Dedicating space in honor of all of the service men and women that have selflessly given of themselves so we have the freedoms we have today. With much love and devotion this Memorial Day, I thank you.
– Your Charmed Yogi
As a yogini and a teacher, I always bring my practice back to opening the heart as a way to end suffering. Everyday, we may not even be consciously aware of what we’re doing to sabotage our own happiness. Things like attachment, aversion, and fear creep into our lives when we aren’t even looking.
Opening the heart happens off the mat and on through asana, spiritual practice, meditation, and nurturing our creativity. During my classes, I often end class by reading an excerpt from a meditation book I’m reading, or poem by Rumi or Hafiz, or something I’ve written myself that speaks to the moment. Continue reading
Everyday, I see blog posts, twitter updates, articles, videos, websites, etc. dedicated to finding happiness. We’ve actually begun to place so much pressure on ourselves to find happiness, that we’re making ourselves unhappy.
Happiness is an emotional state, something we feel as a result of some superficial event. Now, I’m not trivializing those things in our life that make us feel good, but rather suggesting that they are fleeting. And, if we’re constantly chasing that feeling, we become happiness tweakers.
Joy, on the other hand, is born of the heart and is always there. We just need to open ourselves up to accepting it into our lives. Seems like a semantic argument, right? Maybe.
“So, wait, are you saying I should wallow in pity, depression and unhappiness?”
Nope. What I’m saying is that we should let the circumstances that come in and out of our lives just be as they are without allowing them to create any type of turbulence — positive OR negative.
Think about a time when you were in a relationship, and you allowed someone’s existence to dictate your happiness. We’ve all done it. Significant other calls = happy. Significant other mistreats us = unhappy.
This relationship dynamic is metaphor for our larger addiction to feeling good due to external influences. I remember seeing a quote that said something to the effect of, “Joy is a condition of spirit that so fills my being, that no amount of happiness or unhappiness can cast it out.”
Still, I’m not saying that you should disregard those things or people in your life that bring you emotional happiness, but bring awareness to your attitude and reaction.
Do you easily get caught up in negativity if something doesn’t quite go your way? Do you allow negative thoughts to occupy your mind, or do you think positively and encourage lovingly rather than acting harshly?
Be mindful of self-judgement when posing these questions. It’s a difficult concept to grasp that Joy exists outside the emotional realm.
“Sometimes your JOY is the source of your
smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your JOY. ”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Happiness and unhappiness are something that we can achieve. Achieve equating with mind, judgement and future. Joy is something that we are, it is presence, it is everywhere.
” The final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi. Samadhi means “to bring together, to merge.” In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness. During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged.” – William Doran.
This is union
This is Joy
Be mindful of how you treat others and yourself. Live a truthul, non-violent existence. Meditate. Just Be.
– Your Charmed Yogi
Photo credit: Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability
I always get a little excited and do a non-visible happy dance when a student, friend or peer asks me about meditation. I hear things like, “I know I should start meditating,” or “I don’t know how to meditate,” or “I tried meditating once and it doesn’t work for me,” all of which I’d experienced at some point in my life as well.
After I’d been practicing yoga asana for a few years, my perception naturally started to shift, and I knew I wanted to pursue more in this spiritual journey beyond physical poses. I began reading about the various types of meditation and what others had experienced.
I’d learned about guided meditation in which you’re listening to a CD or an instructor and you are walked through a type of visual experience in an effort to direct you toward your inner spaciousness and unconscious. Through visualization and imagination, you shift your active mind in a different direction. The issue with this type of meditation, for me, is that it’s still just another form of mind activity. Patanjali describes yoga as “the settling of mind into silence.” I remember thinking that I should be experiencing vivid visualizations and be transformed to a different plane of existence. But, I wasn’t going anywhere and that made me frustrated. I didn’t see any mystical creatures or fabulous lights, and I felt like a failure.
The funny thing — and I didn’t know this at the time — is that there is no goal, there is no “place go to.” In meditation, the only thing you need to do, is sit in silence.
There’s a poem by Linda Ellis of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on his coffin,
from the beginning…. to the end. He spoke of what mattered most were not the dates of his friend’s birth and his death, but the dash — the tiny dash — that represents what happens between. Life.
Awesome reminder that this, we have now. There are opportunities to live life to your fullest every where you look. It’s not on the television, and it’s not even in a book. The first date on your memoir has already happened and each day, you approach that second date. How are you living your dash?
In the song, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Bob Dylan says, “…that he not busy being born is busy dying.”
There are countless people throughout history who have lived and ARE living their dashes to the fullest: Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (November 18, 1888 – February 28, 1989; Mahatma Ghandi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948); Mother Teresa (26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997); Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968); The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (6 July 1935 – ).
You don’t have to have a bucket list of goals that you check off one by one as a sense of achievement. Merely practicing gratitude and presence everyday and opening your eyes to life around you will do just fine. Follow your heart, and the universe will provide everything you need.
Whether you aspire to achieve the Nobel Peace Prize or just to reach the end of your life never having said the words, “I wish I had…,” it’s never too late to start living your dash to the fullest.
-Your Charmed Yogi
There’s a quote in the book Bad Dog! by Lin Jensen that I try to come back to when I feel I’ve lost direction and an inner compass, “If we are true to the steps we take, the travel makes sense and the journey confirms itself.” In essence, if we are putting one proverbial foot in front of the other from a place of integrity, the journey unfolds before us and becomes less of an effort born of suffering.
So often, we are just “going through the motions” with little recognition of what got us to the present state or why we’re continuing on a given path.
Let’s go back to the dog theme. Have you ever known a dog to lie or put on a facade? No. Dogs are brutally honest in their demeanor and actions. Hungry? Eat. Happy? Wag tail. Threatened? Bite. Nowhere does the dog engage in the inner struggle of what they should do vs. what they want or need to do.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you live selfishly without regard to how your actions impact others, but if you start to trust your gut and become aware of your truth at the core, your perceptions shifts which may even change your path. In either case, the struggle and suffering begin to wane. Continue reading
I laughed pretty hard when someone posted this image on their Facebook page last week. It says, “It’s the small victories that prevent me from jumping out the window.” Besides being funny, it got me thinking about how often we let the little victories go unnoticed and how often we let what we feel are “defeats” take over our happiness rather than see both of them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
We have all had that atrocious week at work or particularly gnarly fight with a loved one. At the time, situations may seem so insurmountable, you can’t possibly imagine any light. When you’re in amidst the muck, it seems impossible to step outside of your mind and try to find the lesson, or better yet to see the situation for what it is.
It might seem “Pollyanna,” but several years ago I decided to try and find the silver lining in any situation. No matter what is happening, I try to take a step back and see the big picture. In February, I was hit with a couple of large back to back home repair bills. In a former time period, I would have sunk into a pit, seeing only the negatives of the money flying out of my pocketbook. But since the shift in my perspective, I celebrate the fact that I have a home that I can repair. I’m grateful that I can afford to pay for these substantial repairs, and I’m supremely thankful that everyone in my life is happy and healthy. When you walk backwards up the spiral of tumbled dominoes and step out of the maze, you see a beautiful design of interconnected pieces that individually have tumbled over. Continue reading
I had dinner with a friend last night, and we were talking about how it’s not always easy to be disciplined in our meditation practice, thus the concept of discipline. She said something that really clicked. She said, “I just physically walk myself over to my meditation spot, and make myself sit down.” Genius. Whether or not you have a regular asana (yoga pose) and meditation practice, you know that even if you don’t feel like it, you always feel better after you’ve done it. It’s true. I’ve never felt worse after I’ve pushed myself to flow through my practice or meditate. Sure, I might have a cleansing cry or a flood of thoughts bombard my mind, but that’s the point of meditating — sitting still long enough for the purification to happen. Continue reading
Typically, during a meditation, I don’t “go anywhere,” but rather reside in my IS-ness, and just sit in stillness. Sometimes, however, I experience dreamlike states of consciousness where I might experience something like a journey or visualization. This morning was one of those times, and it made such metaphoric sense, I wanted to share.
During a deep state of rest, I felt as if I was riding rapids down a river, and landed inside a cave that was completely calm, the exact opposite of what brought me there. The floor of the cave was a pool of still water that reflected the light shining in, and stalagmites reached toward the open ceiling of the cavern. The beautiful bright blue sky above barely had any clouds at all, and the opening of the cave framed the sky like an eye to heaven.
I emerged from the cave only to find a desolate, peaceful plain with nothing but a few barren trees and waves of grass for as far as I could see. I didn’t feel sorrow in this isolation, but rather, pure spaciousness and peace.
In the first two posts of this series, I talked about the yamas or “laws of life” and the niyamas or “rules for living,” so now we come to pranayama and meditation, both of which flow through and are essential for the previous two limbs. When I was going through teacher training and we learned about each yama and niyama, I started to feel anxious thinking about all of the work I had to do to change myself. I had this mental checklist running through my head. As I began to examine the deeper meanings behind the yamas, such as violence which can be as subtle as thinking a harsh thought towards someone who is making your life difficult at work, I really started to panic.
When you really dissect all of the subtle ways we can be “in violation” of these universal moralities and personal observances, it can quickly become a challenge to stay present and not judge yourself. So, I read more and listened more and started to see that simply ‘noticing’ when I’m in a situation in which I have an opportunity to practice non-violence or moderation, my actions naturally began to shift. Add pranayama and meditation to the mix, and these qualities of living a yogic life begin to arise unconsciously; they become part of your DNA.