in one particular metro in Barcelona for the entire line when we realized it was air conditioned!) But even with the AC you are going in and out of, respect for the heat is still needed. So we have added (one so far!) a pop-up restorative class with Deb Kline on August 16t at 5:30 pm. Stay tuned for more to be added. Maybe you can also consider attending some of the gentle classes and SSR classes coming up if you are finding yourself deeply exhausted. Remember that yoga works with your energy as much as your body, so practicing yoga is different than napping. Sleeping is fine, but charging the pranic body is longer lasting.
Click here to register for the Summertime Cool Down sessions
Listen to your indicator, your inner voice, your tachometer. It is telling you something!
Last week I wrote about how sitting is the new smoking. I wanted to expand on that a bit this week. One of the reasons is that I have been noticing my own declining mobility. I know that people think since I am a yoga teacher I am constantly doing yoga asana. Truth be told, if when I have an available hour or two in my day I am more inclined to sit in meditation. This is a dramatic change from 10 and 20 years ago, when I would prefer to jump up into several handstands with a few hundred vinyasas in between. But preferences change as we move into different stages in our lives and we get older. Unfortunately as we age and we move less, the lack of movement has more of an impact on us.
I believe it is imperative to find the kind of movement that is both enjoyable and beneficial. My experience working with many people has helped me to understand people don't always choose the best type of movement for their structure and their needs. We may remember an exercise we did in high school and think we should still do that. Guess what? No. I am going to say stressing your system with the wrong movement is worse than not moving at all. You might as well smoke. It is why it is so important to work with a teacher, therapist or fitness professional to help guide you. We can't know everything, and there are people trained to observe your body and they have studied movement and can guide you. So consider that if you find you are just not sure what is the best way to stay fit is for you, your task is simply to find the person that you vibe with best. Let them do the rest. If you want more education, ask ask ask questions. If they can't or won't answer your questions, find someone else.
I can remember as a young girl my mother feared being confined to a wheelchair, as do many disabled people who are ambulatory. A few weeks ago I was helping her unpack some things and found a sheet of paper that has exercises that a PT worked on with her. I asked if she wanted to keep it. She said no. She is now in a wheelchair and has lost much of her mobility including her ability to transfer from her chair to the car, which does not make either of us happy. It is so easy to forget what our priorities are. It is true sometimes they change, and sometimes we just lose motivation for so many different reasons.
To help you stay motivated and find your best way of keeping mobile I developed a short course in September called "Reclaiming Your Body" . You can find out more details here:
We have a lot of subs coming up in the next few weeks with me, John and David being on retreat. Take advantage of taking classes with new teachers. Everyone has a different approach to movement and a different way of saying it, and I can guarantee that you will discover something quite new about yourself, and a new way of moving.
This morning I saw my neighbors little girl making her way down the street in the general mode that girls who are about 7 or 8 get around, that is by skipping. Walking is not acceptable at that age, it is too slow and morose. Watching her I was sent backwards in time to the sweet era when my children skipped, or sometimes sashayed, to get where they needed to go. As soon as I got back home, I roused my sleepy teens for a bike ride. There was some grumbling, but after the promise of a doughnut, they agreed. On the trip back I was treated to the above scene; my 19 year old slammed (or rather squeezed) the brakes because he saw ripe black raspberries out of the corner of his eye. The two dropped their bikes and started grazing, just like they did when they were skippers. I am almost sure they sashayed back to collect their bikes for the return trip.
A few days ago I was listening to a lecture by Tom Myers that was so very compelling, and dismaying. He was saying how for the first time we are in an age where technology makes it unnecessary for anyone to actually move. Tom emphasized that it is imperative for movement specialists to figure out how to keep people in this new age moving. Just now I was listening to a news story about how services that deliver cooked meals to your door are exploding in value. These kinds of delivery services are most popular with the millenials. Much of this generation works remotely, communicates with friends via video calls or texting platforms, and shops online.
It is distressing to think that movement is going the way of dial phones. You have probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. The counter to sitting is not just to stand up. This proclamation points to our level of sedentariness.
Your prana is directly affected by movement. Your mind is directly affected by your prana. You body is affected by prana, and your mind. Movement affects your joy-muscle. It heightens your senses, especially when you are out in nature. If riding a bike can make a 19 year old tech-head introvert like my son, who would rather sit in an airconditioned room surrounded by his 2 computers and 3 phones, joyfully munch berries and skip (ok, maybe that is an exaggeration- better to say "he moved lightly") imagine what it could do for you!
Of course if you are reading this, you probably already have a proclivity to do yoga or something like that. So consider this- what can you do to help encourage movement in your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers? Sharing early morning or moonlight walks, going dancing, gardening together, all of these are great communal activities that keep us moving. Flea markets, antique and arts & crafts shows will give you plenty of walking opportunities. Invite people to join you in what you like to do. And of course, shopping local is a great way to stay moving! But watch those times that you engage in the dreaded sitting for too long. What gets you going again? Observing this in yourself may help you to change someone's life by inspiring them to get going too.
I can't always help myself from doing this, its shameless and I am sure very annoying. I almost always ask my family, after dragging them biking, walking, or to the gym in the wee hours of the morning "See now, don't you feel better?". And while they hate to admit it, they usually do.
Summer Special- For each person brand new to Yoga Loka enjoy a gift certificate for a drop in class. You can use that for yourself or give it as a gift to a friend. Offer ends 8/31.
When I first considered doing yoga teacher training, I wrote it off as mostly impossible. I had long ago adopted the narrative that I was much too needed at home to take any time for myself on weekends. I had a high maintenance daughter with special needs, and a husband easily stressed out by domestic management. Time went on, another child joined the team, and my story was cemented. A six month program that involved plenty of weekends? I might as well just forget about it. I didn’t even have the right to consider taking that much time for myself.
However, the idea wouldn’t let go. I had been practicing yoga for some time and especially loved the philosophy and self-study aspect of yoga covered in the many meditation and Yoga Sutras workshops I had taken at Yoga Loka. In our self-study practices, I had observed this story of mine about being indispensable and I recognized it as both a trap and a comfort. Part of me wasn’t ready to give up the control of the household, to lose the identity as the one who keeps it all together. The real fear wasn’t “what will they do without me on a Saturday from 12-6?” it was “What if they are just fine without me?” Then I knew that there was so much more to learn about my mind, my body, and this ancient philosophy, and that something important was waiting for me on this path. I didn’t know that I would teach yoga and really wasn’t sure I was capable, but I wanted to at least see where the immersion would lead me.
Flash forward to three years later, and my story has evolved. Not only did my family survive without me during training weekends, but they developed their own rhythm and dynamic, and wound up closer for it. In the yoga immersion portion of the training, I found answers to mysteries regarding my body, mind, and place in the universe, and these answers have changed my parenting style and relationships. I formed lasting deep friendships with my fellow students and teachers, never before realizing how badly I was missing these authentic connections in my everyday life. And in the end, I discovered my passion for teaching yoga, which is almost a lesser benefit when compared with the others. In short, practicing yoga changed the direction of my life, but the Yoga Immersion/Teacher Training program gave me the vehicle, the road, and the map to travel that path well.
So what’s your “true” story? What is holding you back from taking steps forward towards a deepened experience of the Self? If you are considering the program, share your questions, concerns, and story with us this Sunday the 9th (11:45 am) at our practice session and Q&A. Graduates and teachers will be on hand to talk about the program and training experiences. Email [email protected] to RSVP. Thanks for reading! - Laura
Learn all about this September's Yoga Immersion/Teacher Training program by CLICKING HERE!
I just had a bizarre experience. I was eating lunch in my little backyard minding my own business. I heard a strange noise coming from over by my planter and saw the strangest thing- a little sparrow bird was splashing around in the bird bath, really for a good long time. I was taken aback- I had never seen a bird in the bath before. My kids gave me these cute little gnome bird baths last year for my birthday. We (when I say "we" I mean "I") have dutifully keep them filled with water and cleaned out when they became mucky. So why then am I so surprised to see a bird in it, using it for what it was meant to be used for? Basically, because I never really considered a bird would find it and want to use it. Again, I never saw one in it before, and today, on a kind of cool day, there one was, happily splashing away. You might be wondering two things - how many other times have birds been partying in the red gnomie tub when I wasn't looking, and why am I writing about this?
This encounter reminded me about spiritual practice (you knew that was coming, right?). We may do some meditation, or yoga, or mantra, because we think we should or because someone gave us a gift certificate, or we have nothing else to do... and then suddenly something happens in life and we realise we are actually using the gifts we have been given by our practice. We may practice yoga without thinking we are ever going to "need" it. We may practice stress relieving techniques (meditaiton, TRE, mindfulness etc) without thinking about how stressful things can stop us in our tracks and affect our health. But then we remember to breathe deeply like we learned in yoga class. Or we remember to shift our awareness to sensations in our body like we practice in meditation. We don't always notice the bird in the bath, but it's in there, fluttering around happy as can be even if you aren't looking, and so are all the things you have practiced in classes.
Isn't it great that our practice has given us back something, maybe something unexpected? Maybe you have been practicing all along looking for results, for example a way to age with ease and mobility, and then you might realize that you got something else too, like remembering to breathe when stressed. My kids gave me the bird baths with the gnomes on it because I was saying (they may say complaining, but I think that is too strong a word) that when the gnomie village disbanded on the tow path a few years ago (if you missed it, I am sorry! I was quite a site!!) many gnomes found homes in front of local businesses, like the bank, a few stores in town, but not in front of the yoga studio (we hadn't yet moved to 23 Race Street) so they got the bird baths really for the gnomes, not to lure more birds to the backyard. I love birds in my backyard, and now I realize that I have gnomes and birds.
Coming in June we have a lot of opportunities to practice things that will serve us in ways we may not expect. I hope you will consider using the lazy days of summer (and close-to-summer) to get yourself a birdbath- metaphorically speaking.
To help you along, please use this code to purchase any of the workshops below at a 15% discount. (Not valid on the presentation by Nitin on the 29th. that is by donation only.)
coupon code is good for workshops only and expires 6/1
You can use the code up to 3 times!
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Do you remember either reading or watching the movie of the story of Helen Keller. Remember that moment when she understood the sign for “water”? Can you recall what happened to your own body and energy when she made that life changing discovery?
There is a beautiful expansion of prana when we understand something vital. When something that was deeply known, but not touched, is uncovered and then it is understood in a way that we can access it, it is an “enlightening” experience. We literally feel light in body and we emanate light from our eyes and our skin. We glow! As a teacher, I have had the privilege many times to experience that beautiful energy shift when people recognize a truth. That truth can be something as simple as recognizing an old injury and making the connection between mind and muscle, or more complex like recognizing a past experience is driving an undesirable behavior.
What that expansion of energy gives us, other than light, is another way to see things and a new path to interact with the world around us. This enlightened vision will change the energy and environment around you. This is not a little thing. If we had maybe a hundred or a thousand “truth” ambassadors go out right now to the streets, seeing things through this prism of truth light and the energy, similar to Helen Keller’s water moment, this would affect at least one person, if not many. Things will shift around us, it is inevitable.
What are ways you can encounter these enlightened moments if you are not being followed around by an Annie Sullivan-like teacher constantly trying to get you to “see” ? Here is a simple list:
Pay attention to the environment around you, it is pointing out something to you.
Listen to people you respect and trust. Really listen to them, without defending yourself or immediately shutting them down.
These people are reflecting you back to you, the way they see you. Don’t discount that, it is a powerful tool in finding truth because we can only see a limited picture of ourselves. Sometimes we are behaving in a phenomenally amazing way (which we may not see or acknowledge) and sometimes we are behaving badly (which we may not see or acknowledge). Seeing these behaviors gives us insight and leads us towards “ah ha” moments. I think most of us will more likely have an “ah ha” moment when we are behaving badly actually, so keep your eyes open!
Stop when you encounter beauty and see how your body reacts. This is your benchmark; you will feel this same or very similar sensation when you have found truth.
Engage in new activities that challenge your belief systems. This may not always point you to truth, but it rattles things up enough for you to be able to sort through the old stagnant things you gravitate towards that hide truth.
Keep doing yoga! Whether it is exploration in your body or mind, the practice is set up to reveal truth in some form and lead you towards “ah ha” moments. That is the whole point of yoga.
Stay excited and curious. Don’t get defeated. It is not an easy task to see what you have not already seen, but if you want to participate in the wonderment of discovery badly enough, you will find it.
And maybe it wont hurt to watch the Miracle Worker again too!