|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.
|Posted on November 13, 2014 at 2:35 AM|
When asked the other day my personal opinion on the meaning of life, I without hesitation replied to love and to learn to let the walls down. It is not for me the big picture of my purpose that is so difficult but the process of living in the context of it that is a bit of the challenge. On paper it looks great, and theoretically it sounds rather simple. Live in the moment, forgive and forget, let go and surrender to win. These catch phrases on the whole are the general point of life but it is in the process of living that the subtle nuances become rather tricky.
So how does one begin this quest for true love and freedom from the bondage of self? How to be comfortable in one’s own skin but on a true soul level and to be authentic and no longer party to the inner fashion show of a thousand personas? Off with the costumes not just in our wardrobes, though some may want to start there, but also off with the roles we play and the personalities we believe define our life.
What are these masks for? Well quite simple...they are our fortress of fear, our armor against the perceived attacks of this world. Essentially, the masks we wear keep us in spiritual asylum. All these are facets of our fear and serve as the founding belief that we are in some kind of battle against those who are out to get us. For the naysayers...I will concede that yes there are some dark forces to content with in this world and there are some harsh realities that we will come to face. This I cannot deny. However, in the attempt to protect ourselves from life we end not living it fully. In fear, we take on conditioned methods of survival that we may or may not be aware of. The act and the performance we use as a shield against pain keeps us bound within, locked away inside our true nature remains hidden, without ever really letting the true light within shine out.
This true light is the light of our authentic self, not the self we feel we must be. Beyond the skin, the neighborhood, the religion, the role we play, there exists the true essence of the real self. Perhaps even the mask of artist or scientist, these seemingly important qualifiers and definitions we ascribe to ourselves to separate us or rather to distinguish us from our fellow man are the very walls that prevent us from really connecting to other people, perhaps these roles while helpful in some ways may be the very thing keeping us from knowing the real person within. This western approach at self definition, at self actualization based on the need to categorize and classify ourselves as something special or different may in fact be the very walls that construct our own fortresses of fear.
The truth be told, we are all unique and different. Certainly we have different gifts and talents that do make us our own snowflake in this universe. The key is to not focus or attach too heavily on the differences, this becomes especially helpful when working with the great lesson of compassion, though I will expound upon that in a later article dedicated more to that point.
The goal is to first deconstruct the need to keep sequestered in our niches and comfort zones and this can only happen by beginning to unravel the tangles of theses facades and identities that we so cling to for self aggrandizement and clutch to, to perpetuate the competition mentality that keeps us alone and essentially keeps up from really ever really expressing the essence of who we are beyond our accomplishments. This is a state of agitation where the next parcel of life is greener and more desirable than being present, and a state of mind that anxiously drives us from who we are within as our focus becomes who we appear to be seen as from those outside ourselves. Granted, a state of neutrality and complacency is not the method of being in the moment of which we speak. What this disarmorment is about, is rather, slowly dismantling the feudal estate of fear that we have barricaded our hearts within, as we to live in an un-evolved state that is in essence our own personal spiritual dark ages. Locked in the box of social stigmas and expectations, shining only for our momentary accomplishments and titles but remaining lost and always seeking, endlessly looking for the quick fix that will last forever.
To let love in and let your light shine, we need to tear the walls down and take the heavy curtains off the windows of the soul. This takes place over a course of time and does not need to occur all at once. The most important thing is to first recognize that there is a heavy layer of protection disguised as our identity that needs to be released. Our attachment to this role in this earth plane is very limiting to the eternal nature of the soul within. Shedding these layers is part of our metamorphosis into the butterfly of our free spirit. Lovingly let the layers come off, shed the skin and bring out the new life. We must stop over identifying with the former or contrived self and carry it upon us as a heavy yoke. Drop the sack of rocks and chain mail and run free in a state of primitive naturalism, become a free spirit and exude the nature of who you are in a natural way.
It is funny but look around and then at yourself. Are you wearing a costume, am I wearing a costume? Who is there beneath the need for Respect, and need for Adoration? Who is there that may be really happy to just be free and joy filled. These large shoes we have been wearing are too hard to fill. Walk barefoot in this life. Liberate the person within. The spirit that existed with hope before years of conditioning about who you are supposed to become clouded the truth about who you are.
Join me friends and take a loving and compassionate look deep into your eyes and the eyes of others and see beyond the illusion and the charade. Let’s tear down the Berlin wall between us and our fellow man, and most importantly tear down the fortress of fear that keeps us from seeing the true nature of ourselves.
|Posted on November 12, 2014 at 10:05 PM|
For many of us in this fast paced world we are plagued with an equally fast paced mind. Our thoughts can become a whirlwind as we try to juggle the many events in our schedule along with the ongoing dialogue we have with ourselves. For many of us we have been conditioned to use a judgmental style of introspection that can be very damaging.
When the mind is not critiquing our own actions and deeds it is busy evaluating the actions and conduct of other people or entities. Part of the problem is that as we grow into young adults much of our learning is based on contrasts and the identification of opposites to create definition in our minds. While this is necessary for understanding, there is a tendency to take this trend too far. Combine this with our inherited belief systems and the values we are conditioned to have; we become more of a judgmental rational being whose concept of the world becomes increasingly rigid and set in stone.
The belief systems we hold can manifest themselves into bars or walls that entrap rather than liberate. The yogis speak of finding higher truth, and it is believed that in order to do so, one must find silence within the mind and quiet the ego chatter. The temporal and ever changing nature of our physical existence is thought to be a delusion that hides the real transcendental universal truth of our wholeness and oneness with the universe. This may be a bit philosophical for the layman to digest, however simply put there is something more than the petty preoccupations we often fill our heads with.
For instance, when a tragedy strikes or a profoundly meaningful event like a birth or a death occurs we often reflect upon the wasted energy and time we have engaged in with insignificant events and thoughts. The rude comment someone made or a sideways glance from a coworker, are in the moment a great tragedy; one that often calls for great controversy and dismay, though in truth this is just the bruising of the ego and no tragedy at all. Or, perhaps a relationship ends and this consumes our every thought, so much so that our mind becomes a wasteland of negative vacillations and a myriad of pictures mingled with a playback of old critical assertions, when all the while time will pass and this perceived catastrophe will later be seen with greater reflection as a lesson.
The monkey mind, always looping and busily working towards chaos, with a diatribe of cyclical thoughts spinning like a hamster on a wheel, is just a result a panicked state. Indeed the nervous system will react to not only real physical threats to safety but also to troubling thoughts imagined or real of our safety being threatened. The body will react the same way, by engaging the sympathetic nervous system to react for self protection. The method by which we react or respond to this threat real or otherwise can be channeled in a number of different ways depending on our level of mastery. Many of us have come to recognize this already. And for most of you introspective soulful yogis this is nothing knew to realize as it may have been what prompted your quest for self realization. It is however a difficult thing to master, and many seasoned pilgrims on the path towards ego liberation and wholeness still find this at times to be a challenge.
So for you my dear reader, of whom I am truly blessed by, I have compiled a few simple steps that come from a combination of Eastern Meditation Techniques to assist in the taming of the monkey mind.
Meditation for Taming the Monkey Mind
Step 1- Find a peaceful setting where you can find a comfortable seat and sit down
Step 2- Take a smooth and long inhale through the nose and even longer full exhale out through the nose. (This engages the parasympathetic nervous system and deters the fight or flight tendencies of the sympathetic nervous system)
Note- much of our rampant thoughts can be directly correlated to a jagged and fast paced nervous or anxious breath so give the slow breath a chance to slow the horses of your speeding mental chariot.
Step 3-Begin to relax the muscles of the body starting with the eyes, the face, the jaw and then down the shoulders. Cultivate a natural posture whereby you are using the technique of effortless effort, i.e. balance between will and surrender.
Step 4- Use the breath as your mental soundtrack, letting all judgments and thoughts pass through the mind without any attachment to them. Try to use the breath as the only mental sound you hear.
Step 5- Feel compassion in your heart for yourself, welcome in a lustrous pink light of love and compassion into your heart and imagine your heart blooming like a delicate pink rose.
Step 6- After considerable time allow the breath to become natural and effortless and gently open the eyes and hold a soft gaze let this feeling of love join with all you see and feel yourself a part of all that surrounds you.
Step 7- After the monkey mind has been tamed you can allow for a solitary message from your higher self to come in to your heart.
This is the end of the meditation and I recommend this to be done every day or as often as needed to help still the storm of mental vacillation