|Posted on August 22, 2017 at 3:30 PM|
Issues of Time
Aging and changing, the cycles of life keep moving onward in their endless progression. As a teacher of chair yoga, I see how bodies age with time. There is a trend in our society to create the illusion of agelessness, to hide or shun the natural process of aging. There seems to be a greater fear of aging than there is of death. As a woman I feel the pull of the collective in terms of appearances, competitiveness and fitness in general. Ironically, more so in my field as there is a bit of a pull beneath the surface to need to stay young and healthy.
At times, there is a covert bashing, if you will in terms of illness or “improper aging”, where one is to blame for such occurrences. In many ways there are means to better support the body and care for the vehicle that houses our souls, but sometimes illnesses come to even those who have done the right things (diet and exercise and good will towards all other life forms), and in terms of aging despite all our best efforts it will show in time. The psychology behind anti-aging or youth liberation as it is now called, seems cloaked and hides the undertone that tends to denounce a fundamental inalienable truth; the nature of existence and life in the physical realm itself which is temporal. Fear of change, when all is ever changing on the outside anyways, the real truth of this earth plane is an endless cycle of change in response to time. The laws of cause and effect themselves are submissive to the fact that time wears on. The constant factor; time, is inescapable and yet we strive so hard to fool and outwit it. All is vanity in terms of this grand form of denial as the wise king Solomon was able to show in Ecclesiastes.
Beneath the surface, beneath the physiological realm, on an energetic and even psychological level what is at play here….? What does this mean when we see the collective ever eager to cheat death and age? The boom of the pharmaceutical age, whose bi-products ensure a quicker end to the life of the earth with the wastes and toxins they leave behind to ravage the lands …all so that we can cheat death, stave it off a little longer. A battle against the forces of existence, a truly existential crisis (though most existentialist cannot see beyond the dominion of man his glorious self centered existence and most certainly ignore the horrors we force upon the other kingdoms of this earth both animal and plant to name a few).
We seek to be god, we seek to cheat death; and all the while do not see the vanity in this. For those in the new age world it is convenient to accept ancient vedic ideas of being god, especially since we as a culture have ever been trying to do so in a vitiated way through our self obsession with selfies and individualism. It is the social heliocentric theory; we are the shining lights of our universe as we go about in self aggrandizement, eating well and hoping to save humanity all like little gods with our narcissistic herculean hopes ignorant of the bigger picture. We say use this cream or use this ointment, even the most green conscious of us all have a twinge of this inherited karmic collective curse of trying to be divine, and live strong forever. So too is the story of the most beautiful angel in heaven Lucifer the light that tried to outshine god himself. Amongst most religious or mythological tales there is the blight of mankind…mans secret curse induced by our own need, man like the coyote who is a bit too clever for his own good always striving for a bit more of that! That whatever that may be…for now it seems we as a whole want youth, health and life for as long as possible come what may as a consequence.
So we have factories pumping out plastics to cheat the shelf life of the products that are to keep us going just a bit longer and stronger than before. Huge powers that manufacture these goods, keeping dark secrets about the real truth; hiding the secret balance of ying and yang, for each life extended something else dies. Our anti-aging creams, our blood pills, our electric homes, our super modified crops and foods. Always wanting more….flavors, time, comfort, luxury; the market selling to the mindset that has been cultivated well, driven deeper by the original impulse for more.
We as a people must wake up while we are here to see the true consequences of our actions rather then pay them forward to the future children we may or may not leave behind. What do we leave behind for them? It is not what we have while we are here that what matters in truth, and yet that is the way we are living. Borrowing from the future to give ourselves the luxuries now, just a few more years or a little younger face. This is the secret truth that is not remembered but for a few on Saturday or Sunday, and even when we strive to believe we hold this truth daily ….check and see if it is truly self evident -see where you are holding your vanity. Look to the secret shown in your own eyes as you gaze in a mirror.
We change, and we have a little power to guide the way we see this change, how we work with it, what we are doing in terms of it and how it really adds to the collective essence we leave behind; only then do we begin to take a sobering look at the truth and see our part in what is our temporal existance.
Always scrapping the surface, a bit of nip and tuck and little shot of this or that, a hint of freshness...forgetting we are all but fruit on the tree of life, with a cycle that involves change and culminates in death. So why then are we living as though we are only here to buy and sell eternity? This may be the biggest product we collectively sell as a people and the biggest illusion of them all. There is now, there is this and there is what we are doing with the time we have been given.
Eat organic local food, consume less fabricated illusions, leave behind less death for the next generation and care for the earth! Place these things above your own comforts, think beyond our species but of the ancestors of all living things to come. This is why the grandmothers used to be sacred and now are hidden, it is the great hiding of truth! We hide the aged, the sick. We drink the milk and eat the flesh but dare not see the factories that make them. We love to look in the mirror but only see a shallow reflection of what keeps us here to see it. Look deeper.
The polarization of terms and ideas has been quite apparent to me in this current social construct. The pros the cons, the right the wrong the good the bad; are entrapments to greater realization. The realization that for each thing there is a price and when we stop looking only at our own preservation and look beyond to the bigger picture only then can we truly respect the truth that is time and life while we are here!
|Posted on December 23, 2015 at 6:25 PM|
Meditation the Way of Mastery.
So we begin!
The path has opened before you and we are at the begining of the long road towards greater understanding and self discovery. For the beginner, meditation can be a daunting task. Who knew there was such a plethora of noise, such a storm of excuses and so many pressing things that arise despite every intention to find solace and peace within. The inner realm is laden with shadows, light and many colorful thoughts and ideas. So how does one navigate the uncharted waters of the concious and uncouncious mind when diving into the deep sea of meditation? Multitudes of directions, many thousands upon thousands of electric pathways to follow. Impulses, emotions and other things triggered by the mind in endless space of silence. How strange that in what is supposed to be silent, there is so much commotion. The mind is so unruly, and the pressing nature of the past and future are such strong deterants from staying present and centered. So how can anyone find peace in meditation at all?
Lets start with the basics!
Step 1- Begin with a comfortable seat! While this sounds easy it is very challenging for all those but seasoned practitioners, monks and the like. The body, accustomed to slouching, easy chairs and other forms of lazy sitting; has trained the muscles to form around structured weaknesses. Years of poor habits are readily felt when attempting to sit in what is know as Sukasana, A.K.A easy seat. Easy seat is not so easy for most Americans, something I see everyday when I teach yoga classes. For many sitting in an Indian Style Seat may be likened unto a form of mideval torture. The Hips are tight,the back is weak, the core is not strong and the shoulders and neck somehow seem to compensate for what is lacking everywhere else.
Try a pillow or cushion and sit to the edge of it! If this is still too intense, sit in a chair with feet firmly planted on the floor, or lay down but dont fall asleep!
Step 2- Relax
So you finally have found a seeminly comfortable seat! Now notice your muscles! Are you clenching your jaw and teeth? How about the eyes? Are you squinting in over concentration striving to see in the dark screen of the mind with no avail? Are you sitting too straight? Think natural and relaxed. Systematically go down from the head to the toes and notice each area as you move downward. Ground down throught the sitting bones and relax your shoulders.
Step 3- Breath
Notice your breath. Notice,... is your breath is ragged and uneven? Begin by slowing bring your breath into a natural flow. Imagine your breath as an ocean wave. Feel the breath open and expand, while it moves in and through the body. Visualize and feel your body open. Then, onthe exhale....relax let the breath flow out of the body. Feel the belly fill on the inhale and the ribs expand, soften and deepen toward the earth as the breath begins to move freely out of the body on the exhale.
Step 4- Guide yourself towards stillness within
This is a bit tricky to get to and to sustain for the beginer and intermediate practitioner. Depending on the situations preceeding your meditation and those things that are happening in your life at the time, there may be alot to work through to get to the place of stillness within. Some are confronted with several situations
A. Restless body. The first distraction will be some itch, pain or discomfort. This is common especially if you are begining a fitness regimen after a long period of being sedentary and have not developed physical stamina and strength. This will happen not only in meditation but also if you practice yoga. You will have to begin patiently and learn to differenciate complaints from reality. This will be tough to work through but not impossible. Remember this is a practice and takes practice. So start with a do-able amount of time, such as 5 minutes to start. It may take years to reach 20 minutes, but do not fret. Shift to a more comfortable position like laying down to continue if need be but try and avoid constant movement and complaints. The undisciplined mind will create many false sensations to distract you from this process.
B. Mental Checklists. Once you master the body you will find the mind is a tricky thing to contain. This is where the real meditation begins. Notice if you begin with mental inventories or even sermons. You may find your mind will not remain still or quiet. The mind is like a wild horse that has been running wild for a long time. Expect to be bucked off a few times and perhaps even taken on a few wild rides or tangents. Return to the breath and if need be....say to yourself I am breathing in and I am breathing out.
C. Unpleasant emotions. Often times when the mental checklists or thougths go on too far or long in the space of the meditation time, a thought will arise that will trigger an emotional reaction. Anger, frustration, depression and sadness will arise. This is not a bad thing, but it is a tell tale sign that there are things to work on. Many of us rush around our lives attending to checklists and or us distractions to avoid confronting real emotions that exist and have perhaps been supressed in your walking life ( the non meditation part of your life). It is not wrong to use your meditation time as a processing time, however the trick is to not let it take over your time. So allow the feelings to be there. Witness them as they arise, watch the thoughts come up and acknowledge them but use your breath and centering tools to prevent yourself from being hijacked by them. So allow the feelings to come up acknowledge them. Then, derail any thougths that will cause your mind to get stuck in a whirlwind of fixation. Return to the breath and stay present keeping your eye on the prize of peace!
Step 5- Be patient.
Continue to keep bringing yourself back to center if you find yourself distracted by any of the above challenges. The most important thing is to not judge yourself or pressure yourself to much. It is ok if you dont get to a Zen state. Slow and steady wins the race. Even if in the moment you feel not so peaceful, keep breathing and coming back to the stillness and be the observer of your own inner world. Be open to explore and learn. In order to master anything you must be open to the fumbling nature of baby steps! You are learning to meditate so dont pressure yourself to be a master in one day!
Keep to your meditations! The more you try the more you will understand!
|Posted on April 13, 2015 at 1:25 AM|
Coming to Terms with Your Body
The body is the first step in your yoga practice. Many of us have walked through life in complete disregard for our bodies. Pushing, prodding and forcing our way through, treating our physical form as a machine neglecting the regular maintenance. Despite our outer focused society, where the car and the glam and the way we appear to others are a central focus, we have ironically forgotten the old adage that the body is a temple. Some cringe to think of this verbiage, others perhaps hear this with a tinge of angst while misreading this to mean that we must make an idol of ourselves. The middle way, or a balance between the contrasting interpretations is a great place to start the process of understanding. In fact, it is the tendency to polarize ourselves and our views that continues to serve as, at least in yoga, to be a limit to the greater goal of oneness and wholeness we strive to embrace.
The body is the first step to your yoga practice. Grounding back into the body is critical to find the middle ground with which to begin traversing the great road of discovery that lay ahead. The journey in yoga is long, there is no McPeace to drive up to and order a side of happiness and never ending bliss. The reason yoga is called a practice is that it takes practice. The ground covered is vast and begins like any journey with the first step. The first attempt at a yoga practice may be daunting. Why? Well the mind particularly during the first few 50 attempts will be littered with noise pollution, the interjection of distractions of all kinds – each seemingly urgent and of great import at the time. The truth…none of the pending thoughts and petty complaints that arise are really of much concern in the greater scope of existence, but this is where we begin. At least, this is where I began….and I can speak only of my own personal experience, though many have related to me similar stories of their personal travails on the mat.
To connect first with the body is a high priority. I have come to think of it as a grounding wire, the way to prevent shock and greater troubles found in evoking higher levels of spirituality. A practice lead solely by the capricious mind and its crafty imaginings can be an exhausting chase through an infinite maze of possibilities. With regard to yoga, it is best to follow a plan, thousands of years of experience can serve as a guide and outline, but the way for each is somewhat different. Even when following an old routine or an ancient lineage, if you haven’t grounded into your body first however …you may be entertaining a hazard more so than a healthy option. If you begin to practice yoga without taking care to connect and respect your physical body, you may cause yourself injury unintentionally. The reason being is that you may not really feel what you are doing.
Imagine for a moment, all your life you have hit your head against a wall. You have done this for all the years of your life and suddenly someone tells you that this is the cause of great pain. While it may sound true in some ways, you may hesitate to embrace this new knowledge. Let’s imagine for a moment you do finally decide that the headaches and pain you have been experiencing may in some way likely be connected, and finally you decide to make a change. The problem is your body has grown accustomed to this treatment, so it may be desensitized to a more gentle approach, it may take quite some time to come to a more normalized scale of feeling. The same is true for yoga.
I have taught hundreds of classes over the years, and in these classes I have seen countless people struggle and attempt to go deeper and further than their body can obviously go. Unfortunately, I can tell them and suggest over and over again that they take a more moderate approach but yet the habit is there, they cannot grasp that I am speaking to them. Even if you tell a person directly, this is not always well received. I know that this is part of their journey and I can only suggest and try to help them learn this important lesson of respecting their own personal body. In truth I too, have found myself guilty of this tendency.
Learning the limitations of oneself is a challenge. Self reflection is necessary and the levels to which one begins to do this only deepen with time. There seems to be a bell curve where much effort leads to great self questioning and then one day this need begins to wane. In the beginning the need for honest self inquiry is paramount, though many great realizations may take time to avail themselves.
A gentle approach to yoga and life run contrary to every ounce of the American mentality. “Push and compete, strive for success, keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up.” I can’t tell you how many people ask when they will be able to do a certain pose, etc. It is a common misconception to believe that the level of one’s physical practice is in some way the most important thing. The important thing is to know yourself. If there is pain, refrain. Move to a place of reasonable comfort. Effortless effort. The asana means comfortable seat, ironically many find themselves under the notion that a pose must be uncomfortable to gain greater benefit, this could not be further from the truth. While a certain level of discomfort is common in yoga, especially that of the restless mind finally called upon to quiet; pain is not a part of a strong yoga practice. The no pain no gain idea is not the model to follow in yoga, though it may be a phase of your practice as you move to greater understanding of the body.
The purpose of it all is to ground with the body, come to the present moment and get real. During the practice of yoga you will learn to respect your body and work with it not against it. This is one of the very first principles to learn – pace yourself, find a balance between your will and the ability to surrender and let go.