Lessons from Nepal #5 - It Comes from Within

Imagine a boat, any type of boat will do.  The boat is taking on water, and in danger of sinking.  What is putting the boat in danger?  I'll explain some ideas, and answer the riddle at the end of this blog post.

I found the people of Nepal to be happy, gentle and strong.  They have the abiility to face adversity with a smile, a shake of the head, and the phrase "what can we do".  I witnessed drivers waiting in gas lines for 4 days.  I witnessed shop owners cleaning their shops and patiently waiting for tourists to return (as hotels were nearly empty).  The Yoga Sutras call for us to have these same qualities. 

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥  (Sthira Skuham Asanam)

sthira = (nom. sg. m.) strong; steady; stable; motionless
sukham = (acc. from sukha) comfortable; ease filled; happy; light; relaxed
āsanam = (acc. sg. n./nom. sg. n. from āsana) asana; posture; seated position; physical practice

This text is often something to strive for in our physical practice, which is a great goal.  Finding the balance between stable strength and comfortable ease is a challenge.  It is a great way to make sure you aren't pushing too hard, but is there more?  What if you could face your entire life this way?  What if you could find a way to face the challenges that come from the outside with a new perspective?  If you can remain strong yet happy and relaxed, despite all adversity, how would this change your life?  These are the exact qualities that I admire about the people of Nepal.  They have this Sthira Sukham stuff down like nobody else!

So, back to the boat.   In my eyes, it is the water inside the boat that is the problem.  How can you change from the inside, so that you remain strong, steady, and happy without letting the water get in and sink your boat?  It is something that I strive for, and something that my yoga and meditation practice bring me closer to achieving.  Look within yourself for the answers.  

Namaste - Beth


Lessons from Nepal #4 - Flat is Boring

While staying in Nepal, our guide frequently encouraged us to hire a cab to get around during our daily excursions.  We frequently complied with his request, as it was quick and provided work for the cab driver, but occasionally we opted to walk.  Our guide reluctantly complied with our wishes, often leading us through fascinating business and residential areas.  We were thrilled to watch the locals going about their daily lives and slow down to really see Nepali life.  Our guide was not impressed with these decisions, so we finally asked why he didn't like to walk.  "Flat is boring" was his reply.  Makes sense, the man does make his living as a trekking guide.  Flat walking did not offer panoramic views or cardiovascular challenge.  In cardiology, flat line refers to being dead and without a pulse.  Time to get off the flat line.

Moderate challenges did reward us with breathtaking views and new experiences.  By stepping out of our comfort zone and confronting slippery paths, leeches, and questionable roads, we were rewarded with the experience of a lifetime.  It is often like that in yoga as well.  When you are willing to step just beyond your comfort zone, amazing things can happen.  

In practice and in life, you need to experience both the flat lines and the uphill battles.  You need a moment to pause and reflect, and a moment to power through a challenge.  This is why there is more than one style of yoga.  We can't spend our entire practice resting in shavasana or sitting in meditation, but we can't spend the entire time giving 100% physical effort either.  

The challenge is to be happy with whatever life is throwing at you.  Can you enjoy that flat and easy path as well as the uphill battle?  Can you balance the rest and the work?  Try finding the balance between the sthira (strength and steadiness) and sukha (ease, relaxation, joy).  This is our challenge, and it is the work of a lifetime.

Namaste - Beth

Intentions and Real Change

Several yoga classes begin with a meditation, or setting of an intention.  This is a great time to bring focus to the question of you want/need from the day's practice.  You may want to consider setting an intention on a daily, weekly, monthly basis or longer.  

It takes practice to turn inward and discover what you truly want or need.  Many of us were brought up to do as we were told.  Sports were based on performance, and winning was the primary goal.  The feeding of the spirit may have been a rare or completely void aspect of our everyday lives.  

The practice of intention is well worth the investment.  In January of 2014, I set my intention for the upcoming year.  I asked myself who I wanted to be, and how I could make my life better.  I decided that the wall I had built around my heart must come down.  I had been able to do the work at my local yoga studio, but returned to my old habits during the rest of my life.  The journey has been incredible and life changing.  I have made connections with family, made new friends, and began recording my thoughts in this blog.  I am more available for others now that I am more connected to myself.

All of this work on intentions and heart opening has allowed me to come to a simple conclusion that really shocked me.  Maybe I could open up and ask for what I want in other situations.  I thought of a situation that was far from ideal, and asked myself what my dream outcome would be.  When I contacted the other parties involved, the final solution worked out better than the one that I proposed.  This is so simple, but was also very profound.  Imagine asking for what I wanted - shocking!  I was able to use my energy to maintain connections with others, rather than using my resources in maintaining the wall around my heart.

Call it an intention, a dream, or a resolution.  You can set goals that leads to emotional and personal growth.  When you do this work, it improves all of your personal and professional interactions.    

To get started, you need to reflect during some quiet time to yourself.  You may prefer a daily walk in nature, prayer, meditation, yoga asana (postures), or a combination of a few of these things.  Here are some steps to help you begin to find and work toward your intention.  

1.  As you begin, ask yourself what changes you'd like to see, and begin to visualize that change in your life.  

2.  Notice if there is any physical tension that is connected with that emotion or change.  Breathe deeply and try to soften that tension.  

3.  When you find that feeling or situation arising in your everyday life, return to your breath and the softness.  Remind yourself of the change that you want to make.

4.  When you feel that change becoming habit, ask how you could expand it to create a better world.      

You do not have to be satisfied with, "that's just the way that I am".  You have the power to set an intention, make a change, create better thoughts and a better life.  It will improve things for those around you as well!  Change your inner dialog, change your physical response, and you can change the world!

Live your yoga every day - Beth