On Rest & Violence

We’ve been resting & recuperating in a little cabin on Chesapeake Bay this week. Doing nothing “important.”

We haven’t listened to the news or checked much of the outside world … until Jim said 2 days ago, “They killed an Iranian General in Iraq today …”

This breaking situation in the midst of our little getaway … Where I have been studying the Yoga ethical principle of ahimsa — non-violence — for upcoming yoga classes. This year I’ve committed to practicing & sharing the ethical principles of Yoga with our little community in Uniontown. The yamas & niyamas, the first 2 limbs of the 8-limbed path of Yoga, are outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. (See Panditji’s commentary HERE)

In addition, we witness the violence being unleashed by the rampant bushfires in Australia, killing an estimated half billion — with a B — animals & endangering firefighters & humans. (See my IG post for opportunities to donate to animal rescue & firefighter support)

What is to be done?

My first reaction is outright ANGER. When will we wake up to what’s happening to our planet … because of our action / non-action? Even if you don’t subscribe to climate change … What violence have we unleashed on our water, soil, & air? Let alone the creatures trying to survive our cancer-like need for more? And it’s well-documented that negative impacts disproportionately affect the poor & oppressed.

On the other hand, what country’s government believes it’s a “good idea” to assassinate a foreign military officer?! Yes, he has been implicated in hundreds of American deaths … this is unconscionable. (Someone on social media posed the scenario: An American General is assassinated by a foreign government when leaving the Dallas airport … How would America react when the foreign leader states it was justified based on intelligence? That s/he has been directly/indirectly involved in several hundred foreign deaths. Think on our history … ).

Note: I acknowledge different opinions/views. I invite respectful debate & conversation.

My second reaction is FEAR. Fear for our servicemen & women who are now put in even more danger overseas. We as a nation have no idea of visceral violence of military conflict on our own soil. We have the luxury of watching it on TV.

Fear for the humans … volunteer firefighters, mostly … who leave family to go fight fires that could have been prevented if only for our commitment to non-harming.

My third reaction is “NOW WHAT?” What can I do from my small corner of the globe? I don’t know … yet I’m starting with:

1) Get informed. Listen to reputable news sources.

2) Redouble my own practice efforts. Meditate, seek to understand, fortify my internal resources.

3) Commit to non-violence. Even when I lash out in anger, fear, or despair. Recommit to non-violence. Take action in the name of non-harming — donate, speak out with fierce compassion, get involved where I can.

Non-violence is a PROACTIVE practice … not passive, not rolling over & taking injustice. Even the Dalai Lama has stated that violence in the specific situation & form of DEFENSE of one’s life is warranted.

Non-violence is beautifully & powerfully depicted by Ieshia Evans in this NY Times photo:

Baton Rouge, La., July 9, 2016

Ieshia Evans stood calmly as she was arrested by officers in riot gear during a Black Lives Matter protest following the police shooting death of Alton Sterling.

Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Yoga’s foundation is ahimsa. Non-harming is the philosophy & practice upon which all the yamas & niyamas, as well as the other 6 limbs of Yoga, are based.

Lastly, I leave my internal roilings on this topic for today with this:

May ahimsa begin with us.

JOMO

The joy of missing out.

What do you enjoy missing out on?

I truly enjoy missing out on New Year’s parties. (Kudos to all of you who get out there!)

I truly enjoy missing out on shopping excursions. (Kudos to you who LOVE these!)

I truly enjoy missing out on flying … oh, I’d love to go to Australia again, or try Norway or an exotic location … it’s the flying part. (Kudos to the world travelers!)

So, missing out on those things is an easy joy. Like:

And, as I listened to Yogarupa Rod Stryker’s New Year’s talk yesterday, a deeper challenge regarding “joy of missing out” resurfaced. He guided us in a meditation to cultivate feelings of joy — first in relation to joyful memories, then to release those memories & just sit with the joy itself. That we are innately joyful regardless of any past experience of joy. A quite profound practice.

Regarding meditation, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, of The Himalayan Institute (& Yogarupa’s teacher) gave a talk recently on how to optimize our meditation practice. You can find the talk HERE. He speaks of what the yogi sages discovered through their experimentation with breath & meditation. Many of Panditji’s points struck me, & one in particular: that we begin to cultivate this peaceful flow of awareness — which is the ultimate goal of Yoga — when our minds can hold focus on our object of meditation for 7 seconds. 7 seconds. This is the BEGINNING, by the way, of progress on our path.

I tried it … I’m still trying it … let’s just say I’m whatever comes before a “beginner.”

Panditji speaks of how our technology is AWESOME … the ability to for so many more people to gain access to information, knowledge, connection … it’s amazing! We must recognize the advantages of this interconnectivity, & seek to use it for the good of all.

On the other hand, he notes how it’s been scientifically documented that our attention spans have drastically degraded … that while the technology has grown by leaps & bounds, our bodies/minds have not evolved at the same speed. Our nervous systems & minds are overwhelmed, consumed, & distracted.

The holding of our awareness — let alone calmly, peacefully — on one object for even a few seconds, let alone 7 seconds (& the ultimate goal being 48 seconds according to the yogis) has become all but impossible for the vast majority of us.

So, back to the joy of missing out.

There are a multitude of things that distract my attention on a daily basis. And when I think about these things, I KNOW the beneficial choice is to release my attachment to those distracting things. If I want more presence in my life/mind, with other people, in my work … giving up those things I’ve discerned as distracting would only optimize my meditation, but also my life.

And yet I haven’t cultivated a “joy of missing out” attitude regarding those things. Why? Well, there’s probably a “hit” — like a drug — of joy in those things for me. The experience doesn’t last, so I go back. There’s also a sense of “I’ll miss out. Feel less than … less informed? less cool? less of a yoga teacher? less woman/partner/young/beautiful/worthy? less … less … less … “

Where does Paul say in the Christian Bible that he knows what he shouldn’t do, but does it anyway?

“The mastery of the fluctuations of the mind is Yoga.” – Yoga Sutra 1.2

Yoga is not pretty poses … Yoga is cultivating a peaceful flow of awareness within … whatever we are doing / not doing. And it takes practice, again & again & again … what would 7 seconds of peaceful, inward flow of awareness look like?

Rather than ride this rollercoaster of distracting things, getting a hit of external joy now & then … which in turn distracts me from life in front of me … I could cultivate a “joy of missing out” … see where it takes me …

Presence. Calm, peaceful flow of awareness. Joy.

Wishing these things for you in the New Year!

2020

As 2019 ends … My morning view from a lone metal bench …

… How do you look back on 2019?

… How do you look forward to 2020?

… Where are you at this present moment?

I will be listening to YogaRupa Rod Stryker’s annual New Year’s Day talk today … See IG post & register HERE … You can catch livestream at 5pm EST today or register & watch the replay. I have found much benefit from the wisdom & humor he shares each year.

Looking forward to what 2020 holds …

Does Everyone “Need” Yoga?

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New Moon Mandala for the last cycle of 2019 … & this decade! Thanks to April McMurtry & her “The Moon is My Calendar” for inspiration these past 2 years.

A question my friend & fellow teacher Kristin discussed this week … “Does everyone need Yoga?”

I’ve found incredible benefit from the Yoga practices — physical postures, breath practices, relaxation, meditation, daily lifestyle habits — & if you’re reading this post, you probably have too, or have an inkling that Yoga might benefit you.

I recently watched a talk by Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa on the research supporting the benefits of Yoga. Here’s the link on Yoga International:

Screenshot_2019-11-30 Yoga, Meditation, and Trauma A Deeper Look at the Research Yoga International

I got to hear Dr. Khalsa speak at a Yoga Service Council conference a few years ago … It was pretty cool to learn from a guy who meshes the ancient science of Yoga with modern Western scientific research. His talk gave me a ton of reasons why everyone “should” practice Yoga. πŸ˜‰

 

So given my experience, the up-&-coming research, & the millenia that this Science of Yoga has been practiced … of course I’m prone to believe that everyone needs Yoga.

 

And I could be wrong.

 

There are many paths to self-realzation … to health & well-being … to just feeling good in one’s own skin. Yoga is one path.

 

So I’ll sing the benefits of Yoga — in all its aspects, more than postures — & strive to honor the teachers & wisdom keepers. I’ll share the practices that have supported me, practices my teachers have given to share.

 

And Yoga may not be for everyone. It may not be the system for you at this time … or ever. There may come a day when I diverge from the Yoga path … Hmmmmm … hadn’t considered that thought.

 

If we do decide to practice this science of Yoga, Dr. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait of The Himalayan Institute offers advice in his book “Inner Quest: Yoga’s Answers to Life’s Questions”:

How do I know if I am practicing yoga properly?

Chitta vritti nirodha yogaha. – Yoga Sutra 1.2

Yoga is the mastery of the fluctuations of the mind.

Any technique that helps you gain mastery over your mind is a part of Yoga: your diet, exercise, and breathing, as well as your thinking process and your philosophy of life. But with any practice you do, see whether it is helping you become clearer, more concentrated, more organized, and more cheerful. Are you having fewer doubts, fears, attachments, and complications in your life? Is your life becoming simpler and more straightforward? If you are moving in that direction, you are practicing Yoga. If not, there is something wrong either in the practice itself or in the way you are doing it. No matter how glorious a practice seems to be, no matter how popular it is, or how much others seem to admire it, if you do not notice a positive effect on your mind then such a practice does not qualify as Yoga.

 

May I continue on my path with humility & grace … & honor your path as well. May we strive for communities of well-being for ALL beings. Cheers, E

 

Taurus Full Moon Vibes …

A few nights ago I got to share a ♉ moon inspired Hatha practice with beautiful souls at The Yoga Garden.

Taurus qualities include earthy, hard-working, steady, stable, and loyal. With this full moon, we are encouraged to find enjoyment in sensory pleasures, appreciate beauty and creating beauty, and go with our desire to improve our surroundings for ourselves and the greater good.

Taurus also loves simplicity, a sense of home, and feeling worthy. Being home, nesting and surrounded with simple comforts to foster security help us prepare and weather the winter months.

The low side of Taurus includes stubbornness, stagnation, and resistance to change. There may be guilt around self-care, seeing it as indulgent rather than life-affirming and crucial to balancing a hard-working nature.

Choose the high vibes of Taurus as the moon dust settles after this full moon into the weekend & further as we move into winter hibernation … Maybe:

– Enjoy a warm bath with Epsom & essential oils.

– Make soup & share with friends.

– Look at your budget & cut what doesn’t serve. Invest in simple joys.

– Use your voice for good.

– Surround yourself with loved items that soothe your senses — sights, smells, textures, etc.

Speaking of home & soothing comforts … At our practice Wednesday a few lovely souls gifted me homemade bath salts & curried butternut squash soup. What could be more Taurean & homebody affirming?!

The Yoga practices … yes, asana, but also pranayama, pratyahara, & the daily practice of the yamas & niyamas, help us to cultivate a sense of home within ourselves. What would it look like to use the following as your daily mantra:

I am at home in my body.

The body is our vehicle for taking in, moving through, & making a difference in the world. We may or may not have had a strong sense of home growing up … the science of Yoga gives us techniques to unveil home within our own bodies so we can move in the world with confidence, clarity, ease & a sense of purpose.

Like some of you, I’ve moved around a lot … & have enjoyed experiencing new adventures & different communities. We’ve been rooted in Uniontown for over 5 years now … the longest we’ve lived anywhere in the past 2 decades … & I find myself getting a “glimpse” of what people who’ve remained in place might experience — knowing the details of a landscape, being part of the history of a place, and forming relationships. Soothing to the soul.

Further, that mantra of I am at home in my body is seeping into my psyche. I have rarely felt at home in my own body … There’s always a compulsion to improve, or reduce, or make better (low side of Taurus). Daily meditation is beginning to soften the edges around my internal barriers.

On a side note, this guy followed me this week … Also looking for his home. He seemed pretty at home on our porch in a dog bed while we awaited his family. His name is Rambo:

This season, may we consider those around us or in the world who may not have homes or feel homeless mentally or physically. We all crave a sense of home; it’s a universal need. As we cultivate our own sense of home, may we consider how we might support or advocate for others who want the exact same thing we do.

And this from the knowledge & practice of the yamas of non-harming (ahimsa), non-possessiveness (aparigraha), & non-stealing (asteya). We know that there is enough for all to experience home, stability, & self-worth.

I hope you’ve found something from my ramblings that resonates with your sense of home. I look forward to hearing your thoughts after class or online. Happy Nesting!

New Moon in Scorpio β™

A.M. journaling & new moon mandala creating …

Beginning …

The quote came from my journal … turned the page, there it was … Serendipity β™πŸ’™.

Middle … watercolor & ashes …

Finished for now …

Time to get on with the day … πŸ™.

Resources:

The Moon is My Calendar journal by April McMurtry πŸ’™

Spirit Daughter Moon Workbooks πŸ’™

Immunity & the Universe’s Humor

The first inspiration for this morning’s post comes from an email I received from Jenny Dayton … She’s a local Yoga Teacher & I highly recommend ya get on her email list. Message mountainyogashala@gmail.com or go to Jenny Dayton Yoga.

Her email directly relates to my 2nd inspiration for this post — at 1am I woke with a sore throat & immediately knew why.

Having pushed my mind & body to its limits for decades, Yoga practices & philosophy have been both balms & aggravations ;). When I pay attention to manage my schedule, care for body/mind intentionally, & enjoy people & the little things in life … there’s the balm of Yoga. I become more my Self.

The aggravation of Yoga, for me, is that because of the awareness Yoga philosophy & practices cultivate … I’m beginning to sense more immediately when I’ve gone off the rails. Like at 1am this morning when my eyes flew open … Darnit, sore throat … out of balance.

I know exactly why — I’ve been traveling off/on for 2 weeks, haven’t been sleeping well, & my schedule has been erratic. If you’re familiar with the science of Ayurveda, all of these factors aggravate Vata dosha. Add on the characteristically Vata season of Autumn … You’ve got a grand mix for potential imbalance. (& I’m mentally aggravated about it bc I’ve got a good dose of Pitta in me too, haha!)

Don’t know about Ayurveda, doshas, or imbalances? Head to The Himalayan Institute & seek out Dr. Vasant Lad, or his student Kathryn Templeton. We’ll be doing a brief overview this Saturday in my Yoga & Ayurveda workshop too!

The blessing within my aggravation is that I have tools from Yoga & Ayurveda to work with my body to rejuvenate & heal.

One tool is to slow down. Vata is air & movement. Which can be good for getting things done, for creative work, for inspiration. However, when out of balance, there’s TOO MUCH movement, flighty-ness, & chaos. Ayurveda asks us to do the opposite to return to balance:

S L O W D O W N.

Which brings me back to Jenny’s email.

Jenny wrote about taking a break from her yoga teachung schedule … GASP … that her love for teaching Yoga does not outweigh her own well-being. This statement hit home for me — I had messaged Caitlin at 4:30am to please cancel my morning yoga asana classes — & was feeling pretty badly about that. That I’m not dedicated to the people. That I am weak for not being able to push through. That I’m lazy. That my income will stagnate.

These mind spinnings are in our collective DNA — Western society was built on the human body (& if we are truth-telling here, black & brown bodies disproprotionately) as a machine to be worked to its limit, and/or death, in the name of growth, capitalism, Manifest Destiny.

How many of us have stayed at work to “get one more thing done,” or gone to work sick, or shamed ourselves or someone else for not working as hard as we think we/they should?

This ain’t right, people. This isn’t who we are.

Yoga is about self-realization. The oft-said “we are human beings, not human doings” & “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” comes directly from Yoga teachings, & can be found in faith traditions as well. Yet how many of us have forgotten this?

I know I do. Regularly.

So today I’ve cancelled classes & am staying home from other work. This, according to one of my fave IG accounts The Nap Ministry, is an act of resistance against the modern “do til you drop” mentality. Self-care is also community care, by the way. You do others & those you love a service by retreating from society to heal (& protecting them from your germs!).

I hope you will be as inspired by Jenny’s example as I am. Those of us who purport to practice Yoga MUST seek to practice in its entirety, not just the easy or fun parts, if we are to help the world WAKE UP.

So, where’s the humor of the Universe in all this? I’m facilitating a “Yoga & Ayurveda for Immunity” workshop tomorrow … in the planning for months …

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

It seems I will be Exhibit A.

Take your Yoga seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

See ya soon, Friends. Now back to my turmeric milk & nap.

Prepare Body & Mind for the Winter Season

Explore practical ways to support your immune system from the sciences of Yoga & Ayurveda. This workshop is for educational purposes only, so consult your healthcare provider if you have medical conditions or are taking medications.

This article from Banyan Botanicals provides an introduction to some of the concepts we will explore.

See you on the 26th!

Ahimsa — High Horse Dismount

I’m still shaking off the dismount from my high horse. I mindlessly climbed up there an hour ago, totally lost all oxygen to my brain … & coming down is a hard hit.

I feel like I have more of these moments than the average person. Moments when I think I’m right, have a better handle on the truth, & take it upon myself to enlighten someone else.And what’s more, I deeply desire to avoid conflict. So I find myself mindlessly using passive-aggressive techniques to convey “my” ever-so-correct point-of-view.Then (thankfully, & hopefully sooner than later) I realize where I am … precariously atop an imaginary pedestal.And so begins my descent back to myself.

As I prepare for the Full Moon Hatha Practice this weekend, the concept of ahimsa comes forward. Ahimsa is one of the yamas in the 8-limb path of Yoga. (Learn more about the yamas here.) Rolf Sovik of The Himalayan Institute explains:

In Sanskrit the prefix a means β€œnot,” while himsa means β€œharming, injuring, killing, or doing violence.” Ahimsa, the first of the yamas and the highest ranking among them, is the practice of non-harming or non-violence. This is the key, the sages tell us, to maintaining both harmonious relationships in the world and a tranquil inner life.At a deeper level, ahimsa is less a conscious process than a natural consequence of yoga practice. As our journey unfolds, it leads to awareness of the peaceful and enduring core that is our true nature; the desire to prevent harm is a spontaneous expression of that awareness. We begin to realize that the inner self in others is identical to our own inner self, and we wish no harm to come to any being.

The name of this full moon — Full Hunter’s Moon — may seem antithetical to nonviolence. And yet how can we apply non-harming in our yoga asana practice … & then OFF our mat to things we are passionate about, to the goals we “hunt,” or the unjust systems we seek to dismantle?

Ahimsa applies not only toward how we act outwardly, but to how we think inwardly. My thoughts today conveyed a subtle form of harming, not only toward the person who’s actions I was judging, but also toward myself. Even now, my internal state is unsteady after my “high horse ride.”I hope I get the chance to meet this person again from the “peaceful & enduring core that is my true nature” … that is our collective true nature according to Yoga.May we use the tools of Yoga to ground ourselves in our True Nature & Ahimsa. And when you or I do take to our high horse, may our descent be quick & yet full of grace … with the will to begin again. And again.