Meditation Monday #56 – How to Meditate – Body Position

I’ve been going strong on meditation now for the past couple of weeks. I am using the Insight Timer app (and no, I’m not sponsored by them….I don’t even have a paid account) and have now worked my way fully through the Self-Esteem section for Beginners. But, when I meditate, I break the rules a little……
Continue reading “Meditation Monday #56 – How to Meditate – Body Position”

Meditation Monday #44 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Anandamaya)

We are at the deepest or most subtle layer of your Koshas as we enter our final post on this topic (for now). The Anandamaya layer is often called the blissful layer or sheath; however, the bliss doesn’t necessarily mean a feeling of happiness, but rather a feeling of wholeness. This is sometimes referred to as the spiritual self or the true self…..almost like your secret identity that no one else can see unless you let them.

I wonder……how many of you live in your Anandamaya layer? Can you truly be your complete self? Your true self? Without reservation?

I know that I have moments when this is true for me. Pacheco asks the following questions:

  • How am I the hero of my own journey?
  • How am I following my bliss?

I think that at this point in my life, with my work, my kids, my training, and this blog I am as much the hero of my own journey as I have ever been. Am I perfect? Not by a long shot. There is so much more I wish I could do with my life; I plan to do with my life; I long to do with my life. There is a standard I have not yet reached. But, I am more aware of what each of that means at this point and am at a point of great understanding that the power to achieve or fail at this is within me and my ability to connect with others. I am following my bliss….I may not have caught up to it yet, but I’m still following along.

Pacheco also asks:

  • What is one act of spiritual generosity (small or large) that I can do for someone else?

In a world in which we are always looking for what will make us happy, we often forget to be of service to others. This is why I love to teach. I feel like I am sharing something that makes me feel so whole, so complete, so blissful with others while also giving a gift to myself. I hope that by reading this post you will consider what would make you truly whole in life and then start pursuing it. That by doing that you will consider the great gifts that you have to serve others. That by serving others you show them a way to make themselves be the hero of their own journey. And, that through all of this we create a world in which it’s no longer scary to live in the Anandamaya layer.

Over to you…..

Meditation Monday #43 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Vijnanamaya)

Who am I?

What is my purpose?

These are two of the questions that Pacheco’s book addresses when it comes to the Vijnanamaya layer of the 5 Koshas. The Jnana path of yoga is the path of knowledge and that makes sense as the Vijnanamaya layer is the intellectual layer.

In the practice of Jnana yoga we seek to understand deeper who we are and why we are here. This is a practice I have described before using the Dharmachakra Mudra. Asking, “What comes next?” “Why am I here?” and “How do I serve?” are all part of that deeper exploration and the path toward enlightenment.

The third question that Pacheco asks is

When does my intellectual layer thrive?

This is more important to me at this moment than the first two questions. Tomorrow is my last day teaching at CFCC for awhile. I don’t know for sure if I will return there, but I hope to. I have been teaching yoga there for the past 3 years and with each successive semester I have learned a little more about myself and about yoga. I have been growing intellectually through my practice and through teaching. That will be going away this fall as I transition to teaching a different type of curriculum at UNCW.

Does that mean that I won’t be learning anything new or anything new about myself? Not at all, but it won’t be yoga driven and I worry that I will lose a lot of that deep and meaningful self-study. I have new things to learn in order to teach these new classes and I will be challenging myself in a different physical way. I will also have access to a pool, so I will be challenging myself to relearn how to swim for fitness.

The Wellness Inventory program that I’ve been working through this summer has been a new learning experience and it has encouraged me to set new goals for connecting to the many different aspects of my own wellness. One thing that I have been motivated to do is meditate more and to spend time breathing and playing with my kids. I’m not as successful at these elements (so far) as I had hoped, but I hope that teaching this will also help affirm these practices outside of yoga for me. Remember, I’m an Obliger and it may help me to commit to changes by committing to my students.

Finally, my intellectual layer thrives when I’m reading. I’ve started a new Gretchen Rubin book and I hope to find more and more time to read. I have some introspection going on with that reading as well and I’m learning more about myself and how to be the best version of me I can be. So, now I ask

What is it that helps you grow intellectually?

Books? Meditation?

How do you learn?

Meditation Monday #42 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Manomaya)

I swear….I sit down to the computer to write on Monday and what happens? The skies open and the rain falls down! This is the third Monday in a row in which it is raining as I’m writing. Odd since I write at different times of day, but it keeps our theme congruent.

Did you have a great weekend? I have been a little under the weather and went to see the Nurse Practitioner this morning. Nothing major, but it made me want to lay around all day Saturday. I think we’re supposed to have days like that sometimes. However, it makes me bored with my life because I’m so used to doing.

And today is Monday and I’m doing what I can.

I like that phrase and use it often….doing what I can. Why do I like it so much? Because it tells me that I don’t always need to do it all. Hopefully I’ll have a little more of a post on that for you tomorrow. But, for today, what I can and want to do is to talk about Manomaya. Manomaya is the third layer of the body in yoga. Manas is a term often used for the mind, so some people translate Manomaya to be the mental sheath. Others consider the many functions of the mind and split it between the intellectual sheath, which I’ll write about next week, and the emotional sheath.

I found this heat map of the body during different emotions and it made me think about how all parts of you are connected when it comes to emotions. Think about the emotion of anger. Even when I just think of anger my teeth clench and my jaw hurts. My eyes feel like they narrow and my face scowls. I feel hot….red hot.

Now let’s flip the coin and think about love. When I think about love my face relaxes into a state of serenity. My breath heaves in my chest as if I’m full of life. If I think about love for my children I feel warm and relaxed. If I think about love and passion for my husband I feel my stomach a flutter.

Pacheco’s book asks the following questions of Manomaya:

  • How do I want to feel?
  • Which people, places, and activities nurture and balance my emotional life?
  • What does emotional balance feel like in my body?
  • How do I stand, sit, move, and breathe?

I especially like the first and last questions for today. How do I want to feel? It says that we have somewhat of a choice. Think about the exercise I just did with thinking about anger and love. Try it for yourself….think about fear. Think about envy. Think about surprise. What revelations do you have by just thinking an emotion?

How do I stand, sit, move, and breathe? Well, that last exercise can tell me how to answer this question. When I think about pride I smile, I sit a little taller, I move and stand with confidence….my head held high. I suppose if I felt pride I would breathe a little easier. In Chinese medicine and other practices we see that the body is connected. Even if you look at the body from a purely mechanical standpoint you see that there is a kinetic chain and that when one part is broken it effects the efficiency of the other parts.

So, consider this, if I can choose how I feel and in doing so choose how I live, why would I not choose happiness? Obviously it goes deeper than simple choice in some instances, but it’s a jumping off point. For me, today, I choose to look out the window in awe of the rain instead of in gloom. I choose to smile. I choose to sit tall. I choose to breathe easily.

Take a moment to choose an emotion.

Let me know how you live in that emotion.

Meditation Monday #41 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Pranamaya)

I swear that all Mondays are rainy ones now and it puts a real damper on my running…especially when I can’t wake up in the morning because my 4yo threw up at 3am and I had to do the usual clean up from that nonsense. Well, after that amazingly long run on sentence, how was your weekend? I went to Myrtle Beach on Saturday to see Chevelle at the House of Blues.

The House of Blues is a great venue for watching concerts and offers a fun “pass the line” feature if you eat at their restaurant. The restaurant is not super vegan/veg friendly, but I also said that we weren’t being strict about that when we go out to eat…..and I paid for it later anyway. I did, however, find myself choosing options that contained more veggies than I used to go for when I was out to eat. I ended up with a spicy turkey burger that was packed full of peppers (and sodium). I really wanted to try the veg sandwich with eggplant or the house salad, but opted for spicy this time around. Spicy is probably one of my favorite flavors, but you have to make sure it’s not too spicy because then you can’t enjoy it.

You may wonder why I’m spending all of this time talking about food? Well, that’s because food is a source of energy. I talk about this all of the time when I teach the PT Workshop and how language has changed. Diet used to mean the culmination of all the food and beverages you consumed. Now it means something restrictive to your eating/drinking patterns. Organic really means containing carbon (hence most food should technically be organic), but now means grown without added pesticides/hormones/genetically modified something. And calorie….or actually kilocalorie….is a measure of energy; not something to be dreaded and counted.

Energy is the essence behind the second of the Kosha layers: Pranamaya. You may have read some posts here on OGB about Pranayama, aka breathing techniques. Pranayama is often translated from Sanskrit to mean: Expansion of the Life Force. This makes sense as prana is your energy and I don’t know anyone who can survive without breathing. The Pranamaya layer represents all of those things that keep you alive. So, where do you get your energy from?

Some yogis claim to go without eating for days or weeks because they just soak up energy from the sun, nature, and sharing it from those around us. I’m not sure if I’m that deep of a yogini, but I do believe that we feed off of each other’s energy. I’ve written about that some in regards to Asteya and stealing from other’s energy.

The energy layer is also represented, in yoga and other practices, as the Chakra level. I keep meaning to write more about the Chakras, but haven’t gotten to that part of our practice together yet. My Yoga I class studies the Chakras and talk about the ways in which their energies are balanced from the most primal level (having enough to eat, clothing, shelter, security, etc) to the highest level of enlightenment (the goal of any good yoga practice).

In our Hatha (physical) yoga practice we often focus on the Pranamaya layer through those breathing exercises, but it is also important to think deeper. Ask yourself:

  • What energizes and inspires me? Remember that the word inspiration means to breath in as well as to fill with an urge to do something.
  • How do I want people to feel when I leave the room? Think about the energy that you exude.
  • What is one behavior I can change that would benefit my Pranamaya layer? Think about ways that you steal your own energy.

These questions are adaptations of the questions found in Pacheco’s book Do Your OM Thing. It’s a great resource for getting deeper into the Koshas. For me, the answers are

  • Practicing yoga, reading new books/blog posts, and exercising because those things help me reach toward enlightenment. They fill me with the desire to learn more, push harder, and learn to accept.
  • I want people to feel happy in my presence and like I am a trustworthy person. I want people to feel calm and centered in my presence, but also inspired to learn more in what I share/teach with/to them.
  • And the behavior I have changed most recently is becoming more aware of how my food fuels my body and my soul. I am still not fully committed to eliminating all animal products all of the time (don’t think I can sacrifice my honey in my tea yet), but I’m making the change for the right reason for me….and that reason is for me and my health. It’s for my Pranamaya layer.

One of my goals for the Wellness Training I am doing for the fall is to take 20 minutes once a week to breathe. So far I’ve fallen short of this goal, but the goal is one that would help my Pranamaya layer and I encourage you to also find 20 minutes this week to just breathe and contemplate your energy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on/response to the questions posed above.

Meditation Monday #40 – How to Meditate: The 5 Koshas (Annamaya)

Welcome to another rainy Monday at the beach. Do you know I haven’t taken my kids to the beach at all this summer? How terrible is that?! Last summer our beach days were play dates and there were many of them, but this summer our beach buddy is also my running buddy and play dates have been of a different nature. *Sadness*

Alright, enough about the rain….today I’m here to talk to you about meditation again. Why? Because it’s something that I’m making a priority in my life these days. Over the weekend I was in Asheville teaching the NETA PT Review Workshop to a great group of people at the Woodfin YMCA. They were wonderful to hang with and chat with and to work with. I love it when I have great weekends away like that!

I had intended to go and scout the 8K course for the race this fall after I got done teaching on Saturday, but it was raining….and I had left my car windows open….and my lunch from Whole Foods was disappointing. I had also missed breakfast and hadn’t drank hardly anything all day. I think the run would’ve sucked if I had attempted it.

Instead I chose to go back to my creepy hotel (don’t stay off of Tunnel Road) and work on the Inclusivity Training and some NETA writing. I experienced some seriously great meditation practices in this course that I cannot wait to share with you! And that motivated me to start back up with the How to Meditate series again today.

So now, after that seriously unnecessary introduction to this post, I want to talk to you about Koshas….which is not a slang way of talking about Jewish foods or pickles. Koshas are the five layers or sheaths of the body; the outermost of which is called Annamaya or the “Food Layer”.

First off, this has nothing to do with the food you’ll eat (we’ll talk about that layer later), but rather with the fact that we all must die someday and (if buried) eventually become food for the earth and other creatures on it. We liken these layers to nesting dolls with each successively deeper layer representing a deeper part of the self. However, unlike nesting dolls, the layers cannot be separated.

Annamaya is most often cared for where people start their yoga practice….with Asana (postural practice). Both Asana and Annamaya deal with the muscles, the bones, the flesh. Consider your Annamaya layer and ask these questions from Rebecca Pacheco’s book:

  • What physical experiences nourish me?
  • When am I most comfortable in my skin?

For me the obvious answer for both is exercise. But, during meditation I often find more.

When am I most comfortable in my body? When I’m taking care of it. And that includes eating well, getting enough sleep, making time to move and rest. Not just exercise, but when I’m playing with my kids and when I’m not thinking about the body and all the ways in which I’ve judged it in the past.

What physical experiences nourish me? The little things like putting lotion on, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth with a new toothbrush, drinking warm tea, wrapping up in a cozy blanket, hugging my children, snuggling close to my husband, holding his hand, laughing with friends.

My Happiness Project is all about my body and I started with health and now I’m working on eating (again), but I am not neglecting the Annamaya layer in this process. Perhaps you should give your Annamaya layer a little more attention this week?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on/response to the questions posed above.

Meditation Monday #37 – How to Meditate: The 5 Kleshas

Ugh! What a weekend! I arrived home….to my house….around 4am and got the minimum 3 hours of sleep before my day started as usual. This is one trip that I’m not all that excited to write about. Instead I’ve decided to leave it in the past and move right back into Meditation Monday!

How is meditation going for you these days? Mine is a little strained. I started thinking about how hard meditation can be for some people. For some it’s the sitting still, for others the quiet, for yet others the being alone with their thoughts that gets them. If you read back to the first four posts on How to Meditate you learn a lot about how easy it can be to start small. But, what happens when we’ve been working at it for awhile and we can’t seem to find the answers we’re seeking?

In the last few segments of this series we’ve talked about the Four Aims of Life, but there’s something that can get in the way of understanding and living your path and that is a Klesha. Continue reading “Meditation Monday #37 – How to Meditate: The 5 Kleshas”

Meditation Monday #36 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Moksha)

It’s Monday again and it’s raining. Raining because it’s spring and spring flowers need rain. Raining because it’s April and April showers bring May flowers. Raining because it was very dry and my rain barrels were empty. Raining and spring bring about changes and I have a lot of them to write about…..but I’m saving that for later. Today I want to end our discussion on the Four Aims of Life. Previously I have written about duty, prosperity, and pleasure. Today we’re going to talk about Moksha: Freedom. Continue reading “Meditation Monday #36 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Moksha)”

Meditation Monday #35 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Kama)

It’s Easter Monday….for some of us…..and it’s always bittersweet in my mind. The joy of the holiday still resonates with me: time spent with my children, good food with family and friends, and beautiful weather. However, it’s over and now it’s back to daily life. Today was my son’s first day back from Spring Break and it didn’t go horribly, but not exactly smooth either. I believe the phrase, “I don’t HAVE to go to school” was uttered, but was quickly corrected.

Do you ever have something that you don’t want to do?

Well, that’s kind of our topic for today’s meditation: Kama = Pleasure. Continue reading “Meditation Monday #35 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Kama)”

Meditation Monday #34 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Artha)

The second Purushartha is a complicated one in yoga. The reason being that so many people believe that yogis are akin to St. Francis of Assisi….renouncing wealth, giving up all worldly possessions, and communing with nature. However, yoga doesn’t ask us to be martyrs nor saints. Instead, yoga says that we should aim for Artha or prosperity, abundance, and success in our lives.

But why?

Continue reading “Meditation Monday #34 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Artha)”