Meditation Monday #50 – Wisdom from Within

A lot of Gates’ writing in this section of the book talks about discipline (tapas) and turning inward. In Day 82 he notes that we all start out learning from others, but eventually have to trust our own judgements. Thus is the story of life.

Discipline is about creating our own path by following in the footsteps of others before us. Our parents probably taught us differently and therefore we have a skewed vision of the word. But think about it…..

If I am your parent, teacher, trainer, etc….and I want you to follow what I do, then why would I punish you? Instead I should model and teach you to be my disciple, to follow me, to cultivate your own discipline.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through yoga and I’ve learned a lot from others teaching me. In the end, it’s all about choosing what is right for me in life. This is a lesson I’ve learned along the way in blogging too. The “right way” to blog may not be my way.

So, this week I am taking off to enjoy Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. I am taking my own path. I have a pre-scheduled post for Friday, but other than that you won’t see me here until next Monday. My family, my friends, and myself have taught me that holidays are for enjoying. I encourage you to find joy this week….away from the news, the internet, and other things that force us to disconnect from those directly in front of us.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

Meditation Monday #49 – Answers Within

In the Day 81 Reading Gates writes

….we always have everything we need. When we fail to believe this, we suffer. (p.109)

How many times have I looked inward for the answer, seen it, and still kept searching? External validation doesn’t equal internal happiness…yet, it’s a hard cycle to break.

Today when I was doing my 68 Sun Salutations (more about why I’m not further along on Thursday) I asked my youngest to help me finish them out….because doing them with someone else somehow makes them easier to finish. I suffered and struggled through the first 67 and there it was…ease on number 68 with his little arms and legs moving beside me.

But, I need to listen better to myself because I am sure there are signs that I’m ignoring. This takes discipline….tapas

Are you still stuck in the cycle of seeking answers outside of yourself?

Do you know that the end to your suffering is within you?

What is always easier for you to do with someone else?

Meditation Monday #48 – Paradoxical Yoga

A short post for you today on Tapas….

In the Day 80 Reading Gates writes

The desire that is tapas comes from wanting…a place of lack…yet yoga is about detaching from the outcome (paraphrased p.106)

So, through the practice of yoga we become whole and fill the internal hole.

Sometimes, in my life, there is a disconnect between what I want and what I have…I am always faced with the question of

Can I get what I want or can I be content with what I have?

The answer still hasn’t come to me in all situations, so still I ask.

Desire, ask, believe, receive.

Stella Terrill Mann

 

Meditation Monday #47 – Will and Laughter

It’s Monday again! Did you have a great weekend? I did! We had our annual chili cookout on Saturday night. I squeezed in 46 Sun Salutations and a shower right before people started arriving. It was a wonderful night in which I learned a little something about making chili with dried beans…..don’t cook them with acidic ingredients until they’re soft….or else they’re never going to get soft! If you want my chili recipe you can go way back to here to find it.

But, enough about chili and parties and Sun Salutations for today….today I want to talk about Tapas some more.

Tapas is the will both to look at what we have lost and to see what we can reclaim. (p.106) Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates

So, I’m finally on the Day 79 reading because I have realized that I only have time, right now, for meditation once a week. This is part of my scheduling for my habits and my posting for the blog, so I am keeping things simple. I have looked at what worked in the past and what didn’t and I’m figuring out how to move forward in a more even mannered way.

While I’m constantly trying to move forward and plan ahead….I still need to acknowledge my past and all of the elements that have shaped me to this point. I still need to live in the present. That quote made me feel like a lot of the things on the blog have come together into one. My schedule, my need to meditate, my need to be active, my need to read and recenter myself, my need to write and get it out, and my need to be inspired.

My Word of the Day today is LAUGH. Why? Because laughing has healing powers. I plan to teach Laugh Yoga to the kids I have been teaching on Monday afternoons. They need some serious aspects of yoga, but they also need fun. Laughter is part of life and childhood and freedom! It’s happiness and sadness and anger and success and defeat all in one. The activity I’m most looking forward to doing with them today is to laugh a conversation with all of the emotions.

You should try it with a friend…..laugh the words you’d use to greet someone and laugh the words you’d talk with them about. Imagine that you’re nervous and excited and angry and happy and sad and hopeful and free and burdened. Explore your laugh as fake and genuine. Allow someone to make you laugh today. Laugh at someone or something, but not in a malicious way. Laugh as if no one is watching. And laugh to begin anew…

There were so many things that this quote from the reading made me think of….I could have written for days on this topic and in so many directions. The reading actually starts with a quote from Gloria Steinham about how the karma of her life circumstances have shaped where she is today. This immediately brought me to thoughts of the #MeToo movement that is in all discussions at the moment.

I don’t care to share my own stories of times I’ve felt like I was less because of my situation in life. Instead I choose to use my tapas to move on….to reclaim the life I have yet to live…to choose not to let external forces define me. I acknowledge the journey, I support those of you who have taken a similar path, I laugh to the future because it’s going to be a good one!

Meditation Monday #46 – Trying

In the Day 78 reading Gates writes about being emboldened to try new things, but knowing that someone is there if we fail….someone to lean on and support us….like our yoga teachers.

I wonder, with all of the new things I’m trying to accomplish in my life with habits, can I be there for myself if I fail? In what ways can I pick myself up again? Do I embrace myself with an unconditional heart?

This is a topic I’ve written about before.

Saturday I didn’t do my Sun Salutations. I just kept putting them off all day until the day was over. I thought about getting out of bed and doing them, but I let myself not. Sunday I picked up where I left off and now I have 1 day to “make-up”. So far, my attempt to create habits and discipline….Tapas….in my life also means that I need to discipline myself to love myself despite my stumbles.

Can you?

Meditation Monday #45 – Tapas: The Spirit of Inquiry

Gray Mondays seem to be a theme in my life. This one is being caused by the outskirts of Irma. Irma means goddess of war or noble and will likely be a retired name on the Hurricane List after this year. Her spirit will live in infamy.

What about your spirit?

Spirit is a hard topic to wrap one’s head around sometimes. Sometimes we put spirit in the same basket as soul and other times it’s attitude. Some people believe they have a spirit animal (I guess T would say mine is the gazelle). I remember our nanny telling our youngest that he was her spirit animal when he suggested that they bake cupcakes after her car had been broken in to.

I picked back up the Gates book today and read Day 77 about Tapas in which he defines it as “the spirit of inquiry”. And I journaled

“having the heart of an explorer” Gates writes about tapas. My mental health and the desire for it keeps pushing me forward to learn more in life. It’s part of this final month of My Best Body Happiness Project. It’s about a “willingness to work hard” and in my physical health, in my eating changes, I work hard without developing hardened and steadfast rules. Rather I work hard to achieve this feeling of “honestly knowing myself”, my successes and my limits. I don’t know that I have the “desire for spiritual health” the way that my grandmother does; the way that some of my friends express; and even how a a few of my students do, but I know more and more each day about what I stand for and still seek “to know more”.

So, what about you? Are you practicing Tapas?

What is your heart’s desire?

Your drive?

Your spirit?

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.