Meditation Monday #32 – How to Meditate: The Two Pillars of Yoga

Alternating periods of intense activity and rest is an important part of life, so it’s no surprise that this principle serves as the foundation of yoga itself.

This is the opening sentence to a 2007 Yoga Journal web article describing the two pillars of yoga: Abhyasa and Vairagya that I use with my Yoga II students. For the next few weeks I plan to focus our Meditation Monday posts on the topics I cover with them in regards to meditation. I have previously presented a series of 4 posts titled How to Meditate that covered some basic meditation techniques. Now I am expanding that for you with a deeper practice into meditation as well as my own insights on the topics at hand. Continue reading “Meditation Monday #32 – How to Meditate: The Two Pillars of Yoga”

Good-Bye Old Friends

I traveled again this weekend, but this time for both work and pleasure. My husband came with me to Asheville, NC and we left the kids in the capable hands of their grandparents for a few days. I was teaching a workshop on Personal Training for NETA at the Woodfin YMCA. I had a really great group there and it made being away from my kids very bearable. My husband and I had a chance to be alone a few times too which is nice for us. We try to make time to spend together without the kids, but it’s often just a few hours here and there, so two days plus was a unique change and something we haven’t done since the littlest guy arrived last year in June. We stayed with a friend of his and got treated to a night out by another friend who owns a restaurant. If you’re ever within driving distance, please stop by and enjoy one of the most amazing meals of your life! And I’m not just saying that because Mike is a friend; the food blew my husband and I both away and the atmosphere and staff were top notch!

While I was away, as is usually the case, I had little to no time to work on my meditation practice. I found a few minutes on Friday (during my lunch) to practice my Prasarita Padottanasana and to think more about renunciation (vairagya) and my practice (abhyasa). The Day 10 and 11 readings reviewed these concepts further noting that when you are ready to finally let go of something that it feels like a relief because you’ve been doing work up to that point to prepare yourself for that final step. Therefore, it does not feel like a part of you is dying or ending, but rather a birth of a new you. This was prevalent in my life this weekend when I found myself in the middle of an argument. Since allowing myself to let go of my long held grudge, I am finding that I don’t feel the urge to fight about things that will bring me no great resolve….the petty things in life. By focusing on this and incorporating my practice with the mantra I adapted from the Amy Weintraub book, I told myself that I was in control of my emotions and I didn’t get sucked into the argument. I honestly felt no desire to quarrel and was able to just brush the whole thing off and move forward without regret. It filled me with such satisfaction that I felt (as I find many people do when they experience success with one challenge in their life) like I was ready to tackle more and more and more. I started wondering what else I could renounce or let go of and how amazing I could make myself feel without other vices like holding a grudge? Then I reigned in my wild thoughts and remembered that along this journey I need to stay grounded and allow things to happen naturally. Gates notes that if something is a priority, you will find a way to do it. So, I’m waiting for the next big priority to show itself. I don’t want to waste my focus on things that will come and go; whims of change, if you will.

As I say good-bye to these negative feelings, I am also saying good-bye to a pair of old friends….my running shoes:

These guys had had enough beating and had earned themselves approximately 278 workout miles. This does not include all the times I wore the shoes around all day long and during all the activities and teachings for which they were worn. So, over the last 7 1/2 months they have been the real support for helping me get back into things. And remember how I told you I had worn some holes into them…..

Bless those shoes as they now retire to be only worn for yard work and other chores that require a pair of shoes to be sacrificed. Before I left town I found a new pair of friends to share the road with.

My son calls them my watermelon shoes. I realize that my photos are not the best, but I still have a dumb phone and our actual family camera bit the dust back in June. So far they have taught one day of PT workshop and taken me for a short walk with my husband. I’m not getting in as much walking and running as I’d like these last few weeks due to the heat and humidity and travel. But I hope that my new friends are as worth as the old ones of the miles I plan to push on them before the year is out.

This is my first pair of minimalist running shoes (remember me talking about wanting to move toward a barefoot running style? Well I jumped a head a few steps because they were on sale at Omega.). A few things I can tell are different already include the weight of the shoe, the construction is less restricted, and the backs of the shoes come up a little higher so some of my short socks have caused a little bit of rubbing at the first. No matter what, this week these bad boys are hitting the road and I will be back to let you know how my Saucony Virratas (totally sounds like a Sanskrit word, but is Finnish for Flow….that’s yoga-esque all the way!) are holding up. Until then, it’s back to the mat and holding off on “trying to find something more to renounce”.

What things have you been successful at letting go of this year?

Connecting the Dots

I love and cherish the moments in life when everything around you seems to be speaking to the same point and falls in place to help reassert your faith in your choices and beliefs. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it took me two days of meditation, reading, and thoughts to sum it all up in one.

On Monday I did the Day 8 reading which again pressed me to let go. In yoga Vairagya is the essence of letting go and I had spent all weekend looking for the answer on how to let go of the suffering I had kept for so many years. Thanks to Stef over at It’s A Long Story I felt like I could share a few things with you regarding this, now that I feel like I have let go and accepted Vairagya a little deeper into my heart. Please read her post on a similar note here.

A realization came to me last night after reading in the Benjamin Lorr book and trying to sleep. Often I think about my earliest childhood memory and the one that always comes to mind is not of a special moment between a parent and child, it is always me sitting at the dinner table and I can’t exact my age, but assume it’s about 4 years old. It is summer time and my mom turns to me and says (I’m not sure this verbatim, but it’s how I remember it), “Whatever happened to my good little girl?” I feel like this is how I have defined my life since. I know there were great times growing up, but mostly what I remember, from both of my parents, is a need for me to meet a standard….a high standard. My mom and I had many battles over the years. We have jokes between my siblings about her spanking us and I distinctly remember seeing her cry one time when I told her I hated her. I was a stupid kid. My dad and I had a different relationship. I always wanted to make him happy with me despite my despising him at every turn. I wanted to be the best athlete because he told me I wasn’t working hard enough at it. I wanted to be great in school because he was so smart (or so he told us). He told me I was fat and lazy when I was under 100lbs and did most of the work around the house when my mom wasn’t there. He always tried to make me feel inferior in every way. This weekend I shared a story with my father-in-law about how, when I was a freshman in high school I helped my dad get back into college by writing some letters for him and helping him with typing and grammar and the letter formatting. When he was taking a college level English course I would help him type his papers and when he got a low grade (B or C), it was somehow my fault. As I was in high school his and my relationship got even more toxic as his and my mother’s fell apart completely. I started to draw more toward her as she did me, needing me as the other half of her relationship to hold the house together. I was the oldest of 4. At one point my parents were seeing a therapist who told me that it was all my fault that they had problems, that if I had only been a better child that they wouldn’t fight so much. What kind of therapist puts that on a 15 year old girl who has struggled with eating problems and is pretty much the third parent in the household? Many other things happened within the next few years that culminated in my parents’ separation during my senior year and eventual divorce. I have not spoken to my father since Thanksgiving break 1999 and I have no intention of doing so, but in the spirit of letting go, of Vairagya, I choose instead to see each of these items as stepping stones of life. This is the life that built me and brought me here. I feel “a sense of liberation and lightness as we begin to renounce the very things that have held us back.” (p.12, Gates)

Last night I broke open the Lorr book to try and get it finished before it is due on Thursday. His entire Part V: Sickness of the Infinitude (p.191-214) covers narcissism. I thoroughly encourage anyone who has one in their life to spend some time reading this book about Bikram. Still this book doesn’t make me want to become a competitive backbender, but it has pushed me to incorporate more bending poses into my meditative practice and to challenge me in how I looked at meditation. Last night I wanted to be in Camel and the Cow/Cat sequence. I wanted desperately to be able to do the human arch that most of my friends learned perfectly in gymnastics as young girls. It reaffirmed my practice when Lorr says yoga doesn’t make you, it’s a tool to, “amplify my ego….or humble me”. The concept of practice popped up again yesterday in Gates’ book as well. He spoke on Day 9 about Abhyasa, practice, and the commitment to the practice that you choose. It is something driven from within that comes as a natural progression and not from shear will to perform. Also in Day 9 Gates talks personally about his sister’s suicide which coincided with the death of one of mine, and many people’s, favorite actors.

The world around me seemed to be speaking to me all at once. Everything is here to tell you that you are making a good choice by letting go and continuing your practice. In all of this letting go and forgiving of others I read a passage in Lorr’s book by Courtney Mace (an international yoga champion and Bikram teacher) that pulled it all together for me:

“And when you practice any discipline that requires this level of strength, you quickly discover that it requires you to forgive yourself….And to forgive you have to go outside of yourself. Forgiveness, surrender, the ability to see your actions without being at the mercy of those actions, being able to detach from your own expectations….It’s all the same.” (p.223)

 It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, running, Pilates, or anything else that I choose. Because I see myself for who I am and what I am and have let go of all expectations of what that should be. Because I am accepting of myself and what I do. Because I practice and because I can let go of the bad and hold on to the good. Then, I am whole, I am forgiven, I have forgiven, I am free.