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It's been awhile; how are you all feeling now that we are in the heart of the Spring season and creeping closer to Summer?
I was just back in North Dakota visiting family for a few days and it was MUCHO cold; like 38 degrees in the morning cold! Chicagoans, East Coasters, what's it been like in your neck of the woods? Fellow West Coasters: how has Spring felt for you?
I got to thinking about where our Modern Yogi Wisdom conversation on Ayurveda, Understanding our systems as elements, and the dynamic practice of allowing those elements to balance. I'd hoped to make this a video, but my computer felt otherwise (it kept disconnecting me!). Maybe we'll do a follow up video convo :).
I'd been feeling pretty balanced before leaving, but then a few plane rides across the country (MASSIVE AIR/SPACE= VATA!!) and a rapid shift in climate (about 20 degrees cooler and much more MOISTURE- Cold, Damp= KAPHA!) left me with some chest congestion and draining sinuses (Kapha) and achy, cracking, stiff joints, along with increased anxiety and broken sleep (Vata).
And the question that arose for me was: "When you notice MORE THAN ONE element out of balance, WHICH ONE do you balance FIRST?"
From what I've read and learned in Ayurveda and Eastern elemental theories, we often START with the most SUBTLE element: air, space, VATA.
Because, the subtler elements are more DYNAMIC; it is easier for them to slide in and out of balance quickly. And because Vata is the energy of MOVEMENT, it can excite/deplete other elements, making them appear imbalanced in their own right. So, one way to begin working with your system to create balance is to balance Vata, first.
Well, let's think about the qualities of Vata: light, mobile, dry, cold, quick.
So to balance this energy, we can intentionally draw in opposing qualities. We can SLOW DOWN our pace and REST MORE. We can layer our bodies, ESPECIALLY our feet and heads (socks and hats/headbands/scarves) to keep them warm. We can do activities that bring warmth into the body, but in a slow, steady way: walking, "slow flow" yoga, tai chi, qi gong. We can drink our water and other beverages at room temperature or warmer. We can decrease raw, frozen, chilled foods and increase warm, cooked foods and add in a bit of oil: olive, sunflower, coconut, ghee/butte (if dairy is tolerated) to lubricate the dry/popping/aching joints.
Do this intentionally for a few days and notice how your system responds; what new messages is it sending you?
I hope you find this LOONNG post helpful, and PLEASE feel free to comment and share any insights or questions that arise.
With so much love to each of you!!
P.S. Awesome photo cred goes to Eat Taste Heal <3
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“I shall show you how the Dhamma [teaching] is similar to a raft, being for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of grasping…” - Teachings of the Buddha
We all come across systems or teachings in our lives that REALLY shake things up for us, often times in a really positive way. Maybe we find a new method of food preparation or a new way to move our bodies or a new breathing or journaling technique. It lights us up! We are IN. We start practicing it, pouring over books about it, joining blogs and groups for it. And it FEELS really good...for a time.
At some point in the journey, it may not feel so good. And we may write it off as “lack of motivation” or “just being tired”, feeling “spread too thin”, having an “off day”. And that may be all that it is. And then maybe we continue to feel “off”, because maybe we are taking the positive experience we remember having with it and creating the expectation that it will ALWAYS BE THAT WAY. That what we needed at ONE POINT IN TIME must also be what we need NOW, even if that is not the case, even though we feel energetically in a very different place. And, as we’ve probably all experienced, there’s a frustration that comes when expectations aren’t met (even subconscious ones!).
There’s also a great deal of joy and possibility that comes from meeting the moment EXACTLY where we are at, if we can open to it and be fully present with it. And if we can release the grips of the mind saying that one certain way is the “good” or “better” way (because it’s safe, familiar...you know the story). In this, I am not saying that setting a long-term goal and seeing it through isn’t a beneficial practice; it absolutely can be. Visions carried out over time are at the foundation of many of the wonderful luxuries we enjoy today, and we can learn a great deal about our tendencies in PROCESS. What I do believe I need to remember, the message that I am sharing with you, is the necessity of BALANCE in seeing something through with how it feels on a soul/intuitive level.
Is it still serving the intention I set out with?
Do I know what that intention is/was?
Has the intention shifted?
Might I benefit from shifting the approach to working toward that intention?
Is there another way to see this?
These are the piercing questions that take us to the heart of Yes/No fairly quickly (if the mind doesn’t get in the way and convince us otherwise!). And it is in this space beneath the mind that we can tune into the visceral response created in our systems by considering each option.
Which creates more space?
Which one feels like relief?
Which options does the mind try to convince a “yes” to while the body contracts and irritation arises?
WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY WANT IN THIS MOMENT?
(What would you choose if there was no mind to say “right” or “wrong”?)
And then guess what? You don’t HAVE to change anything! You can continue to take the same actions, regardless of what came forward. But most likely you’ve touched in with your Heart Wisdom, with your Truth, and your desires have become more clear. Honoring them takes practice. Ease into it. Give it a try.
Perhaps it is time to let go.
To try something new.
The raft has served you.
Now approach the New Shore.
You’re not lost.
You’re not in DOUBT.
YOU. ARE. FREE.
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Spring is in the air; we can tangibly FEEL it now. Even my family and friends in North Dakota have been telling me that they’ve seen multiple days in a row above 50 degrees! The sun shines longer, the light of day stretches further, and often when we are aligned with the rhythms of the Mother Nature, we begin to feel a lightness and renewed sense of energy along with her. The change of the seasons can also be a difficult time, as they represent TRANSITION, and our human systems tend to like to maintain constancy and consistency! As the seasons change, we are also asked to change: our routines, our diets, our activity levels, our focus.
Spring is the season of CLEANSING AND CLEARING OUT. We purge what can feel like darkness, heaviness,and dullness of winter, and through the process, create a lightness for creation of new (just as Mother Nature begins to create sprouts of new life in the ground). In our society, it seems the most top-of-mind way to cleanse is through diet alone: juicing, fasting, and kitchree cleanse programs flood our inboxes. While this can be a worthwhile endeavor if we are feeling congestion, mucous, bodily or mental heaviness, there are other ways to cleanse and lighten up.
On a flight home at the end of the month, I was listening to the “Kate and Mike Show” podcast with @katenorthrup about how to “cut through the noise” of the internet by simplifying who we follow. They acknowledged how we are BOMBARDED with information and stimulation full time if we allow it to be, and how we can easily get swept up in the tidal wave of societal “consumption”. And just as consuming too much food can create heaviness in our systems, so too can overconsumption of media create heaviness and confusion. Bottom line: to create balance, we need to BALANCE consumption with creation- how often do we actually TAKE ACTION on the information that we consume? How often do we PAUSE after a video or email, and reflect on how it impacted us? THIS IS THE PRACTICE. Kate recommended that we choose three: podcasts, blogs, or the media of your choice. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a general guideline to create ease in your clearing out process. Here are the steps:
I hope this practice serves to lighten your burdens, create internal space and freedom, and clearer focus.
P.S. If you are interested in deepening your practice of Dynamic Balance, please JOIN OUR NEXT MODERN YOGI WISDOM GATHERING on AYURVEDIC DIET & LIFESTYLE
P.P.S You can listen to our previous discussions HERE
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"I can't believe I'm HERE again." "How come everyone else can seem to keep up and keep it all together and I can't?" "What's WRONG with me?"
We can be SO good at beating ourselves when we are already down! I found myself doing that today. I've been experiencing some Adrenal depletion which I experience as unsteadiness in energy levels. One day I might feel great; the next- I feel like I've been "hit by a truck". It's definitely proving to be a potent lesson in PACING: in how I might desire to move and be actively involved in daily life, AND acknowledging that I might only have so much to give at any one given time and intentionally CHOOSING from that place.
While this morning started with a thought spiral that was weighing me down, my morning journaling brought out a few potent reminders in how we contribute to our own suffering; with that remembrance, I didn't feel so heavy and I actually shifted into love and self-compassion.
In the video below I share the 5 WAYS WE CONTRIBUTE TO OUR OWN SUFFERING and how we can begin to soften these tendencies and move into greater peace and acceptance of all of who we are.
I send it out with deep Love, patience, and an embrace of exactly where we are,
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“We’ve all heard the saying, the road to hell is paved with the best intentions”, said my meditation teacher at a recent class. “So what is most important to you? What is the difference between an intention and a goal? What drives our behavior?” As we continued to reflect and discuss, she offered a couple of really beautiful analogies:
What a relief to feel like it’s ok to be human! It sure makes our practice of Awareness a warmer and more open one, and me a more willing participant, feeling like I am not only acknowledging but also embracing all aspects of the mind, and it’s ways. Another thing she said is that we take far too much self-responsibility for the mind and it’s generation of thoughts; feeling like we are some how choosing to bring up these things that often feel painful and shameful. In actuality, the mind is it’s own entity. We could spend eons trying to decode the mind and understand why and where these thoughts spring up from, and sometimes, this becomes a worthwhile practice. But often, we can just choose to WITNESS the mind, to hold it and it’s contents with loving awareness, remembering that we are not “that” and holding space for the thoughts to pass. We can do this, witness it all, while keeping our inner peace (with continued practice).
UPCOMING WISDOM GATHERING: Tuesday, March 14th, at 4:30 PM PST!! Our Topic: Intro to Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle- How to Maintain Rhythmic Balance through the Changing Seasons. JOIN HERE
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Sat Nam Everyone!
How do you respond when you feel triggered? What are your default tendencies? Do you get "icy"- cold and distant from those around you (even though you really want love!)? Do you get "firey" and allow a 'word vomit' of emotions to come up and out? Do you look for a way out?
Or do you SOFTEN, COOL yourself and create a WARM, SAFE space around you?
Today I wanted to share with you a profound TRIGGER I experienced recently, and the practice that shifted me out of PAIN and ISOLATION and back into LOVING CONNECTION.
My husband (AJ) and I had planned to go on a weekend trip to a Mountain town a couple of hours from our home in California. We were going to leave Friday afternoon and be there until Sunday afternoon. I was really looking forward to it, and found myself visioning the beautiful natural surroundings, hiking trails, books and tea, and a retreat from technology.
Friday afternoon my husband calls to let me know that he had miscalculated CA traffic, and he wouldn't get home until later Friday evening. Feeling a bit disappointed, I felt into it, and allowed it to pass as I explored how I would like to spend the afternoon and evening that had just opened up for me. We got up early Saturday morning, packed up our car and dogs, and headed out! It was a beautiful drive and a beautiful morning! There were a few traffic jams and detours, but we chose to focus on the beautiful snow-capped mountains and placid lake.
We check in and drive up the small road to our cabin; it's completely BLOCKED off by snow! AJ clears a bit of a path with his shoes to get into the cabin for a shovel and lets our dogs out. He comes back out and says, "You better go check it out; I don't think we can stay here." I walk in to a cabin with dirty floors, mouse droppings, and a thermostat that won't budge from 41 degrees; meanwhile one dog pukes and another pees and poops on the floor! I feel it rising, breathe, and look for cleaning supplies. I found vinegar and another cleaner but no towels or paper towels. I remember I have a roll in the car and go to work cleaning up while seeing if the heat would kick in.
After about 30 minutes of cleaning and shoveling, we decide to go to the check-in center to see what our options are. Ultimately, we decided to pack up our car and drive back home.
I noticed myself feeling many sensations: disappointment that reality wasn't matching up with my fantasy of the trip; guilt for having expectations in the first place and for not being able to let go of it; inferiority to AJ who seemed at peace with the outcome; and also a peace and freedom from taking action and finding a solution, rather than feeling stuck in our situation. After plans to go hiking the next morning went similarly, I met my 'breaking point'. I felt upset, challenged, disappointment, and scarcity of time left to "retreat" before the week began. While AJ was content to lounge on the couch watching TV, I was resisting and feeling stuck in lack. We began to argue about the weekend and how we responded to it and allowed it to drive us even further apart.
Lying in my bedroom, feeling hurt and isolated, I listened to talk given by Lola Medicine Keeper as part of my mentor Sora Surya No's 21-day practice offering. Talk about DIVINE TIMING! Lola beautifully and gently shared that while it is the LAST THING SHE WANTS TO DO IN THE MOMENT, it is her practice to SOFTEN when she feels really triggered; to see what her body/mind/heart REALLY need in the moment and to honor the needs of those around her in a LOVING, GENTLE way. And though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I opened myself to trying this way of responding.
When I took the time to examine and understand what I desired in that moment, it wasn't to "be strong and independent", it wasn't to go "run it off"; what I wanted was for AJ to come hug me, tell me that everything was alright, that despite how I was feeling and had reacted to the weekend, that he loved me, and that it was ok to feel all of what I was feeling. THEN I TOOK IT A STEP FURTHER. Rather than staying in my room HOPING that AJ would make my fantasy a reality, I OFFERED IT TO HIM. I walked out to the living room, gave him a big hug and said, "I love you. And I want you to know that no matter how you are feeling about this weekend or me or the situation, it's all ok. I am here for you, and if there is anything you need from me, please let me know."
IMMEDIATE SHIFT. The ice melted; we both felt safe and open. He hugged me and loved me back and I fully felt and received it. We spent the rest of the evening feeling really connected, which was the WHOLE POINT of going to the cabin!
The practice of SOFTENING; simple, NOT EASY... AT FIRST, just like any other practice that runs counter to our habitual patterns of responding. But we hold the infinite capacity for change within us. It starts with SOFTENING TOWARD OURSELVES. When you feel especially triggered, can you PAUSE, BREATHE, and ask yourself "What do I need right now?" Perhaps a glass of cool water, a calming tea, a few rounds of cooling left-nostril or sitali breathing. Do your best to take responsibility for and balance your own energy. Allow yourself a few moments to soften (without running away) and articulate what you need. Then offer your softness to those around you and do your best to honor their needs without expectation. While the mind calls this GIVING, when offered from the heart, it also FEELS like RECEIVING; Love moves in both directions.
Finally, notice how you feel afterward. How does your body feel? Your energy? The space around you?
If this is a practice that you are working on or interesting in working on yourself, may you feel the LOVE and SUPPORT of myself and this community holding you.
PLEASE share your experiences as they move through you, and we'll continue to practice together.
With SO MUCH LOVE,
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This past weekend, I attended a workshop on “Mastering the Mind”. It was focused on understanding the subtle forces of the mind that in Yoga we talk about as the “Gunas”. There are three energies or qualities: tamas, a sticky energy that keeps us stuck in a thought spiral and is associated with emotions such as depression, fear, hopelessness; rajas, a fiery energy that moves us into action/reaction with emotions like anger, irritation, over-stimulation and overwhelm; and the middle ground, sattva, which brings us into peace, harmony, clarity and love. The interesting part about these subtle forces of the mind, is that we often ebb and flow from one to the other quite quickly and perhaps without conscious effort. The teacher gave the example of getting into an argument with a loved one which may have sparked passion, rajas, and then left sadness, tamas, in the aftermath, and then rajas as you talk about it with your friend, etc. The one quality that seems to take conscious effort to find is sattva. For most of us, a sattvic mind isn’t a continuous resting place, but we do experience it in moments, and we CAN work toward experiencing life from this place more and more.
In Kundalini yoga, we talk about our mind/body system as having 10 layers, or “bodies”. Three of these bodies are dedicated to these aspects of the mind: the negative (protective) mind, the positive (expansive) mind, and the neutral mind. Each of these mind bodies work in conjunction with the other to serve us: the negative mind allows us to take pause before acting, and protects us from potential harm; the positive mind reminds us to examine all of the possibilities and brings lightness and humor into our outlook; the neutral mind, often called the “meditative mind”, is a direct channel to our Highest selves, to our greatest source of wisdom and creativity, but much like sattva, it takes conscious effort to connect with it. As I’ve explained these qualities, maybe you’ve connected in with the current pattern of the mind, “oh, my mind is super rajasic!”; “I tend to think of the negative outcomes when new situations arise (negative mind)”; “I’m pretty much always optimistic and use humor and laughter to move through things (positive mind)”. Keeping in mind that we all have all of them, it is possible that one is more readily accessible to us. What I’ve found for myself, and for many of the clients I work with, the negative mind often leads the way. And if you’ve ever experienced something as traumatic (I feel that most of us have), it can be challenging to ask the negative mind to quiet down after the potential “threat” has passed.
This has been true for myself in working through a situation a couple of years ago where my husband and I were physically assaulted while walking down a street in Chicago. It left a deep impression in my mind, and every time I am home alone, walking down a dark street, or feel someone walking behind me, it kicks into overdrive. One of the beautiful things about practicing Kundalini yoga, is there is a meditation, a kriya, or a mantra for just about ANYTHING we may experience. It’s a householder’s yoga; it’s meant to serve and support us in our every day lives. A meditation that I’ve been practicing lately is called the meditation to “Remove Haunting Thoughts” or “10 Breaths to Peace” (I prefer the latter). It takes all of 40 seconds to complete, and I’ve found it to be a transformative shift out of negative and into neutral mind for myself and clients alike. If it feels aligned, I invite you to give it a try! In THE VIDEO BELOW, I lead you through the meditation with a bit of grounding and centering first:
Please share with us your experiences in practicing it! If you’d like to learn more about the 10 bodies, here’s a good start: https://www.3ho.org/kundalini-yoga/ten-bodies/characteristics-ten-bodies-0
We will also be discussing the mind’s tendencies together in our MONTHLY WISDOM GATHERING: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9th, 4p PST. You can join the discussion HERE
To the ebb and flow of the All in All of us,
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Coming into the New Year, I was feeling into the energy of Dharma/life path. Over the past year, I’d been incorporating many practices, from many different spiritual traditions, and I had also been incorporating many different aspects into my offerings as a yoga/meditation teacher, Spiritual mentor/life coach, and most recently in offering Thai bodywork. I feel IN LOVE and JOY and DEVOTION while in the experience of these practices and services, but I kept hearing a nagging, anxious voice say, “You need to choose one; just pick one and stick to it”. This is feedback (verbal and nonverbal) I’ve also received from mentors in the past.
Any of you who have known me for a while might be giggling because this direct approach of “pick one thing and sticking to it” isn’t a natural tendency of mine; I like to explore many paths, often- to the dismay of my husband and family- all at once. While my studies might be mostly in the realm of Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions, I am always trying and learning new things. This is a part of myself that I’ve experienced with love, understanding, acceptance and also with annoyance, fear, and insecurity. There have definitely been times when I have said to myself, “Why can’t you just pick ONE: one job, one hobby, one belief system, one practice, and call it a day?” This simple, clear identity that I am describing is absolutely beautiful to me; and though it may be for many, it’s not authentic to what I experience as Truth.
If I am being completely open and honest, there isn’t One Thing with which I feel completely whole or to be a full expression of who I am: not one job, one relationship, one practice, one lineage, one spiritual belief system; yet I feel the experience of Oneness, Connectedness, and Wholeness when I embrace and blend all of them. For a long, long time, I’ve kept this quiet; quietly, desperately, subconsciously seeking to find that illusive one thing that would create a deep sense of peace and contentment within my whole being, that I could distill into a simple word; I am "that", I belong to "this" group, I practice "this" type of yoga or meditation. At the beginning of this year, I thought, “I’ve found it!” I’ve recently allowed myself to really drop into Thai healing studies: the bodywork, the Buddhist practices that go along with it, and the herbal healing studies. While considering doing “just this one thing” didn’t feel celebratory, it felt peaceful and simple. I just do this one thing, this one set of practices, I have just this one offering for people, I study just this one thing.
Just as I was getting comfortable with this idea of myself, I had an intuitive mapping session with a mentor. As I spoke about what I love, what I desire, what I am willing to do, she said, “It sounds like you are great at holding space for blending many sacred traditions and teachings. It also sounds like you tend to like to go inward and learn and drop deeply into practice for yourself; what are you willing to step up and into to share with others?” She added, “It feels a little bit like you are hiding.” YEP! I felt the truth of it immediately; the punch to the gut that said: “how dare you shine a light into my cozy meditation (hiding) spot!” It’s true; I do feel much more comfortable in the quiet space of my own internal practice. My inner critic is also good at keeping me quiet and to myself by saying things like, “There are already a million people sharing this message; why add to it? You don’t have anything special to say. Who are you to share these traditions; you’re not a yoga/meditation/spiritual master.” And that’s also true, but who am I really serving by keeping quiet and to myself?
If I stop making it about me, take the “I” out of the equation, and just make it about service, about spreading the love, joy and wisdom through these teachings and practices to all who desire it, it feels like a no-brainer (because it it is; comes from the heart). But when “I” (ego identity; the many roles we play) steps in, things become more confusing and scary. “What if they don’t like me?” “What if they tell me I’m wrong or bad for what I say or believe or practice?” “I could never know enough to be certain”. If I let this voice carry on for too long, it’s sure to shut me down and keep me quiet and isolated, afraid that I’m the only one who feels this way. For some, following one path, one set of practices, one set of spiritual beliefs feels like HOME, and that is beautiful. At the same time, it is no surprise that I feel a connection to many paths and practices, because a core belief of mine is that the Creator of the Universe is Infinite and as such, there must be infinite expressions of and paths to that experience of Oneness, Wholeness, the Truth of Who We Are. While for me the voice of fear and scarcity says, “there is only One Right Way, and you must Choose One”, the voice of Love, the voice of Unity, the voice of Oneness says, “We are all One, and we are All, All of it, no matter the expression”.
So for me, Dharmic action feels like embracing, practicing, celebrating, and sharing all of the practices, teachings, and lineages I’ve had the immense fortune of studying, in a way that feels authentic. What does Dharmic action look like and feel like for you? Which aspects of yourself are you being asked to embrace and express more fully? Where is scarcity keeping you quiet? And what is the Truth of your being asking you to open to?
I send this message to you all with Love, Humility, and Gratitude for the many paths back to the One Truth that unites us all.
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A few days ago, I experienced a bad Thai massage; I mean really awful. I’ve been lucky with bodywork in the past; I’ve mostly enjoyed every experience with the exception of this one. I went into the room for the one-hour session (typically they are 90 minutes to 2 hours but something told me to go for 60 minutes this time) and it felt cold and dark. I changed and laid down under the thin sheet and as my practitioner entered, I was asked, “Ok? Any pain?” “No pain”, I replied. I felt it right away with very firm, intense sliding down my feet, bones pressing into the table beneath me. “Give it a moment”, I told myself; “relax into the pressure”. The practitioner worked up the backs of my legs, briefly passing over my gluts and up my back to the space between my shoulder blades, a place I had circled on the intake as an area where my body holds tension.
Without much warming up, the practitioner began to use an elbow and a LOT of pressure and weight to carve around my left scapula and slide abruptly off of my trap over, and over, and over. After what felt like at least 10 minutes and much grimacing, wincing, yelping, and eventually tears, I was asked “ok?”. I said “ maybe lighter pressure” in a small voice. The practitioner made a sound and continued with the same movement and the same pressure. I said “lighter” two more times and the practitioner moved to the other side to do the same move. The (what felt to me as) abrupt and insensitive bodywork continued with elbowing along my spine and thumbing with full weight into my low back/kidney area. Needless to say, I walked out of the session in more pain than I walked in with and felt pretty emotionally jarred. I paid (and even tipped!) with a smile and said I was fine to the desk staff, and slumped out to the car. “How was it?”, AJ (my husband) asked. “Terrible”, I said as I started to tear up again. As I recanted my experience, AJ said “What! Why didn’t you yell? Why didn’t you say stop? Why didn’t you get up and walk out!”
“Good question”, I thought to myself, wondering why I chose to endure 60 minutes of many levels of discomfort while thinking about leaving many times and just hoping that the 60 minutes went quickly and the practitioner didn’t go over on time! As I wrote up my experience (as part of my Thai training requirements) I began to see a much larger pattern emerging, a default way of responding. In Yogic philosophy we call these patterns of behavior that we repeat, often without conscious awareness, samskaras (subtle impressions of past actions; like a snapshot that gets stored in memory). With repetition these samskaras create deeper and deeper grooves in our consciousness until they ultimately color or bias the way we perceive situations (these deeply engrained ways of experiencing the world are called vasanas).
As I continued to reflect why I would endure pain (in this instance, physical) for an extended period of time with out speaking up or changing my actions, I swung, memory by memory, back into my early childhood. In the early Elementary school years, I experienced what I perceived to be severe bullying. I tried pleading and bargaining with this group to be accepted, and eventually told my parents, who told my teachers. While afraid of what “telling” would cost me with the bullies, I hoped that the adults or mentors would “save me” from the situation. Despite their methods, the bullying didn’t stop. It didn’t stop until middle school, when I finally realized that they weren’t the only people in the world, that I didn’t have to stay stuck in this cycle and I decided to let it go and to let them go. In other words, it changed when I changed my perception of the situation and took different action. Another memory that bubbled to the surface was my experience as a competitive gymnast, and experiencing my coach as demanding and demeaning, using a “tear you down to build you up” approach. I took it and took it, hoping the situation would change, hoping one day my parents would say something to her or somehow know that I didn’t want to be in that situation any more and take me out. It continued. It continued (for 9 years) until I was 12 years old, and decided that gymnastics wasn’t the whole of my life, and that I had a choice to stay or leave, I faced my coach and I chose to leave.
Fast forward a few years into the future and I am in a long-term relationship. We’ve moved across the country for my graduate training, and within a few weeks, we are both stressed, depleted, shut down and completely emotionally unavailable to one another. At the time I saw only my pain, and as I cried on the floor for him to love me, and for the nonstop schedule of homework, clients, presentations, studying to cease, I hoped that someone would wipe it all away and we could, I could, be happy and in sync with life outside of this situation again. Nothing changed. Nothing changed for two years in either case until I decided NOT to pursue a doctoral degree, and I decided that our relationship had run its course (after almost a decade). Completely broken, I felt a strength, a freedom, within me that I’d never felt before: the feeling we feel when we know that we can’t actually be broken and we tap into our innate power. Despite the newfound strength, the habit and tendency (samskara and vasana) were strong, and soon enough, I found myself on a non-stop travel schedule all over the U.S. in my first career out of graduate school. This strenuous pace (for me) continued for two years until I finally decided I was at a breaking point and walked away, pretty beaten down physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
It has been a couple of years since that time, and I’ve chosen to dedicate a lot of time to self-study and practices that help me to increase awareness: awareness of my body and what it’s communicating, my mind and its tendencies, awareness of the infinite space we all exist within and the possibility that that brings in each moment. Despite this intention and the many ‘aha’s’ and shifts in belief and perception I’ve experienced since then, as the Thai massage experience so viscerally demonstrated to me, the tendencies to:
So despite the sore muscles and the pain in my kidneys when I breathe, I am so, so grateful for that awful Thai massage. The pain woke me up the realization that I am missing out on a major contributing voice to my own health, safety, and wellbeing: MY OWN! The waiting it out, hoping someone will come save me, enduring extensive periods of pain on all levels starts and stops with me. It starts and stops with you. What are the repeating patterns (samskaras) in your life? How have they influenced or biased your way of responding to life’s events (i.e. have they become vasanas)? Are you willing to become aware of them? Are you willing to change the way you see and respond? If we are, we tap into the power of our Inner Knowing, which is connected to the power of the Universe; we create infinite possibility for ourselves. As we become aware of our power to choose, and to rewrite our responses to life, the grooves of our mental patterning shift and change accordingly. Our subconscious responds in the same way. We rewrite our past, our present, and thus our future. There are literally no limits; how’s that for a New Years Resolution?
I am partly joking about the latter, but if you are interested in furthering this discussion, and are looking for a safe space to speak your Truth to a loving sounding board in community with fellow Truth seekers, please feel free to join the private Facebook group Modern Yogi Wisdom for details about our next Wisdom Gathering.
To the Infinite power and wisdom within you, within me, within us all, I bow.
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As we close out this year, I share a message that has been prevalent on my heart and mind, and I have seen a similar one mirrored back to me through many others.
We are in a time of change; and in all actuality we are ALWAYS in a time of change, but we are really FEELING that change and the uncertainty that comes with it, right now. We are feeling the change of the season from fall to winter; the increased chill and time spent in darkness and indoors. We are feeling the shift into holiday season, and perhaps spending more time socially and less time in contemplation and reflection with ourselves. We are still feeling the rippling out from the reaction to the Presidential election and countless other world events. We are feeling it all.
If we turn to the news or (much of) social media, we can see how we collectively react to this uncertainty: with fear. We react by shutting down, closing out, narrowing in, and holding on. We default into old familiar patterns of what and who feels “safe”. Even when we act it can appear as though we are reacting from an “us v. them” mentality. What can come of this chosen mindset? Greater separation. Greater fear. Greater burying our heads in the sand (or pie, or reality TV, or meditation) and hoping it will all blow over soon and things will get ‘back to normal’.
And I believe it will all blow over, eventually, for a while, and then there will be an upswing again. Most of the great Teachings teach us that life ebbs and flows that way. One possible way to react to this constant flux is to believe we have no control anyway so we just check out and stay at a distance from it all; another way may be to blast that fear out by fight, fight, fighting, for what we believe in and what we want to see. Many of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle; restless but inactive. Could we take pause, breathe, turn inward, and reflect on how we are contributing to how we feel and what we see and from there, listen to what action feels aligned?
We’ve (likely) heard it many times, “your perception creates your reality”; but stop and let that soak in for a minute. What are you seeing most days? What are you feeling and experiencing? What are you focused on? How are you reacting? Can you make the connection from what you see outside of yourself and what you’re choosing to focus on, internally?
If, as a collective, we are seeing a lot of anger, acting out, separation, forcing, fighting, and darkness then as a collective, we are holding a lot of fear thoughts in our minds and projecting that outward. In other words, we are kind of expecting the worst in humanity, and then seeing it as ‘true’. In psychology we call it “self-fulfilling prophecy”: you see/create what you are focused on internally. It’s a hard concept to grasp because most of us have never been shown how powerful the force of our thoughts are, for better or worse, and getting in touch with that takes practice and a sense of trust in the process. If you doubt that your thoughts have any power, well, that is a powerful thought that will show you what you expect to see (that it had no effect!).
Perhaps you’ve tried some of the many challenges out there: a 21-day gratitude challenge, or self-love challenge. At first it can feel “cheesy” or inauthentic, but as you coax your mind into it, perhaps you begin to feel lighter, happier, and you become more aware of what’s ‘good’ in your life while the things that really used to send you over the edge don’t elicit such a strong reaction anymore. All that was required was a willingness to see things differently; a CONSCIOUS CHOOSING OF POINT OF FOCUS. When you choose to focus on the good, it grows; when you begin to ignore or react less to what doesn’t feel so great, it decays. Your brain literally rearranges and the world you see CHANGES as a result.
So, if we are in a time of visceral change that can feel daunting and create a sense of helpless, what can we do? How can we move forward with an intention, with a focus, that will serve the Highest Good not just for the “us” in our lives, but for ALL BEINGS, EVERYWHERE?
Start by getting to know your inner world. And by inner world, I mean your thoughts. When you get quiet, still, and observe, what thoughts are taking up the most space in your mental field? Without trying to change that, notice how those thoughts influence the events of your day and your experience of them. Notice, just by how you think, you are creating the world you see. And if you would like to change that, for yourself, for your family, for your children, for the good of all, begin the brave journey of choosing not to give the thoughts of anger, judgment, separation, control, fear so much power. Approach it through showering love, forgiveness, and compassion onto yourself. “I forgive myself for that thought, I choose love instead”.
See yourself as the small child you once were, and how he/she didn’t know many things and was just trying to do the best she/he could. You are still that same small child, we all are; much is still unknown, we’ve just accumulated more experiences that influenced our thoughts to be one way or the other. Begin with a commitment to choose to be the love, to see the love in your mind, in your body, in your world. As you do, you give others the permission to do the same. As many of my teachers have been sharing recently, “it only takes one candle to light a dark room”. In the space of your homes, your workplaces, your communities, your holiday gatherings, choose to be the candle. Commit to whatever practices and routines you find necessary to keep your light bright and share your wisdom, love, and light with all you meet. THAT is how we will change the world.
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May all beings be safe, happy, healthy, free of suffering, and experience peace of mind.