What I’m teaching…suffering is resistance to what is

I had the pleasure of attending an amazing yoga workshop over the past weekend (Lila Donnolo’s Maha Practice- 3 hours of chanting, asana, pranayama, mudra, Yin, Restorative, and meditation) and was intensely struck and moved by its theme.  I have been varying this same theme in all of my yoga classes this week:

Nobody’s life is entirely free of pain and sorrow.  Isn’t it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them?  The greater part of human pain is unnecessary.  It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.  The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.  On the level of thought, it is some form of negativity.  The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind.  The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it.  In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer.  Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering…

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Suffering is…resistance to what is.

Pain is inevitable. (Well…not really. If you follow Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.15, 2.16, 2.17 by staying detached and not associating your true Self too closely with your body and mind, pain is avoidable- but we’ll get into that another time!) Suffering is optional.  Acceptance=freedom from suffering. Our time on the mat is a preparation for the rest of our time off of it.  We come to a yoga class and hold postures that can challenge us physically (‘You want me to put my foot WHERE now?”) so that we learn skills to handle the challenges that face us in life mentally and emotionally; with breath, stillness, patience, and understanding. Yes, holding that high lunge for several minutes will cause physical discomfort and bring you to your “edge”. The lesson lies in how you deal with it.  Do you give up, allowing yourself to fall out of the pose?  Or do you practice taking deeper breaths, quieting the chatter in your  mind, and relaxing into the posture- maybe leading to a longer and more enjoyable hold?  Translate that practice to your day to day life.  We are bound to be challenged mentally and emotionally. Accept the challenge instead of being swallowed up by it.  Breathe deeper, take some time to be quiet, and be confident that you are strong enough.

Where do you “go” when you face challenges and pain in your life?  Do you maintain healthy habits to help you deal?  Things like music, art, nature, books, exercise, yoga, meditation, or seeing friends?  Or are you struggling, stressed, overworked, depressed???  Maybe you can benefit from some  self-reflection; time for yourself to figure out what works for you?  Come to a yoga class!!!

David Swenson says…

Each practice session is a journey.  Endeavor to move with awareness and enjoy the experience.  Allow it to unfold as a flower opens.  There is no benefit in hurrying.  Yoga grows with time.  Some days are easy and the mind is calm and the physical body is light and responsive.  Other days you may find that the mind is running wild and the body feels like wet cement.  We must breathe deeply and remain detached.  Asanas are not the goal.  They are a vehicle to access a deeper internal awareness.  Create a practice that best suits your personal needs so that it is something that you look forward to.

Yoga is a place of refuge and a soothing balm for the stresses of modern life.  Within each practice find ways to refine your existing understanding so that you continue to grow.  Rather than simply moving from asana to asana, FEEL that action from deep within.  Listen to your breath.  Can you ride the breath like a bird on a breeze?  Where is the mind?  Can you maintain your focus and remain calm even when approaching a posture that you dread?  Enjoy yourself.  I have never had a practice that I regretted.  Not once have I finished a routine and thought, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that.”  But there have been days that I didn’t practice and later I wished I had.

Take a few minutes and spend it with yoga.  The rest of your day will be better.  Yoga is a scenic journey to our deepest spirit.

From Ashtanga Yoga “The Practice Manual”

Chief Seattle says…

Some context on this quote…it’s actually a letter sent in 1852 by Seattle (pronounced See-atch) of the Puget Sound Duwamish Indians in response to a request by the Government to buy his tribal lands.  He wasn’t technically a chief as his tribe did not have chiefs- but he was some sort of leader among his people.  I thought it very appropriate in light of Earth Day and I plan to share excerpts in my yoga classes this week.

The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land.  But how can you buy or sell the sky?  The land?  The idea is strange to us.  If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people.  Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect.  All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us.  The perfumed flowers are our sisters.  The bear, the deer, the great eagle, they are our brothers.  The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors.  If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred.  Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.  The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers.  They quench our thirst.  They carry our canoes and feed our children.  So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.  The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh.  The wind also gives our children the spirit of life.  So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children?  That the earth is our mother?  What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

One thing we know: our god is also your god.  The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.  All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.  Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Your destiny is a mystery to us.  What will happen when the buffalo are slaughtered?  The wild horses tamed?  What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires?  Where will the thicket be?  Gone!  Where will the eagle be?  Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt?  The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last Red Man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forest still be here?  Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat.  So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it.  Care for it as we have cared for it.  Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it.  Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land.  This earth is precious to us.  It is also precious to you.  One thing we know: there is only one God.  No man, be he Red Man or White Man, can be apart.  We are brothers after all.

What I’m teaching…Earth Day 2012

Mobilize the Earth. Earth Day. 4.22.12

The first ever Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970.  Then Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmental activist, originally conceived of the idea in response to the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California as a “national teach-in on the environment”.  20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment.  Earth Day became a global initiative in 1990, when 141 countries participated mobilizing 200 million people worldwide!  Earth Day is credited for boosting recycling efforts globally and leading to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Yogic tradition teaches that the first yogis created the asanas, or physical yoga postures (“seats”), mimicking what they saw on the mountain tops in nature as a way to prepare the body for longer periods of time sitting in meditation.  To prevent pain and/or stiffness while seated, they stretched their bodies taking the form of the trees, animals, birds, and bugs they saw around them.  The practice of yoga, therefore, celebrates nature at its very root (pun intended!).  Set an intention in your next yoga class to learn ways to live more in harmony with nature and then put the intention into action!

Human beings are the only species on Earth that destroy nature.  I think we can all agree that our planet, our home is being neglected!  Together, we really can make a huge difference.  No effort is too big or small.  Recycle, use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, turn the water OFF when you brush your teeth, use reusable bags for your groceries, walk instead of drive, turn the lights OFF, stop buying water in plastic bottles and get a filter on your faucet so you can use your own reusable water bottle,  eat organic, eat vegetarian, don’t litter, don’t use toxic chemicals to clean, don’t buy things  with packaging that will create a lot of garbage, spend time in nature, educate your community, “be the change that you wish to see in the world”.  These are just some of the things that I am doing.  What are you doing??

Earth Day is Every Day.

For more info:

www.earthday.org

http://www.epa.gov/earthday/

http://www.earthdayny.org

http://www.recycleacrossamerica.org/

http://earth911.com/

What I’m reading…

About 6 weeks ago, we decided to foster a Basenji Hound/Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix named Eddie.  The original agreement was to foster him for about 3 months, but there’s a chance we may be asked to keep him.  I have always been an animal lover and always had pets growing up, so I have sort of obsessively watched Dog Whisperer for the past couple of years and have become hooked on Cesar Millan’s no fail techniques of “rehabilitating dogs, training humans” and the “power of the pack”.  Especially his work with pitbulls- a breed very near and dear to my heart for whatever reason.  So when we got Eddie, I thought I’d be a natural- no experience required.  HA!  I found myself to be a damn fool when he started to lunge/bark/growl at dogs and people.  He’s not an aggressive dog, but is intensely sensitive to energy and is very easily excited.  I panic, pull on the leash, yell “No!” like an idiot…none of it works.  (Now I know he’s only mirroring ME and projecting MY energy coupled with the frustration of perhaps not enough exercise.)  So I went back to Cesar for more guidance…

Here are SOME of my favorite things about dogs that I’ve learned from reading this book:

  • Dogs come into our lives for a reason- often to show us who we really are and teach us lessons.  For me, it’s to teach me to be a more calm, assertive, confident leader- especially when faced with challenges and things that I cannot control!
  • Dogs need a lot of exercise.  “Dogs are descended from wolves: in fact, the DNA of dogs and wolves is almost indistinguishable…the genes of a canine are crying out for her to go out and wander with her pack, explore new territory, roam around, and search for food and water.  Imagine how it would feel to have those ancient needs embedded deep inside you, then to have to live your life locked up alone in a two-room apartment all day.  Millions of city dogs live like that.  Their owners think that taking the dog for a five-minute walk to the corner to poop and pee is enough for them.  Imagine how those dogs are feeling in their souls.  Their frustration has to go somewhere.  That’s when they develop issues.”  Cesar says that a commitment of  one and a half hours per day of walking is necessary for a balanced dog.
  • They are a direct link to Mother Nature, using their “sixth sense” to read and interpret the world around them as energy… after all everything is energy!  “All animals communicate using energy, constantly.  Energy is beingness.  Energy is who you are and what you are doing at any given moment.  That’s how animals see you.  That’s how your dog sees you.  Your energy in that present moment defines who you are.”
  • Dogs live in the moment, always.  “It’s not that they don’t have memories-they do.  It’s just that they don’t obsess over the past, or the future.”
  • Dogs don’t need a lot to be fulfilled.  Only 3 things are needed to have a balanced, content, fulfilled dog: Exercise, Discipline, and Affection (in that order!) “Animals are beautifully simple.  To them, life is also very simple.  It’s we who make it complicated for them by not allowing them to be who they are, by not understanding or even trying to speak their language, and by neglecting to give them what nature intended for them to have.”

Dogs in poorer, underdeveloped countries are the most balanced.  They are often strays, traveling in packs, wandering all day, hunting/scavenging for food, sleeping in dirt, eating garbage.  However, they don’t attack humans, fight with other dogs, have phobias of certain types of floors, fixate on balls and squirrels,  or bark incessantly.  They just live their lives.  Its the dogs here in America that display the “issues” that an expert like Cesar Millan would be called in to “cure”; dogs who have fancy jackets, fancy leashes, fancy collars, special bedding and travel carriers, expensive food, veterinarians, dog walkers, groomers, and human “owners”.  The lesson here is clear:  LESS is MORE.  Simplicity=balance=happiness and contentment.  Choose simple!

Eddie