Seeking Harmony

I have officially experienced the post election blues.  It has much more to do with the disconnect that I see and feel from humanity than who won and who lost.  After a lifetime of avoiding expressing and feeling my own emotions, I have to say that sometimes this feeling stuff really sucks.  I am feeling my own sadness and the heaviness of the emotions in those around me.  Last evening I sat with myself, and I cried deeply.  The division I see in our nation is so profound.  This division impacts people of other races, religious beliefs, the LGBTQ community and their families. 

 Sometimes, you really have to feel something before you can move past it.  Luckily, my amazing friends at Create Karma and I have been sharing a path of healing and acceptance during the past year.  They have taught me to open my heart, and hopefully I have led them through some healing as well.  I love them deeply.  I have felt my feelings,  and I am ready to move forward and take action as a leader for the wellness of our community and our nation.   

 This week I taught yoga classes encouraging my students to find a place of refuge in their own breath.  I struggled to take my own advice, so I made a cup of my favorite tea, and found inspiration through reading.  This gem of a quote had the greatest impact, so this is where I start moving forward. 

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Now I choose to practice finding this harmony, happiness and balance through the Yamas and Niyamas (10 principles of living) of yoga.  If you have felt the feelings that you need to feel and are ready to move take positive action moving forward, here are the steps that I plan to take. 

  1. Ahimsa: compassion for all living things - I turn to a quote from Charlotte Bell.  "My favorite description of ahimsa is of a dynamic peacefulness prepared to meet all needs with loving openness."  I feel compassion for all beings who are being hurt or oppressed.  This extends to my vegan diet.  I am not apologetic, but maybe in order to be more balanced, I need to find actions that express loving openness rather than dwelling on sad or painful things.

  2. Satya: commitment to the truth - Sometimes I have tended to hide my beliefs when they don't parallel those who I am around.  It may feel easier for me that way, but it is a form of deceit.  So to all those hospital employees who may be reading this, I voted for Clinton this year.  There, I said it.  I don't agree with her entire platform, but my personal beliefs are closer in line with hers than with Trump.  Truthfulness - check.

  3. Asteya: non-stealing - It may seem easy to think, I don't steal.  Can we look a little deeper?  The times that I choose to remain silent and don't stand up when #1 is being violated, I am stealing support from those who may desperately need it.  Am I focusing on the news too much and stealing my attention from work that will be for a greater good?  

  4. Brahmacharya: non-excess - To me, this really has to do with how you use your energy.  I choose to spend my energy in a constructive manner by avoiding too much time dwelling on things I cannot change, yet knowing when to use my voice.  I will practice experiencing the difference.

  5. Aparigraha: non-grasping - I will practice giving things to others as a sign of compassion.    This may be expressed in a note or through baking.  It will definitely be expressed through my financial and active work with Create Karma during this year's Extraordinary Give on November 18!

  6. Saucha: purity - I will choose to keep my mind pure by increasing the time I spend in meditation and physical yoga practice.  This can also be practiced through prayer and/or the study of religious text.  I will take meditation breaks instead of coffee breaks.  I will wear a mala as a sign of this commitment.

  7. Santosha: contentment - I will continue to offer teachings of love, healing and balance.  I understand that others will choose to express their voice in a different way.  We are a free world and they are free to do as they wish.  I am content with the fact that it is not my job to fix anything for others. Everyone has their own path.

  8.  Tapas: right effort - Now is the time to not only seek knowledge and beginning to apply what I have learned.  Break old habits and find a way to make our lives and this world a better place.  Keep zeal and enthusiasm for the things that I really believe in and place my attention there.

  9. Svadhyaya: self study - I have had tremendous success in self study by becoming aware of my habitual patterns and beliefs.  Sometimes that little voice in your head isn't our own voice or even the right thing to listen to (it may just be a little bad habit that you've picked up along the way).  Sometimes my old habits seem like old friends, but they are not.  It is important to find your true nature so that you can begin to break these old habits.  This aspect of the path has given me the gift of the biggest heart opening, and I can't wait to see what else is in store!  Study of religious text would also apply to this category.

  10. Ishvara Pranidhana: dedication to the highest (God) - Yoga does not tell us how to define God.  That is very personal.  Anyone with strong religious convictions should cling to them.  Otherwise, how do you connect with the divine?  You could connect with this through time in nature or by looking for the highest expression of goodness in every situation.  

The funny thing is that just taking the time to write these words and dwell on these steps has me feeling better about everything.  Now is the time to put my yoga practice into action.  I call for you to join me in taking all or some of these steps.  We can make our world a better place.  

Yoga and Facing Challenges

4 years ago I was a brand new yoga teacher.  CC was my most loyal student at our local studio(not her real name).  She was attentive, dedicated, and sweet.  One day, when I cued "crow pose" (an arm balance), she seemed uncharacteristically negative about the pose.  That day I promised her that we would keep trying and "one day we will get you in that pose".  I didn't have enough experience to make such a promise, and I didn't even know my own limitations at the time.  She seemed satisfied with my response, and we moved on.  Every time I cued crow over the next 4 years, CC would attempt the pose, fall, smile, and move on with her practice without missing a beat.  During a recent large class, and CC had her normal place in the back row.  I cued crow, offering a few modifications, and began to assist the newer students.  I heard a sound from the back row, and looked back to find CC grinning.  She mouthed "I did it".  How very cool to see her accomplish her goal.  Just like any other week, she quickly returned to her practice.

Anyone who has been practicing yoga long enough has had some of these experiences.  One of the things that I love about yoga, is it's lessons that apply to daily life.  I find it so inspirational to be able to watch students working on their practices, accomplishing goals, and doing so with love and grace.  How often are we reluctant to start something for fear of failure?  How often do we have a bad attitude when things don't go our way?  Here are a few ways to face your daily life like you do your yoga practice.

  1. Try things that scare you, or seem just out of reach.  You can do more than you know. 
  2. Face the task with a sense of humor.  Nobody is perfect at everything, so don't expect yourself to be perfect either.
  3. If you fail, move on graciously.  There's always next time.
  4. Keep with it.  Dedication is the key to reaching your goals.
  5. Believe in yourself.  Starting something with the idea that you can't do it is like praying for something that you don't want to happen.
  6. Encourage others.  There is strength in numbers, so seek out other people with the same interests and/or goals. 
Second ever successful Firefly Pose

Second ever successful Firefly Pose

Just yesterday I had my own accomplishment of the seemingly impossible task, the ellusive Firefly Pose.  This had seemed impossible for years, and I deemed it because of my "tight hamstrings".  Well, something snapped when I saw CC reach her goal.  I tried Firefly with a fresh attitude.  I saw possibilities rather than limitations, and you know what?  My Firefly got off the ground.  What is your Firefly?  What are you ready to tackle on or off the mat?


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