E-RYT 500, yoga instructor for children and adults

Archive for the ‘Meditation Musings’ Category

Practice What You Practice

People are drawn to the practice of yoga for a multitude of reasons. There’s plenty of evidence showing it can help improve strength, flexibility, and physical health. Meditation is also becoming popular, mainly for its ability to relieve stress. These and other benefits to the body and mind, though wonderful, are still not the ultimate purpose of this ancient philosophy. In Louisiana we’d call these benefits lagniappe, a little something extra we can enjoy, but not to be mistaken for the main event. Yoga is a spiritual practice meant to lead the aspirant to enlightenment. In the West we often think of our being as two-fold, mind and body. In this dichotomy the body is external and the mind is internal. In Eastern philosophy however there are 3 parts to us: mind, body, and spirit. The spirit is the real deal, and the mind is just as unreal and external as the body. This is why our own mind can be such a mystery, seemingly controlling our thoughts, words, and actions. Through the practice of yoga we use the body and mind as tools to transcend both, getting in touch with the true nature of our inner being, our spirit.
In the yoga sutras, Patanjali says yoga is the calming of the mind. He chooses to mention friendliness, kindness, joy, and equanimity/non-judgment (1:33) as the four qualities to cultivate within ourselves in order to have a calm mind. Later he describes the 8 limbed path that includes the restraints, observances, postures, breathing, introspection, concentration, and meditation that will lead us to enlightenment. But before all of that he chooses to call attention to these four practices that anyone, regardless of ability to stretch or sit, can begin to practice and therefore get more clarity of mind.
I often tell my students, we don’t do yoga to get better at yoga…we do yoga to get better at life. I believe one reason we call it “practicing” yoga is because the things we do on the mat or while meditating are practice for the main event, which is life. Whatever we do on the mat or cushion is helping us to learn the principles of yoga which we then apply in our lives. And we must take our practice off the mat, we must be able to translate those lessons to our experiences in this life. That’s why we were given this incarnation, to learn and experience until we return to our Source. It’s great if we can practice being kind to ourselves when we can’t perform a challenging asana, but if we don’t take that lesson with us and speak kindly to ourselves when we’re stressed about money, or to our co-workers in a tense meeting, then we’ve missed the real benefit, and perhaps even the purpose, of yoga. It’s wonderful to find that state of peace while in meditation, but if we leave the meditation hall, get in our car, and get angry and yell at the drivers around us, again we’ve blown it. To be clear, I’m not saying we have to be perfect people. As Wayne Dyer said, you can only be better than the person you used to be. An effective yoga practice supports us in being our best self in each moment, evolving along the way.
Your thoughts, words, and actions are the results of what you practice. By practicing these principles when we do yoga postures, sit for meditation, or breathe deeply we are strengthening our ability to be friendly to a difficult person, kind to someone who has hurt us, to find joy even in the midst of challenges, and to remain even and non-judgmental through the ups and downs of life. The true measure of a yogi is not just our ability to be present during our practice; it’s in how we treat ourselves and others during the moments between practices.

I’ll Be Om for Christmas

Maintaining equanimity amidst the holiday rush can be challenging for even the most mindful yogis. The good news is even regular Joe-gis can benefit from some simple techniques drawn from the yoga tradition. Come with me on a journey of OM from AM to PM!

Snooze Button Meditation
The holiday season sometimes means late nights and early mornings, which isn’t great for motivating you to get up early to meditate. Make it easy on yourself by using this snooze button meditation technique. When your alarm goes off, hit the snooze button and sit up cross-legged in bed or hang your legs off the edge. With a tall spine, rest your hands palms face up on your thighs. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly, observing the sounds and sensation of your breath until the alarm goes off again. Bonus points if you set your alarm a few minutes early and get up for a longer session!

Traffic Jammin’ Dance Party
Typical rush hour traffic is bad enough, but add in the shoppers, travelers, distracted drivers, and bad weather and it can get downright nasty out there. If you find yourself caught in traffic, you can either arrive late and angry or arrive late and happy! Practice the yogic principle of santosha, or contentment, and make the best of the situation. Take advantage of the awesome acoustics in your vehicle and have a good old fashioned traffic JAM! Put on your fave holiday tunes, or any song that lifts your spirits, and sing and dance along. True story, one day I was getting super frustrated in traffic and glanced in my rear view mirror to see the driver behind me singing and grooving, having a blast! It made me smile and reminded me not to take anything too seriously. Bonus points if you can get the driver next to you to dance along!

Under the Table Tennis
Standing in line for Santa in those cute holiday heels may be fun, but your feet won’t be happy! Bring a tennis ball to work or keep one at home to roll your feet on under the desk. The feet are the endpoint for many energy channels, sometimes called meridians or nadis, that run to different parts of the body. By massaging the feet you also stimulate and balance the organs, glands, spine, and chakras. I like to roll my feet while working on my laptop. Bonus points if you take it outside and take off your shoes, connecting to the healing energy of the Earth!

Mall Meltdown Mantra
When faced with the hectic shopping scene, create a serene space inside your own head. Repeating a calming word or phrase to yourself can distract your busy mind from those worrisome, negative thoughts and replace them with something positive. One I like to use is, “It’s all good.” You can mentally chant in any language, whether it’s the traditional Sanskrit or your native tongue. Of course, “Om” is always a good choice. Om is the sound of the universe, and though it doesn’t have a literal translation, you can think of it as meaning “light.” Bonus points if you get brave and chant out loud!

Present Wrapping Pranayama
During routine tasks like wrapping presents, baking cookies, or writing cards, you can perform a mental version of analoma viloma, or alternate nostril breathing. In the traditional breathing exercise you use one hand to periodically close off one nostril then the other, inhaling and exhaling between sides. If your hands are busy, you can simply visualize the air flowing in through one nostril and out the other. Here’s the rhythm: Inhale through the left nostril, Exhale out the right nostril, Inhale through the right nostril, Exhale out the left nostril. Repeat as many rounds as necessary to achieve a calm, balanced state of mind and body. Bonus points if you use a neti pot in the mornings to clear those nasal passages, allowing the breath to flow freely and helping nip any winter colds in the bud!

Yogic Sleep and Sweet Dreams
Use a guided meditation to help you wind down before bed. You can find yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, guided relaxation videos on YouTube. I like this one by Jennifer Reis. This healing and restoring guided meditation technique helps to turn on the body’s natural healing response and counteract the “fight or flight” stress mode that many of us maintain throughout the day. Bonus points if you fall asleep during the nidra and stay in a state of peace all night!

No matter what traditions or beliefs you celebrate this winter, I hope these simple yoga practices help keep you merry and bright! Happy Holidays!

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EDIT: This blog topic was prompted by a request from Oscar Insurance, a new insurance company that currently has availability in New York and New Jersey. Since I’m in Texas I can’t personally attest to their quality, but I love their focus on holistic healing and progress in the area of health insurance. You can check out more info about them here: www.hioscar.com

NOSEA: Be Your Self

A dear friend of mine is currently developing the New Orleans School for Esoteric Arts.  “We represent people from all walks of life. We are open to anyone who wants to learn more about Astrology, Voudou, Witchcraft, Herbal Magick, Shamanism, and more. We are not affiliated with any church nor do we claim loyalty to any doctrine. We welcome people from all walks of life regardless of inexperience or religious ties.”

She asked me to contribute some articles for their blog. Here is my first post: Be Your Self

If you’d like to donate to help get this amazing school going, check out their Go Fund Me page. You can also stay connected through their Facebook page.

 

Free Global Synchronized Meditation Event

Sunday, Sept 21, at 1:30 P M

Join me at the yoga movement to meditate with your fellow yogis and thousands of other meditators around the world! We will meet at the studio at 1:30 for a brief introduction and begin meditating at 2. No experience necessary! World peace begins with inner peace. Let’s get together and make it happen!

Check out the event on Facebook

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I Am Water

I always find comfort near bodies of water.
Sitting for meditation, I thought,
“I wish I was near the water right now.”
Then I realized,
I am water.
A body made up mostly of water.
A body of water.
Can I sit by the babbling brook of my inner monologue and watch as thoughts tumble over the rocks and roots, finding their way over and around obstacles?
Can I sit on the shores of my consciousness and observe the waves of breath gently flowing in and out, ever changing yet always the same?
Can I sit near the lake of my mind and notice the effects of each tossed pebble as it ripples the surface, patiently waiting for it to become still?
Finding comfort in myself,
I Am
Water.

And That’s What We Call Boundaries

I recently read a quote saying a true friend loves you for who you are, no matter what. It made me think about acceptance and what that entails in relationships. Does a true friend simply let you be and do whatever you want, regardless of whether it is beneficial to you and others? Or does a true friend push you, challenge you to grow, inspire you to be your best self, and hold you to your highest potential? As a friend, partner, or family member, can you do both? And who decides what is best?
I have recently had to take a long hard look at my own ego in the context of several personal relationships. I tend to see potential in others, to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are capable of being their best self. And as a result I tend to enter into relationships with expectations. I expect the other person to be on the same path as me, to be striving for the same things. And as Buddha taught us, with expectation (another word for desire) comes suffering. I try to, as a friend put it, “gently shove” people in the direction that I feel is best, instead of allowing them to walk their own path. I come to the relationship with the best intentions, and we all know where those lead. I try to help but my help is not always wanted or needed.
On the other hand, I do feel it is our responsibility as friends and more broadly as fellow human beings to hold one another to certain standards. To encourage kindness, compassion, respect, and acceptance towards others. When I see these things being violated, I do step up and express my feelings. But I still have to realize that that is where my contribution ends, unless the other person asks for my help. As Ram Das said, if I have a problem with someone, that’s my problem. If someone has a problem with me, that’s their problem. It is when we expect others to fix our problems or we try to fix theirs that we get in trouble.
Once I have established my beliefs and the other person has established theirs, it is then my choice to continue the relationship. I have the right to set boundaries if necessary to preserve my well being. If the other person doesn’t respect my boundaries or if I don’t think I can be my best self and honor who I truly am while in relationship with them, I can end or reduce contact with that person. If I maintain the relationship, I must accept that the other person is the way they are. And they in turn must respect me. In certain cases there may be exceptions, as there are to every rule, but most of the time when I examine my motives it is my ego and not necessarily my spirit that wants to change someone else. In my teacher training last weekend I was given this wonderful gift during our swadhyaya, or self study, session: If you hear yourself thinking or saying, “How dare you…” check your ego. Whether it is a thought or statement directed at yourself or someone else, the ego is probably behind it. This is not to say that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself or let others treat you badly. However, when we are motivated my strong emotion coming from ego, things usually don’t go well. If we can step back from the situation, examine our part in it, see where the ego has been triggered, ask ourselves what part fear is playing, and then move forward with love, we will have much more success.

 

 

Turn the Radio On

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

–Nikola Tesla

When you ask the Universe/God a question you have to be in tune with the Universe/God to receive an answer. I typically use the terms god/universe/source/love/light/spirit interchangeably. God is the whole universe, the source of everything, is pure love and light, and is present in spirit. When we are negative and complain that we are not receiving guidance, it’s like turning the dial on the radio to static then complaining that there’s no music. Spirit is always talking to us, but we aren’t always listening. You have to feel good as they say in “The Secret,” get into the zone or “the vortex” as Abraham calls it, to see your intentions manifest. You must tune your inner radio to the correct frequency to get the message that is coming in. Often it is in our darkest times that we think to ask our inner guide for help. And it will help, if we are able to receive the guidance. It is a practice, like everything else, to know where to look, how to receive, what to listen for. We can practice through living mindfully, cultivating awareness, and meditating. Meditation comes in many forms, and can include, but is not limited to: sitting silently, mantra repetition, breathing deeply, singing, chanting, practicing postures, walking, running, cycling, being in nature, gardening, journaling, guided meditation, working with animals, volunteering, playing, and creating art. Even our diet and activity level have an effect on our ability to perceive the voice of our inner guide. If we don’t practice this technique and don’t train our spiritual muscles, they get weak. We become confused and lost. We may get frustrated or doubtful, saying, “Where were you when I needed you?” We stick our fingers in our ears, cover our eyes, and cry out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” I know. I’ve been there. Even Jesus Christ has been there. Unable to see the bigger picture amidst our own pain, we sit in a deep dark hole, gazing down into the abyss and neglecting to turn our eyes up to the light above. Even after years of therapy, treatment, yoga, meditation, and mostly healthy living, I still have moments and sometimes days of fear and doubt. More and more often now, though, I am able to lift my own head. I can find that spark of light that urges me to keep moving forward. I have practiced and trained my mind to sit for meditation even when I don’t feel like it, to read enlightening texts, to practice and teach yoga, to remember to be grateful, to listen to upbeat happy music, to avoid negativity, and to tune back in to a positive frequency. In “The Secret” these mood-boosting techniques are called “secret shifters.” Yours may be different, but as long as they make you smile, laugh, or feel happy, then they work to pull you out of that darkness and glimpse the light again. They give you the motivating energy to tune into a positive frequency and vibrate in harmony with god, thereby allowing you to glimpse the secrets of the universe.

AstroSync

Opening the wheel, web and flower of life

OPERATION YOGA

Helping people who are ready for better