Meditation Monday #51 – Impromptu Meditations

Last Thursday my youngest didn’t want to go to school….it’s preschool and to some people that doesn’t “really” matter. However, I have to go to work on the days that he goes to school. I specifically scheduled work while he was in school so that I don’t have to have childcare any more. I also pay for his preschool and it’s not cheap. At preschool he’s learning A LOT of important lessons and by making him go to school (even when he doesn’t want to), I’m trying to teach him another lesson: sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.

On Thursdays I usually workout after I am done teaching. Sun salutations or swimming are the norm, but this Thursday I had another matter to deal with: parking ticket. I went to the parking office and appealed my ticket. I won. It was a good day. This left me some extra time before the little guy was done with school. Because he hadn’t wanted to go in the first place I had promised I would pick him up early. Once I arrived at his school I thought about the importance of two things: keeping my promise and his need to be in school the full time. I opted to pick him up only slightly early (I’m usually one of the last parents to arrive for pick-up) to meet both.

So, I took a seat on the bench outside the school. It was a nice day and no one was around. I sat in Sukhasana (easy pose), closed my eyes, turned my face up to the sun, and started an impromptu meditation. I haven’t spent enough time meditating lately. I’ve done a lot of journal writing, which has been good for my soul, but is not the same thing as meditating. I decided that day that I needed to just listen to the world around me and within me.

In general I recommend that you have a focus for meditation before beginning. However, I know the need for impromptu meditation is strong; especially in the world we live in today. So, I encourage you to take the time today to be in the moment. Give yourself the present of impromptu meditation…..maybe even this minute. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and listen. Listen to the sounds around you (or lack there of) and be aware of your present surroundings. Listen to the voices in your head (don’t think about them, but hear them passing through). Listen to your body and all the things you ignore that are both good and bad. And, if like me, allow yourself to smile or cry or both.

Life is tough for me these days….hence the reason I stepped away from the blog mostly. However, life is also life and being alive is good. Impromptu meditation reminded me that warm sun, the sound of garbage trucks/traffic flowing by, and the ability to breathe freely are all great things in life because it’s life itself.

Happy Monday! You’re alive!

Please feel free to share your impromptu meditation moments or any other thoughts in the comments section below.

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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 #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 #39 – Training

Welcome to Monday afternoon! For many of you tomorrow is the big American holiday in which we celebrate our forefathers’ declaration of independence from a tyrant ruler. For others of us it is an excuse to get drunk and eat grilled food while ignoring the fact that you didn’t put on any sunscreen and are wearing a flag. Still, for others of us it is an opportunity for reflection on what it means to be an American. I plan to do some of that last one especially with all that has been in the news of late.

Since last week I have been working slowly through two trainings that are helping me with my meditation goals. The first is an Inclusivity Training offered by AIM Healthy U and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts. It is a yoga training to help me better discover the ways in which I have privilege, power, and bias in my teaching; and how to turn that into more inclusive yoga teaching. I’m a little more than halfway through the course and hope to do a full evaluation when I am finished, but one greatest things I’ve written down from this course is:

No matter how your body gets there; you’re still doing the yoga

I am also doing a Wellness Training in preparation for teaching this fall. I plan to write a lot more about that in the coming weeks. For this week I have set three action goals:

  • Do something active every day (I have successfully been active for 13 days straight including a run this morning)
  • Meditate 3x/week (I’ve been doing a lot of meditating and self reflection with these two courses)
  • Play a game or go for a bike ride with my kids at least once per week (we did a bike ride last week and I need to spend more time in play in my life)

All of this has fed into the work I did last week in the Meditations from the Mat book with Tapas and discipline. To create discipline is to create health the reading told me, but it also makes you feel like you’re going backwards. You mourn the things you lose during change, even if you want to lose them. Each of these three goals, by completing these two trainings, by just doing the yoga….I am creating a structure of health in my life. This, along with my slow food changes, are leading me to the point where I feel like I in the moment of allowing true self to emerge and burn brightly. I am leaving behind so much more than I could write about in one post.

Next week I hope to get back to writing about the How to Meditate series, but before then I ask you….

What are you changing in your life?

How are you creating discipline: health?

What will you never have again if not this life you once knew?

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)”

Meditation Monday #33 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Dharma)

Last week I started back up with the How to Meditate series on the blog. I’m giving you a little insight into the deeper content of Yoga that we cover in my Yoga II course at CFCC. So, for the next four weeks we’ll be talking about Purusharthas or the Four Aims of Life. Some will translate this Sanskrit word to mean the soul’s purpose or the goals of human existence….so we’re going to take them one by one in meditation as they hold so much weight.

How do you have a successful, satisfying, and balanced existence in this world?

Our first signpost on this path to human fulfillment is Aredharma (more commonly referred to as Dharma) or our DUTY in life. This element of our study also refers to our ethics, our truth, and our responsibilities in life. This ties in nicely with our third chakra and our power to choose and to stand up for what we believe in…..but that’s a discussion for another day. Continue reading “Meditation Monday #33 – How to Meditate: The Four Aims of Life (Dharma)”

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”