E-RYT 500, yoga instructor for children and adults

Posts tagged ‘trust’

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

The street I drive down daily to enter my neighborhood is always lined with randomly parked cars. The street isn’t very wide and if cars are parked on both sides, only one car can fit through. Many stray dogs and cats wander the area, as well as plenty of squirrels and birds. I call this straightaway “the gauntlet” because it is always a challenge to navigate around the cars, play chicken with the oncoming traffic, and dodge various wildlife. Recently as I was driving through the gauntlet, eager to get home after a long day, I noticed a squirrel up ahead crossing the street. I slowed down a bit but it looked like the squirrel would make it across well before I got to it. I was just about to drive past the little rodent when it suddenly froze, then turned and darted back into the street, right into the path of my car! It’s a miracle that I didn’t hit it, but I didn’t feel a bump or see it behind me so I assume the squirrel slipped between the wheels and made it back to the other side. As I was telling Charlie about this incident recently, a revelation hit me. I heard myself saying, “If he wouldn’t have doubted himself and gotten scared, he would have made it in plenty of time. But because he gave up and turned around, he almost got himself killed!” I realized then that I am that squirrel. You are also that squirrel. We all are, at times. And I bet God looks at us the same way I looked at it, thinking, “Go on little being, you’re so close! Believe in yourself, trust you are on the right path, and keep going!”
Fear and doubt are tricks of the ego. It is easy to forget that the ego works in many different ways. Ego isn’t just thinking you are better than others, it’s also thinking you are worse. Ego tells us that we are separate and different, that we must compete to survive, and that our worth is based on our material success. Any thoughts that we use to attack ourselves or others come from ego. We have gotten so familiar with the voice of ego that we mistake it for our own. Meanwhile, the subtle voice of spirit gets drowned out amidst the blaring noise of advertising, social pressure, and cultural expectations. For instance, when you think of Charles Darwin, what is your first association? Survival of the fittest probably comes to mind, the idea that we must fight against others for resources. However, as I learned from the documentary “I Am,” that was only a small part of his overall findings. The most important aspect of nature that Darwin emphasized repeatedly was cooperation. This idea was played down and the idea of competition was reinforced by other members of popular culture. And that is the legacy that has been passed down to us.
We constantly receive messages from advertising that we need something outside of ourselves to make us complete. The media tells us that we aren’t good enough the way we are, that we must have a product to make us look younger, a car to make us look richer, a pill to make us look happier. We are told to be afraid of strangers, of those who look, act, talk, and pray differently than ourselves. We are told to hurry, act now, for a limited time only, or we will miss out. It makes sense then that we would doubt our own power, downplay our own light. We get the idea to do something great, to create, explore, take a chance. We may even begin to take the steps to get there. We quit the miserable job, we begin writing the novel, we start up a conversation with the person we are interested in. As the Bhagavad Gita tells us, as soon as we set out on our true path, the ego begins blaring its lies at us. We fear financial security because “everyone knows” you have to work hard and compete to earn a higher salary and buy more stuff. We doubt our creativity because “everyone knows” it’s hard to get a book published and we’ll never make money doing that. We trail off and walk away because “everyone knows” relationships never work out and they are out of our league anyway. We freeze, we give up, we turn around. Then when we barely escape being hurt, knocked down, or run over, we think to ourselves, “See, that’s what always happens. The world is a dangerous place. Good thing I turned around.” And ego reinforces those false beliefs. But in reality if we would have just kept going, just believed in ourselves for a little bit longer, we would have made it to our goal.
My dog Joey is a 12 pound, 13 year old, blind miniature schnauzer with a heart murmur and arthritis. She doesn’t let any of this slow her down. She plays with bigger dogs, runs free in the yard, barks at “intruders” (aka our guests), guards the house, and when we walk I have to pull back her leash to keep her from running into things because she just goes for it. Her favorite toy is almost as big as she is. I originally bought it while fostering a much larger dog, a lab mix. But Joey doesn’t know her limitations, so for her they don’t exist. We have to unlearn all the false fear and doubt of the ego and learn to trust in the guidance of our inner spirit, our inner guru.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because no one ever told her she couldn’t.

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Money Can’t Buy Me Love

“Aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathamta-sambodhah.” Patanjali, Chapter 2 Sutra 39

In his yoga sutras, Patanjali writes, “When non-acquisitiveness is established, an understanding of the purpose of birth is gained.” Aparigraha, non-acquisitiveness or non-attachment, is the final of the five yamas that form the foundation of the practice of yoga. In our modern society, in the West and in America in particular, much emphasis is placed on what you have. Advertisements constantly bombard us with messages about “newer, better, must have” products. Many people measure success with how much money they make, the type of car they drive, where they live, their clothes, toys, vacations, in short, their possessions. Wayne Dyer teaches that ego is “Edging God Out” and that ego tells us we are what we do and what we have. We get so caught up in making and spending money that we forget to enjoy life. Even thousands of years ago the yogis knew humans were subject to this flaw. By letting go of the material world, we can instead focus on our spiritual path. The purpose of birth that Patanjali refers to can be thought of as our path, our dharma, or our destiny.
My partner, Charlie, and I have spent the last year cutting back and paring down in many ways. At first it was out of necessity, due to financial issues. But once we saw how our lives began to change because of it, we became willing participants in living a more minimalist lifestyle. The first major change we made was cancelling our cable television. Before that I thought that commercials didn’t affect me that much. I knew I watched them but I thought I was too smart and aware to let them influence me. I was very wrong. Even if the commercial didn’t succeed in getting me to buy the product, it still seeped into my consciousness. After being without cable for about six months Charlie and I both felt less desire for things. We felt lighter, and we lost that constant nagging feeling that we needed something more, something better. We began to realize that we already had almost everything that we needed. There are only a few items we still want to obtain, and even these we see not as necessities but as things that would be nice to have. We are now able to get by on much less yet still feel satisfied.
We also began to give things away. Little things, like extra clothes, books or just anything that we had been holding onto that we no longer used. And as we did this two things happened: one, the universe began to put people in our path who needed the very things we were giving away; and two, we began to receive the very things that we needed from others. When we let go of attachment to specific possessions, it created room for a natural flow to establish itself. It is recommended in many traditions, like feng shui, to clear out old clutter in order to create space for new things to flow into your life.
Finally, we both at different times in our lives gave up a lucrative career in a field we were unhappy with in order to follow our hearts and do what we were passionate about. When you let go of the need to buy and have lots of material things, it allows you to explore your true passions and possibly make less money to do something you love. I am grateful that I have been able to do this, as not everyone has the support it takes follow their dreams. However, I do think more people could if they were able to practice non-attachment and simplify their lives. It isn’t always easy and there have been times when we struggled, but it has been worth it. For us, giving up some material pleasures has freed us up to follow our true path, and we have found so much more fulfillment and happiness because of it.

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.

Right Action

Chapter 2 Verse 47 of the Bhagavad Gita tells us that, “Thy human right is for activity only, never for the resultant fruits of actions. Do not consider thyself the creator of the fruits of thy activities, neither allow thyself attachment to inactivity.” In Chapter 3 Verse 42 we learn that, “The senses are said to be superior to the physical body, the mind is superior to the sense faculties, the intelligence is superior to the mind, but the Self is superior to the intelligence.” We can substitute the Self for the spirit, soul, god, light, energy, universe, nature, inner guide, or whatever concept of a power within that resonates with us. These verses taken together give us a nice illustration of how best to determine which activity we are called to do, and why inactivity is to be avoided.

As humans we are given the gift of this life: a body, senses, mind, and intelligence, which are all useful and we are called to share our gifts. My partner has the theory that for a perfect being to grow, it must become imperfect. In certain mythology it is said that the Absolute cannot see itself, so it must look into a mirror, and we are that mirror. The Bible says that we are made in the image and likeness of our creator. We must act, we must live this life, or else our gift is wasted. We are each bestowed with a spark of divine light within, the Self, and because this spirit is superior to all the physical and mental abilities we have, we cannot become egotistical and believe ourselves to be the creator of the fruits or results of our actions. The body is only animated–the senses able to take in information, the mind able to think, and the intelligence able to rationalize–because of this energy of spirit within. In the commentary to the Gita, Parmahansa Yogananda says that even egotistical activity is better than inactivity. Not acting, not using the gifts we are given, is an insult to the very spark that allows us to exist. However the best way to show gratitude for these gifts, and to assure that more will be given, is to use our activities to the betterment of the world in which we live. He says that accumulating material wealth is not bad in and of itself, as long as we use our “good fortunes for worthy causes and to help those less fortunate.

Nonattachment to the fruits of our actions does not mean that we perform action with no thought to the outcome. We do our best and then we either let go of any outcomes we perceive as negative or relinquish claim as the sole creator of any outcomes we perceive as positive. Everything we do is possible because of the gifts we have been given from this higher power, whether you consider that to be a divine being, energy, or nature. We care for the body, mind, and spirit, always remembering which is superior. We meditate to connect to the Self and then receive guidance on what actions to take, how to use our intelligence and mind, our senses and body. Parmahansa also makes the point that, “Human existence is not predestined, every man is given free choice to accept the divine plan of existence, or to follow the path of ignorance and misery.” If we are given signs by the universe of which path to follow and we either ignore them willfully or because we neglect to meditate and practice self-awareness, then we can choose to not follow the path. However, you will soon find that going against the flow is not only difficult and painful, but also that eventually you will be caught up in the current and forced onto the path. It is better to introspectively ask for the guidance and willingly go where it leads you. My partner once said, “Life is like a river. Stand still and the current will beat upon you till you move. Swim against it and you will go nowhere. Let it carry you and you’ll reach your destination. Swim with it and there is no telling how far you’ll go.”  One of my favorite spiritual authors, Gabrielle Bernstein, said, “Magic is when you tell the Universe what you want, Miracles are when you ask the Universe what it wants.” Letting the Self take the lead is the best way to perform right action. As long as you are sincerely seeking the right path and listening to the guidance of the Universe, you can’t make a wrong choice. It will ultimately guide you back onto the path, so practicing nonattachment and trust is key, especially when you don’t think things are going your way. A seemingly negative situation will always work out for the greater good for the sincere spiritual seeker.

In my yoga practice I try not to attach to the postures that I can or can’t achieve. Instead I focus on my asana practice as a way to prepare the body and calm the mind so that I can better receive the guidance of spirit. Activity, or asana, is necessary, but is not the goal. The results, or achievements, are not bad, as long as you use them for the greater good. My asana practice keeps my body healthy so I can continue my spiritual practice. I may inspire others to persevere in their own practice by demonstrating the amazing things the body is capable of. As a teacher, if I have a good grasp of asana and a strong practice I can better teach others. I always emphasize to my students that it is not about what the pose looks like on the outside, but what it feels like inside their bodies. The benefits happen within. I have recently shied away from posting too many advanced asana pictures so as not to overly emphasize that aspect of yoga. I prefer to highlight my meditation practice, basic asana for health, and living a good life through the yamas and niyamas.

In my life I am always open to using my gifts, and every morning I pray the Prayer of St. Francis that the divine will work through me to bring peace, love, joy, light, hope, and forgiveness into the world. I am open to material wealth but do not feel entitled to it. Anything I have that someone else can use I give away. I focus on gratitude for everything I am given. On days when I feel sad or lethargic, I remember that I must keep going, moving, persevering. There are people depending on me, and it is more important to help others than wallow in my own troubles. The great thing is that most of the time, helping someone else makes me realize how lucky I really am and gives me a better perspective on my own issues. I know that even when I have a desire for a particular outcome, that spirit is always the first place to look for guidance. Even rational, logical thought is subservient to the intuition and guidance of the Self. I now see the guiding hand of spirit everywhere, and even though I still become frustrated or upset and confused, it is becoming more second nature for me to focus on love and faith. Even when my intelligence, mind, senses, or body feels bad, I know that I will be ok. My spirit will prevail.

Karma

Charlie and I ordered iPhones right after we got back from our honeymoon, at the end of September. He had been using the same phone for 4 years and me for almost 3. We were so excited to get new phones on a family plan together as we began our life as a married couple. At the time we had them put insurance on both phones. We were supposed to get them in 2-4 weeks. Two weeks later Charlie called to check on the status and they said they were still on backorder. Two weeks after that he called them again and they said the same thing. Two more weeks after that he called again and they finally realized something was wrong with the original order. They had to cancel the original order and redo it. At this time we decided to remove the insurance from the phones to lower the bill, and they then overnighted us our phones. We received them on November 7. As I said, we both had iPhone before and were using the old lightning cables to charge the phones nightly. They stayed plugged in by our bed and our new kitten, Moses, never bothered them. The second day we had the new iPhone cables plugged in, he destroyed them both. He must like the 5s. I went to the Apple store at North Park and bought two more cords. Despite our efforts to keep them out of his reach and train him not to play with them, he ruined one of those too. Someone suggested I go back to the Apple store and see if they would replace one or more of the cords. I thought it was worth at least asking, and even if they said no, I needed to buy a replacement. Yesterday, Nov 14, I went there and was pleasantly surprised that they were able to replace all three cords at no charge. In the process of entering my information and confirming my warranty, the Apple store employee had me turn off the “find my phone” feature. Charlie found out later that this is standard; they have to turn it off to get into the system or something. I don’t know, I’m not a tech person. And because I’m not, I neglected to turn it back on. I didn’t really understand what it was for, and I had no notion whatsoever that my phone would need to be found.

That same evening I taught my weekly class for Dirt Cheap Yoga at the Lake Highlands North Rec Center. Class ended at 6:30, and at 6:40 PM I had just gotten into my car to go home. I was parked not too far from the entrance, but it was dark. Suddenly a teenage female knocked on my window. I rolled it down a bit and she asked if she could use my phone. I got out of the car with just my keys and phone, locked it, and stood next to her as she made a call. Then a teenage male walked up who I hadn’t seen before, he must have been hiding off to the side. I started to get a bad feeling so I said, “I have to go, I need my phone back.” I tried to reach for it, but she handed the phone to him and they started walking away. I said, “Oh come on really? Please?” And he responded, “It’s your keys or your phone, I’m taking one,” then they started to run. I was shaken but not hurt, and grateful for that. I went back inside the rec center and called the police, told them exactly what happened, and gave a description of the kids and which way they were heading. I was given the option to stay at the rec center until they came, but they had no idea how long it would take and I figured it would be too late anyway to catch the kids. So they said they would call me back later that night to file the official report. I went home and we immediately called T-Mobile and reported the phone stolen. They disabled it so it can’t be used on any network. At this point the only use for it would be to sell it for parts, which I don’t think the kids even realized when they took it. We told the T-Mobile representatives what happened and they were extremely kind and helpful. Because of the mess of our initial order, the fact that we did have insurance in the beginning, and since we had only had the phones for such a short time, they graciously agreed to retro-activate the insurance plan and have a phone sent to us the next day. We only had to pay the deductible and the monthly insurance payment, so it still cost us money but not nearly as much as a new phone.

Unfortunately, because I did not turn “find my phone” back on, there was no way to track the phone. The only thing I could do would be to file a police report and give them the serial number in hopes that it would be found and reported. It was a long shot, but I wanted to file a report on principle if nothing else. I told Charlie that if they did catch those kids, I would want them to be sentenced to the maximum number of community service hours so they could learn something about compassion and selflessness. The police called me back later that night and I told my story again, with the same details that I reported the first time. This time the representative on the phone told me that my situation does not constitute a theft because I gave the person permission to use the phone. Because I handed the phone over instead of it being snatched from me, I could not report it as stolen. This sound seriously fishy to me, and I don’t understand the point of that kind of loophole in the law, but that is what I was told.

Charlie and I felt that the Apple store needed to know that this scam was happening and that apparently their customers would then have no legal recourse even if the phone was located. We also wanted to request them to change their policy so that their employees remind the customers to turn that feature back on and to explain to those of us that aren’t so tech savvy why it is important. After telling the Apple store manager the whole story, including the fact that we are already getting a replacement phone under our insurance, he still decided to give us a phone for free. I am blown away by the wonderful people who have been so generous and kind as we dealt with these issues. We decided to sell one of the replacement phones to a good friend, just for enough money to recoup our costs from the insurance, and he is still getting an amazing deal on a new iPhone. I will have a working phone again by this afternoon, less than 24 hours after mine was stolen. I try to live a good life, I consider other people’s feelings, and I strive to do the right thing. I sincerely believe that this whole crazy convoluted story is a lesson to believe in karma and trust in the plan. Along the way there were times when I began to doubt, to think, “why me,” or got discouraged. From the delay in getting our phones, to the cords being ruined, to the scary experience of being robbed, things did not seem to be going my way. There were moments when I cried, cursed, and felt defeated. But then I used my yoga and meditation techniques to breathe and trust. We remained positive, took inspired action, asked for what we wanted, and were honest and up front about every detail. Many people forget that karma means simply “action.” It isn’t good or bad, but we perceive it as such. Our actions lead to consequences. Acting from love leads to favorable consequences, and acting from ego leads to unfavorable consequences. So the moral of this story is this: Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it’s instant, but at some point, good or bad, karma’s gonna’ get ya’.

AstroSync

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OPERATION YOGA

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