Saturday, November 29, 2008

A commitment to kindness

We know how important it is to practice kindness when dealing with others, and with the self. I have touched on this before - our culture teaches us, in many ways, to beat ourselves up simply for being human. This self-negativity and abuse is as unjust and unfair as if it were aimed at someone else, if not more so. The greatest things we can learn through yoga and meditation are to be kind and gentle, beginning with the self.

Actually, for most people, it's easier to begin with compassion towards others, and use that to learn how to extend it inward to the self. Our inner worlds are very complex, and we often make (false) assumptions like 'everyone else has got it together', 'I'm the only one who feels inadequate', 'everyone else is judging me' and, 'everyone can see all my flaws'. In fact, other people only see what you show them, and no one has 'got it all together'. As an example of how our internal and (perceived) external identities can be very different, I thought of myself as very shy and introverted my whole life. And yet, the opinion of people around me always seemed to be that I was outgoing and had no trouble making friends with strangers. It took me a while to understand this. I finally realized that these other people could not, in fact, see my inner nervousness or self-doubt, and they took my chatty attempts to compensate for my shyness at face value. They truly saw a friendly, outgoing person.

Our inner and outer identities are always in flux, but the reaction of those around us does have a definite influence on shaping our inner life. If we receive messages that we are bad or useless, we will incorporate those 'definitions' into our understanding of ourselves. And of course, if we receive messages that we are loved and worthy of happiness, we will incorporate those things as well. When we are younger, our parents and other authority figures have a lot of power here. But the great news is that, as we get older, we can take charge of which messages we incorporate (think about that word for a second. 'Incorporate' literally means 'to make part of the body (or self)'.). Just as we do with breathing, we can turn this identity-message process from an unconscious one into a conscious one, inviting positive energy and messages in, and filtering out the negative ones. This takes some practice, but you can vastly transform your inner world by shifting your view of yourself in this way. 

A while ago in class, I brought up the idea of practicing as if you were in someone else's body; a friend's or stranger's on loan. I think a lot of people thought I was loony that day, but I was trying to stress the point that we don't react to others the same way we react to ourselves. We may instantly get frustrated if we cannot do a pose or a task, but have quite a lot of patience while teaching this same thing to a friend. My encouragement to you is to extend the same patience and kindness to yourself, always, in all situations.

As humans, I believe we have an inherent obligation to extend kindness to all, especially ourselves. If we follow this path, only good can come of it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

All things are coming!

A student asked Guruji, "When will I be able to do a backbend?" Another asked, "when will I be able to do a headstand?" The questions continued, as Guruji sat patiently and smiled. Finally when the group had asked all of their questions, he grinned and said, "Don't worry. Many, many lifetimes. All things are coming."


So remember: if frustration arises in your practice, breathe through it. You have lots of time to master these skills!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Drop all competition - Major Updates Coming!!

When practicing yoga, drop all competition, especially with yourself. Just explore what is available in each moment. In every moment, there is something new or deeper available.

Just like with this blog. Updates coming soon! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Quote of the Day

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thai Massage HOUSE CALLS

If you live in Ann Arbor, I am now making Thai Massage house calls, for a very reasonable rate. If you're interested in a session, or have any questions, please email me at [at], or talk to me at the studio.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meditation challenges for the strong of heart

As many of you may have noticed, there's been quite a bit of noise going on at the new A2 studio as we repair some pipes. We try to keep it to a minimum during class time, but when it IS there, rumbling and roaring, smashing through tile floors, it's one of the more powerful meditation exercises I've encountered in a while.

As a more subtle version of the phenomenon, think about this. You are sitting down on your mat, preparing for class. Meditation starts, and everyone begins to settle into their breath. Then, another practitioner arrives a few moments late. What happens in your mind next is a very good indication of the level of focus in your practice. I understand that it is easy to get distracted and look up. But it is this unconscious action we are learning to override, acting always from a conscious place. So, use these disruptions, small and large, as bonus practice moments, learning to remain calm and focused as the world continues its dance around you.

If we all turn to look when another yogi comes in a few minutes late (and notice how quick our minds can be to judge causes we know nothing about!) then the energy of the entire room is disrupted. But if we all sit quietly and respectfully, then the energy remains calm for all, and everyone can move into their practice much more smoothly.

Quote of the Day

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
-Kahlil Gibran