What is Your Heart Opening Yoga Practice?

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

Practice Your Yoga Like No One is Watching

Heart Chakra Opening YogaHave you ever experienced the most beautiful, rock steady tree pose (Vrkasana) or headstand at home only to feel like you’re trying to balance during an earthquake during class?

Many yoga students experience “stage fright” (for lack of a better term) in which the ego takes over and begins to place worth on whether or not we can hold a pose longer or deeper than someone else, or even get into the pose at all.   Our ego loves competition,  and often times it’s only with ourselves.

At home, we feel as if we’re in a safe judgement-free environment and we have the freedom to try anything without consequence or embarrassment if we “don’t do it right.”  But, there really is no” right,” and that safe place that we feel we have at home is actually always with us; within us. Continue reading

Snuggle the Struggle and Be Free

child hugging herselfWhen I first began to practice yoga and meditate, I assumed that I would immediately realize a stress-free blissful existence in which my problems and struggles would no longer exist.  I’ll let you in on a secret, that didn’t happen.

What I learned from teacher after teacher was that yoga was about the present moment, and letting go.  But even that turned into a struggle as I felt some type of resistance to being still.  I felt frustrated that thoughts and feelings other than bliss snuck into my zen space.  I thought that my job as a good yogi was to push those ‘bad’ thoughts and emotions out and only have happy thoughts.  Wrong again.  What I was doing was creating a deeper resistance and suffering. Continue reading

Live your unhappiness?

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.

Ananda.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo credit: Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability

Where Did You Park Your Karma? 10 ways to pay it forward

good karma street signWhat comes to mind when you think of “karma?”  Does it inspire punitive images of divine retribution?  Do you envision your ex “getting what’s coming to them” for hurting you?  Maybe you’re not quite sure what to think when we talk about karma. Too often, karma is only thought of in terms of payback for a wrongdoing; far far away from the fundamental concept of karma.

The Sanskrit word Karma (or kamma in Pali) literally means action.  Central to dharmic religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Wicca karma mainly refers to one’s intention or motivation while doing an action.  Christianity has it’s own tenets of karma in the “The Golden Rule.”  Regardless of religion, the sentiment is essentially the same, “you get what you give.”  For those religions that believe in reincarnation, what you “get” can be accumulated over lifetimes.

In essence, all living creatures are responsible for their karma, their actions and the effects of their actions.  While I think there is some truth to the saying, “you reap what you sow,” I try to subscribe to a more positive belief that we are all part of the same mortal coil, the same energy and act accordingly.    We are, however, all human, myself included.    So, until I reach bodhisattva status many lifetimes from now, I reserve the right to make mistakes without judgement. Continue reading

Do You Bark Your Truth?

truth-abe_lincoln-word_cloudThere’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

Celebrate Small Victories (and defeats)

small-victories-workplace-ecard-someecardsI 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

Make Yourself Sit Still

eckhart-tolle-quote-stillnessI 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