My home practice…Letting go

I am inspired by this beautiful Mark Twain quote, that I just heard Wayne Dyer use, to take a look at forgiveness.  Recently, I chose to forgive someone that had been the object of a lot of my anger for a long time.  I foolishly convinced myself that my “grudge” was justified and not affecting me in any way.  In reality, the thought or mention of the person sent a cascade of negative physical, mental, and emotional sensations rippling through me.  I would shut down automatically, a brick wall would immediately rise up around me, and it would take a while for me to snap out of it and come back to normal.  But then… a yoga teacher encouraged me to consider what I was holding onto in life.  At first, I could honestly think of nothing.  It, literally, took days of considering that question to see how my grudge was still going strong.  Over time (and lots and lots of yoga), I realized that at the root of my grudge wasn’t anger, it was jealousy of her and insecurity within myself.  Isn’t that really all that’s behind anger anyway?  So, I began to let it go.  I set the intention of letting it go in every yoga class and spent time meditating on letting go each chance I got.  All of the years of watching Oprah streamed back to me…all of the experts, all of the advice, all of the wisdom.  I even wrote an email telling the person that I let it go.  Forgiveness works like a boomerang.  When you give it out, it ends up sending back peace of mind, healing, and comfort.  What do you really prove by staying angry?  Does it prove you were right and they were wrong?  No!  Maybe you think that forgiveness is like telling someone what they did was ok?  No!  Forgiveness is an act of choosing to live in the present moment and leaving the past where it belongs…far, far away!

The past is your psychological enemy when it ‘teaches’ you that old hurts, wounds, humiliations, failures, and obstacles are relevant to the present…you cannot will your past to go away.  Everyone drags around the burden of memory…Memories, for good and ill, are woven into your personal self…The more your awareness expands, the lighter the burden of the past.  You find spontaneously that your attention is focused on the present, from which all creative possibilities emerge.

Deepak Chopra, Spiritual Solutions

Maybe Wayne Dyer is right, could it be that this person was sent into my life to teach me how to forgive and let go?  Holding on to anger continually replays and repeats the hurt.  The person doesn’t even have to do it anymore, you are doing it to yourself!  I saved myself a lifetime of bitterness and hurt by opening my heart enough to let my anger, insecurity, and jealousy go.  Now that I have practiced forgiveness once, perhaps I am prepared for a larger act that may be asked of me someday.  Who knows?  This is how the universe works.

          

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My home practice…Surrender expectations, Embrace uncertainty

I recently read a friend’s amazing blog post that was a total game changer for me, my life, and my relationships.  I immediately knew, while reading the post, that it could mean the end of much, if not all, of the suffering and drama in my life.  I am compelled to share this simple mantra that I believe is the one of the wisest and helpful pieces of advice EVER!

Shift perspective.  Surrender expectations.  Embrace uncertainty

What I realized in an instant was that the sadness, disappointment, frustration, conflict, doubt, and heartache throughout my life was caused by expecting too much and needing control.  I know that I am not alone in my pattern of expectation and control.  There are lots of great spiritual teachers, including Patanjali, who have written abundantly on this topic to steer us away from these traps.  These traps keep us bound to the past or fixated on the future and far, far away from living in the moment, which is actually the only place we can and will ever be and the only place we will find happiness and freedom.

Surrender expectations…  Just totally let them go!  Give up expectations of your partner, family, friends, co-workers, or boss.  Let people be who they are, apart from who/what you think they should be.  It is especially silly to expect something from relationships if you have not asked for anything.  So…communicate!  Stay detached from results.  Detach from outcomes.  Keep your focus on the present moment.  And enjoy it!  Stop the mind from wandering ahead into the future.  Attachment and expectation lead to judging, criticizing, and comparing.  All three are the handymen of the ego, which will inevitably leave us feeling inadequate or disappointed.  Surrendering expectations and detaching from outcomes does not give us permission to be lazy.  We still have to put in the work.  Plant the seeds, water the soil, and provide sunlight…but don’t come back each day just to see how much the tree has grown.

Embrace uncertainty…  You simply cannot control anything or anyone other than yourself and your own thoughts, actions, and reactions.  (Spend two weeks with a 5- year-old girl and this becomes quickly apparent!)  The only constant is change.  So, the only thing you will find when you seek certainty and control is pain.  It is so tempting, though…and very deceiving.  Because you can very easily think you have control and think you KNOW what is going to happen. The illusion of wanting control, however, is thinking that we will ever truly have it.  In the end, you will have controlled yourself out of a good day, great experience, or fulfilling relationship.  It is just not worth it.  

In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning.  And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.

Deepak Chopra

When all expectations are surrendered and uncertainty is fully embraced, you will live your life with the curiosity and excitement of a child.  There is hope and wishfullness, but no desire for control or knowing.  There is no fear.  Everything is new and like a surprise!  Stop THINKING and PLANNING and WORRYING and EXPECTING and CONTROLLING and you will find PEACE.

The Serenity Prayer is another great mantra to assist in this journey.  Feel free to remove the notion of asking this of God, you can also ask this of yourself:

An oldie, but goodie.

What I’m teaching…Thou shalt not take what has not been offered

Asteya (non-stealing) is the third yama in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (yama=moral/ethical restraints that involve the yogis relationship to the outside world).  

asteya pratisthayam sarva ratnopasthanam

To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes  

Yoga Sutra 2.37

Asteya means non-stealing.  At first glance, it is easy to check this yama off your list as “done” as you tell yourself “I don’t steal anything from anyone or anywhere”. But, you are likely thinking only of material objects (money, clothes, food, stuff!). When we widen the definition of stealing to taking that which has not been offered, however, there is MUCH more work to be done. Last week, I divided the teaching of asteya into three “parts”, so I could use the theme in each one of my classes (I have found that teaching this way becomes more of a lesson to me than anyone else).

First: off the mat…how do we take what has not been offered in our day-to-day lives?

  • Time- being late takes time away from those we are scheduled to meet.
  • Happiness- what happens to your family, co-workers, and friends when you are in a crappy mood for no reason?
  • Love- it can be very difficult to see this one.  When we are demanding of love, affection, attention, and energy in relationships…how does that often work out for us?
  • Safety- driving like a maniac or acting irresponsibly puts others at risk unfairly.
  • Power/Decision-making/Choice- I am the first to admit that I am control Freak (with a capital “F”!), but I know I suffer for it.  Controlling behavior takes power and the ability to think for themselves away from those around us.
  • Credit- give credit where credit is due.  Whose ideas or thoughts have inspired your own?
  • The earth- mother nature has been robbed over and over again.  Be aware of your consumption.  My motto is: use LESS, recycle MORE
Next:  on the mat…in what ways to we rob ourselves and our fellow yogis?
  • Time- being late to yoga class causes delays and is disruptive to the teacher and students.
  • Space- be mindful when choosing where you unroll your mat.  Are you taking up two spots?  Are you early to class? Instead of randomly placing your mat in the middle of the room, which creates an unbalanced and uneven classroom, start a row at the front.
  • Peace- It is difficult to stay focused and in your “yoga mindset” when someone’s cell phone rings or they get up and leave during savasana.
  • The journey- you rob yourself each time you compare, compete, and desire for the ability to practice a pose.  I think it is ok to be inspired by watching an advanced practice.  It allows you to see what’s possible.  However, there is a fine line between inspiration and jealousy.  Asana takes time.  That is the point of the practice.  It is an individual experience.  Example: have you ever been in class and thought to yourself that today might not be a good day to practice Sirsasana (headstand)? Maybe you’re menstruating or having neck pain.  Then, you see someone next to you or across the room going up and your ego starts to scream.  “You have to show everyone that you can do that, too!”
Lastly: tie it all together…what is the point to the practice of non-stealing?
If we want to become the world’s richest people, this is a very simple way…just practice non-stealing.  All of us are thieves.  Knowingly and unknowingly…if we are completely free from stealing and greed, contented with what we have, and if we keep serene minds, all wealth comes to us.  If we do not run after it, before long it runs after us.  If nature knows we aren’t greedy, she gains confidence in us, knowing we will never hold her for ourselves…the richest person is the one with a cool mind, free of tension and anxiety.
Sutra commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda
When we practice non-stealing, all riches/jewels/wealth come to us.  Sri Swami Satchidananda gives a great example in his Sutra commentary.  Think about your last visit with a baby or pet cat/dog.  They come to you on their own, naturally curious and interested in you.  If you grab them into your arms and hold them tight against their will, not letting them go- they will squirm, fuss, and fight to get away and it would be highly unlikely that they would come back to you again anytime soon.  Instead, if the baby or pet is allowed to leave when they wish…they will always keep coming back to you to play!  The same is true in life.  When we take what has not been offered, we are stealing and will lose out each and every time.
When we are working through the yamas, learning to ACCEPT, WANT, and LOVE what we already have, mudra can be helpful.  Try Pushan mudra, which is said to aid in acceptance, digestion, and in easing anger.  
Sit comfortably with your legs crossed.  Take your right thumb to the index and middle fingers and place the back of your hand on your lap.  Take your left thumb to the middle and ring fingers and place the back of your hand on your lap.  Close your eyes and breathe.

Jason Mraz says…

I’m living in the moment,  living my life

Easy and breezy, peace in my mind

Peace in my heart, peace in my soul

Wherever I’m going, I’m already home

If you haven’t heard Jason Mraz’s new album, “Love is a four letter word”, you’re missing something really special. I love every song, very uplifting and positive with great messages.  I can’t help but think that he must be practicing yoga!

 

My home practice…Flight School

I walked into Flight School with Raghunath at Living Yoga yesterday with two feet solidly on the ground and within, literally, minutes I was upside down in an assisted Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) and learning some arm balance transitions that made me feel like I was breakdancing.

Raghunath is professor of flight, and Flight School is his famously popular anti gravity workshop for bona fide asana geeks. Advanced asanas are dissected, while experiments with variations and transitions are taught. You will catalyze your own dynamic signature practice, melt your fear, push your edge and realize your potential, no matter what level you are at. Take your practice to its highest. The workshop will be interlaced with chanting and stories from classic Indian texts; rooted in down to earth spirituality, and instructions for living a contemporary yogic lifestyle. Fasten your seat belt, Flight School is in session.

Living Yoga workshop flyer

My longest handstand to date does not even last one breath, but the workshop description welcomed all levels of practice so I eagerly signed up.  I have been focusing on my handstand practice at home over the last few months, so it was perfect timing- as so many things in my life end up being.  The workshop was all that was promised and more.  I have NEVER done so much upper body asana “work” in my life.  He started by announcing that the only way you will learn to practice handstand without the wall is to practice handstand without the wall…duh!  So, no walls.  Just great demonstrations and assists coupled with incredibly skilled sequencing and teaching.  He taught several different arm balance transitions (no sage left behind…Vasisthasana, Astavakrasana, Koundinyasana, Visvamitrasana, etc.) and broke them down for all the levels in the room.  We entered handstand from every direction possible, played with different leg variations, and somehow got ourselves to Chaturanga and a vinyasa each time.  We ended with Sirsasana (headstand) II, III, IV (I didn’t even know some of these variations existed!).  Then, a three minute Sirsasana I, while he played harmonium and chanted to Radhe and Govinda before settling us into Savasana.  Raghunath has such an everyday guy way about him, but then he starts to share his wisdom and you soon realize he is anything but.  There was a lot of humor and fun, but a clear purpose and intent to his words.  YOGA.

Here are my top 5 yoga pearls of wisdom from Raghu (in my own words):

  • Surround yourself with people and experiences that raise you up, avoid those that bring you down.
  • It’s easy to “like” those who are “like” you and who “like” you, learn to “like” those who are not and do not.
  • Look people in the eye.  Very rarely do we actually make the effort to look at people.  For some, it may even feel uncomfortable to make eye contact.  Make the connection.
  • Two men were walking down the street when they heard another man screaming, “help me, help me!”.  As they approached the screaming man, they saw that he was holding on to a large tree.  He called to them, “help me, help me,  I am stuck to this tree!!!”.  They looked at each other, then looked back at him and said…  “Then, let go”.  A beautiful story to clearly illustrate that often we perceive things to be holding us back or keeping us down, when really we are holding on to them, all we need to do is let them go.
  • The difference between forcing vs. working really hard at something is EGO.  If ego drives you to want, you are forcing.  Don’t force.  Just practice.   It may take hours, days, or years.  It doesn’t matter.  Don’t force.

My pre-flight school handstand

I will spend lots of time in my home practice putting all of this knowledge into action and see what happens.

I hope to be flying solo (no walls, no assists) soon!