Come again?

I don’t have a natural body awareness. Hence, it’s not always easy for me to translate even a visual example of how to do an asana or breathing technique. When Sharath showed nadi shodana alternate nostril breathing exercises after led class, I incorporated them into my routine. My teacher at the time came up to me a few days later and sat in front of me as I was attempting them. Quietly, he said do you mind if I show you what you are doing? I said sure go ahead. He then sat in front of me and without laughing managed to show me my exaggerated head jerks from side to side that looked more like I was trying to do some funky dance move along with my alternate nostril sounds and moves that seemed more like I was trying to shoot snot out of my nose without a tissue versus a calming breathing exercise. I was giggling and appreciated the visual I needed to get the correction from my overzealous attempt to breathe. I can be a tad too enthusiastic at times, but with anything awareness is the first step, at least that’s what I tell myself.

When I was 18, my brothers and I were visiting with my dad at a lovely golf resort on the ocean in northern Florida. We were all going out to play a round of golf, when the Pro at the club stopped us. Weekends and women were a no go on the golf course in this genteel southern community. Who knew that feminism hadn’t reached the southern parts of the good old USA…the Pro very kindly told my dad he’d take me out to the driving range to hit a few buckets of balls and low and behold, my dad and brothers happily abandoned me under the care of possibly the most stereo typical chauvinist I have ever met.

Anyway, I was annoyed at best, but decided, I would hit some balls at the driving range just to prove to this ridiculous man, that he was wrong. He was referring to me as “little lady” which was getting on my nerves, but he was my elder, and I was sighing as he said it but just ignored the slight. So there we were, and he basically just handed me a bucket of balls and said lets see what you’ve got little lady. So I set up my first shot, swung my driver and hit. I was happy with the shot, though it veered just a smidgen to the right. I grabbed another ball and went to swing again when all of a sudden Mr. Helper told me told close my face. Close my face? I had no idea what he meant.

I am sure my face expressed my befuddlement at his guidance, but in seeing my confusion, he just smiled and repeated his directions, close your face. I swung away, and sure enough the ball landed a foot away from the last one. Each time I set up, the Pro just repeated his words, usually with a different moniker for me in front of it, honey, close your face, blondie, close your face, hit and giggle, close your face. At that last one, in frustration, I looked up at him with my face all squished up and said, I’m sorry, it’s not working. In seeing me, he laughed and laughed, with tears even, and apologized telling me he meant the club face (flat part) of my driver needed to be less angled and more vertically aimed at the ball. I thanked him for the advice, left the golf course and went to the beach to have the sun and sea air erase the madness I had let him create inside me. Why couldn’t he just have spoken more clearly?

Now granted, in retrospect, there was just so much wrong with his nature as well as the club rules but as much as I knew of golf, I had never heard the term face for the flat side of a club. Was he just being a bigger jerk or had his expertise led him to a place where he had forgotten that not everyone was as intimately familiar with the different parts of a golf driver? Maybe both. His advice could have actually benefitted my game in straightening my drive, but he did nothing that day but push my buttons, and I am sure my behavior just reinforced his misogyny. I haven’t played in years, I don’t have the desire or time. As can happen with so many exchanges, clarity was woefully lacking. His attempt to improve my game or focus did not work, by assuming I had knowledge of something I did not, but for my part I didn’t use my voice when I expressed my lack of familiarity with his terminology.

I’m in the middle of a weekend workshop with Tim Miller right now, and he is a master of clarity with a dash of humor. The wisdom of 37 years of practice as well as his passion for knowledge have made for some fabulous discussions on bundhas last night with practical application in showing asana with it as well as without it, and today on the five bodies or kleshas. He discussed the process of asana combined with dristhi, breath, and bundhas in helping to burn away our toxins, fears and ego. He frankly stated that this process is not always pleasant, easy or comfortable, I agree. I’m still processing it all, so I don’t want to go into it further yet, but he also told a story about a workshop he had done somewhat recently in North Carolina where a woman in the group flipped out on him for claiming that there may be discomfort on the path to becoming your best self. She was stuck on a point David Williams had made that pain should be avoided. I think she was confused in what each master was discussing, and was lost in translation? Causing harm should be avoided, but let’s face it, as Timji worded it, not everything that’s good for us feels good and not everything that feels good is good for us…ignorance is not simply lack of knowledge but lack of willingness to understand or accept information.

On a last note, my son looked at me tonight and said, he’s so lazy, that if he won an award for the world’s laziest person, he’d ask someone else to pick it up for him…haha, I thought he spoke with great clarity:)

Give me a sign, any old sign

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He died 6 years ago from complications of alpha-1. It’s a terrible genetic flaw that causes lung disease and I wouldn’t wish it on a single soul. In some ways he was lucky as his symptoms didn’t really effect him until the last ten years of his life, for many others, by their 30’s it’s already in full swing of suffocation mode. He was 77 when his lungs finally gave out.

I still miss him, that doesn’t ever go away. My grief and obviously the rawness have diminished with time. Its such a strange experience to watch someone you love in such extreme pain and discomfort that you pray for it to end, but when their body finally surrenders to illness, your relief is eclipsed by missing them and selfishly wanting one more hug, or joke, or phone call.

The first year and birthday were tough. I kept wanting a sign that he was ok. I had this irrational perception that he would let me know in some profound way at some point, I decided that should be his birthday. My father had been stoic in his plight, his will to live had been strong. I had grown up with an appreciation for the occult and supernatural, but that had been my mothers influence, my dad had not said much on the subject. My husband took my children to a Mets game the night of his birthday that first year. I thought I was better off at home just reminiscing and willing a glimpse of his life force.

There I was, home alone, 7:30 at night, just thinking of my father, when suddenly my dogs went crazy. My Luna, a golden doodle, was just 2 and beating the basement door with her paws. I foolishly opened it and chased after her in my own curiosity. Unbeknownst to me, a skunk had somehow gone into my garage, ripped through the drywall and had gone into my utility room where my furnace and well are located…he immediately was afraid of us and used his primary weapon of defense, spraying the air, Luna, myself, and my home with his noxious musk. The horror was instant and unrelenting. Poor Luna was howling as the vapors burned her nose and eyes. I was screaming at the universe, yelling though my tears that this, most definitely, was not the sign of life I was hoping to find.

The next few hours of triage for Luna and I were probably more hellish than you can possibly imagine, and yet I kept, between my tears, cackling with laughter as I spoke to my father, saying ” Really dad! Really! A skunk!?” I was no longer sane, and was quite relieved my family had not been there for the worst of it. Alas, my sense of smell was ruined for weeks if not longer. The walls had to be ripped out of the basement and much of what had been stored there was ruined. I was broken but yet in the fallout of mass destruction, I found a spark back to life, a mission to ensure my children’s home environment was livable and secure took over my self pity and forced me to choose the present moment over missing the past.

It’s not always comfortable or easy to just be present, or to accept those bizarre and painful moments that just happen. Death is the biggest loss any of us face, but by fearing, worrying, self pity, and yes even reminiscing the past, we are kept from living and having the potential for more joy, more love, more growth, and less skunks. I don’t need anymore signs dad, Happy birthday xo.

If at first you don’t succeed…

“A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new”
― Albert Einstein

Stepping out of a comfort zone is scary. I know there are adrenal junkies out there who live for that type of sensation or rush, but I’m pretty sure, I can confidently state, that I am not that person. However, I also know I can push myself, ideally with compassion, to find my edge, to work past fear, and try something new. Granted, it is also important to know your capabilities and limitations. For instance, though I love to sing, my debut on American Idol would only showcase a delusional mad woman with no musical talent what so ever. I always wonder why someone with a terrible voice auditions, do they not know? Are they attempting comedy? Their fifteen minutes of fame? I’d love to see a psychological study that helps me to understand this phenomenon of self harm.

In any case, I tried to push myself this last week by signing up for led intermediate series with Sharath. I’m by no means fully capable in intermediate. I have only just starting finding balance in pinchu, my latest asana. It is quite nice when it happens, especially in one try, like today, but yesterday, it took three and a half tries. In the Mysore room, I’ve got all the time in the world, just battling my own head as I try to get my body and breath to be steady. In led intermediate, it’s one try, no breaks, no extra breaths in down dog, no fidgeting or sitting, just go and do.

Nadi shodana, aka, intermediate series, is a nerve cleansing sequence. Even in the Mysore setting, it, at least for me, completely jacks up my nervous system. Fight or flight mode used to kick in every single time I tried kapotasana. Mercifully, it does slowly start to either diminish or you get used to it and learn to control your breath enough to stave off the urge to run off and curl in a ball in the corner rocking and sobbing. ( I’ve never actually done that, but I have been tempted! ) I don’t know how it feels for anyone else specifically, but in full disclosure I have PTSD and this sequence has brought many past demons to the surface. Learning to channel my energy in a positive and compassionate way through my breath has been immensely beneficial….but I will save that for another day.

So there I was, in led intermediate. The first day of it was intense and filled with unknowns. I was stopped before my end for a toe drag in bakasana b, at least that’s what I thought. The second day of it, I progressed further through the twists, but Eddie Stern came by me and gently touched my shoulder, and said, hey don’t over do it. I was barely breathing as the count was long and yet painfully consistent. I agreed with him and stopped soon after to watch the rest of the magic until joining back in at closing. My mind had not been as hijacked as the previous day and I was able to truly observe and appreciate the rest of the sequence. I grasped that the intensity of intermediate naturally picks up your own breath count so the hold lasts less time as my breath quickens, but alas Sharath’s count does not, so for instance, in bakasana, the hold in my breath count was probably ten, though the actual count was a slow five, this was true throughout. It made me realize I was stopped more because I just wasn’t grasping how to keep the postures steady and comfortable at such a relentless pace. Yoga Sutra 2:46 sthira-sukham asanam, the posture should be steady and comfortable.

I went home feeling good, regardless of how my practice looked on the outside, I was trying to the best of my capability. I was pushing beyond my slower fidgety Mysore pace and figuring out how to keep my stamina steady enough to persevere with my breathing and longer holds until my last asana on Sharath’s steady and slow count.

In returning on the last day of intermediate, I really just wanted to enjoy the experience. I ended up next to the same lovely Canadian woman from the day before. We had done Supta Vajrasana together. I hate that asana. Truly. One I dread more than most. I think it’s because, before I ever tried it, it looked somehow relaxing or soothing to me. I was completely wrong, and laugh now at the irony of how much I looked forward to finally getting it. Comically it was the one close up picture of me taken over the course of Sharath’s New York tour. IMG_0759.JPGphoto curtesy of Sonia Jones

So, same bat time same bat channel, on my mat, prayers of gratitude before our opening chant, just thinking about trying my best without worrying about it. It was easier! It was no less dynamic or difficult, but my mind wasn’t freaking out saying what’s going to happen?! I had two days of it to get under my skin and into a perspective of concentrating on my breath while letting go and listening to Sharath. I finally made it up to and into Pinchu Mayurasana, my last asana. When I landed, Sharath was standing right in front of me smiling. I smiled too. He asked me if I go further, and I laughed and said not yet. He nodded and said, “good job, now rest and watch.”

Did I need that bit of encouragement? No, that’s not why I practice, but it felt really great to hear all the same. I wasn’t able to attend the last day back at led primary, I was abruptly awoken by a very sick puppy instead. My little Rocky boy had been fed treats by my children that greatly upset his delicate tummy and so taking care of him took precedence.

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He’s lucky he’s so cute!

We never know where tomorrow leads and I’m just grateful I was able to do this now. I am trying to quicken my pace in the Mysore room, and yet not lose focus on working to improve everyday, one step at a time.

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Do your practice, all is coming

I went to my first of a weeks worth of led classes with Sharath this morning in NYC. So many people, so much energy! I was in the later grouping, starting at 8:30, we were all talking and fussing about noisily until about ten minutes before we we due to start and then complete silence took over the room. Sharath made a joke, stating not to be quiet on his account, but we were all in that anticipation mode.

Eddie Stern, of AYNY, got up and spoke to kill the time while Sharath drank his much needed coffee before starting promptly at 8:30. Eddie told two jokes…the first: How many Buddhist monks does it take to change a lightbulb? Two, one to change the lightbulb and one to not change….we all laughed though he said most people don’t. 🙂

The second: there was a priest and a rabbi at the Vatican trying to settle once and for all which faith was better, the rabbi only spoke Hebrew and Aramaic while the priest only spoke Latin and Greek, so they could only use sign language…first the priest held up his pointer finger and spun it in a circle, the rabbi answered back with a firm one pointer finger, next the priest held up three fingers, so the rabbi answered with taking his one finger and pressing it down into the outstretched palm of his other hand, finally the priest held up a fish, so the rabbi in turn held up an apple. At that the priest said, fine, you win, I’m done. He went out and explained to all first I showed him God is everywhere and the rabbi answered distinctly he is here, next I explained God has come to us as the father, son, and Holy Spirit, but he answered there is just God, finally I showed him the miracle of Jesus feeding hundreds from the gospel yet he answered with the original sin of which without, we would have never needed miracles, I had no more to top that. The rabbi came out next and spoke, saying first the priest told me to round up all the Jews and get them out of here, so I responded give me a minute, next he said I give you to a count of three, and I answered, no, we are staying right here. All of a sudden he pulls out his lunch, so I did too, then he shrugged his shoulders and left…we all laughed, and if was again reminded of the lovely lesson that everything and anything can be misunderstood.

Sharath led us beautifully of course, then spoke afterwards about the practice. He said many people confuse the yoga sutras meaning, that chitta vritti nirodahah is not stilling the mind to have mind control, but to calm the mind. That we all flit with our thoughts like a monkey but we should strive to be still like a kuala bear, calmly sitting in the tree. He reminded us it’s all practice. Practice first and formost, 99% practice and 1% theory. It’s never just the reading or even the asana, it’s putting all of it into practice, that is what’s spiritual about it, the yamas and niyamas. As an example he said someone can know their religious texts and go to temple, or church or their mosque regularly, but if their daily life encompasses doing bad things, all their theories mean nothing without practicing trying to do right action❤️

All the people tell me so, but what do all the people know?

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
― Rumi

My mom had a dream a few weeks ago about existence. It stuck with her, and she asked me if I thought we are humans trying to live spiritual lives or are we spirits trying to live as humans? I quickly responded, I believe in the latter, we are spirits trying to live as humans. She was surprised I didn’t need to ponder it, and I laughed saying I’ve thought about this already many times in my quest for understanding life.

I don’t call myself a spirit, but a human with a soul. As I think about expressing my definition of it, I find it difficult to put into words. It’s not in any one particular book or dogma of faith, but an awareness of more, not more ego, not individuality, but of energy and stardust, of each life force being a minute, but integral, piece of the universe.

I’ve pondered faith and religion far too frequently than most. My beliefs have wavered, faltered, doubted, and questioned in so many different ways. Growing up Catholic and attending parochial school in an era where fear was a tool to enforce my allegiance backfired. I couldn’t grasp Jesus’ message of turn the other cheek with the concept of purgatory much less judgement day. I personally think people mess things up by trying to put too many rules and definitions in such concrete terms. How could pure compassion and the miracle of existence be part of religions that condemn nonbelievers? I’m relatively certain I can find similar mixed messages in just about any religion. There is no one size fits all, or best for everyone, in reality, there is more than one road to the same end. “Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.” Sivananda Saraswati

In conference with Sharath, while I was there, someone asked a question about faith and guidance. Sharath stated simply to gain knowledge of faith and spirituality, not to follow his faith of Hinduism, unless of course that was also your path. Ashtanga yoga most certainly can have a spiritual aspect to it, but so can almost anything that is your yoga, whether your yoga is prayer, music, dancing, running, meditating, or mountain climbing. Conversely, those same things can have no meaning to some, or different ones. The choice is not meant to be enforced or judged.

In one of my favorite translations of the Yoga Sutras, by Sri Swami Satchidananda, he states in the introduction , ” Sri Pantanjali was the epitome of acceptance of all methods and of broad-mindedness of approach. He did not limit his instruction to one particular technique, to members of any particular religion or philosophy, or in any other way. He gave general principles and used specifics only as examples. For instance, in delineating objects for meditation, rather than saying, ‘Jesus is the only way,’ or ‘Krishna is the highest Godhead, meditate on Krishna, ‘ or ‘ Only meditation on a sound vibration, or mantram, will bring the Yogic results,’ he simply gave various possibilities to choose from and then concluded, ‘ or by meditating on anything one chooses is elevating.”

Personally, I had a tough week. My husband was deathly ill in the hospital, and thankfully is now home, but not out of the woods yet. Of course I was by his side and present to his needs and doing the best I could to assist him, help the medical team, and take care of my family. I still practiced yoga throughout it, and devoted my energy to his healing. My soul, my energy, my ability to give, absolutely was strengthened by my practice. For someone else, maybe that would have been reaching out to their clergy, or sitting in prayer, or meditation, or some other positive concentration of faith, even just faith in the best infectious team of modern medicine. My soul, my spirit, was soothed by a vigorous practice of stilling my mind through asana. I wouldn’t assume that would work for everyone, just as I wouldn’t assume a piano is the only way to play music. It’s a rich, lovely sound, but this world gives an orchestral beauty of different instruments and voices, who am I to decide which chord strikes your heart and soul best?

Snapshots

I was looking at some old photographs this morning with my youngest daughter. She was remarking that some of the pictures looked photoshopped, super imposing my face of now onto a small child. I laughed as I’m still me, still that child, just with more life experience and responsibilities.

The majority of the shots were candid, running around at the beach, Christmas with my grandparents, some were goofy, some I’m sure I wanted to tear up at some point. They are all lovingly, comically and, yes, even painfully part of my history. Why is it that we want to edit and revise our less than perfect snapshots? There is a sweet French expression, “Esprit de l’escalier.” It literally translates as “The spirit of the staircase”, which refers to all the things you realize you should or could have said after a conversation has ended. I laughed when I first learned this idiom, and thought of all the many times I felt that way. However, hindsight only offers help if we learn not just from the best of what we do, but from our not so pleasant moments as well. Beating ourselves up in self criticism won’t change anything.

Depending on the translation of the yoga sutras you may read, there are a plethora of different word choices coloring the meaning. I particularly like this version of Yoga sutra 3.52 or 3.53. By self-control over single moments and their succession there is wisdom born of discrimination.Let go of the ego, forgo the shame as well as the pride and learn to accept, positive change comes after acknowledgement and compassion. Can there be such a thing as picture perfect? Food for thought….

Judgement…can we ever let it go?

“Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.” Albert Camus

Damn…how true is that? I read a great article today on cognitive biases. Here it is in full! Please take a look. As I was reading through all of the different ways we humans rationalize everything, I couldn’t help but think of the five kleshas, or obstacles: ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to life. Each of the biases stems from at least one of these. I’d love to say I’ve conquered these foibles in myself, but alas I must be truthful, I fail, epically at times.

Though much commonality exists in being human, the differences that make us unique also give rise to judgement. I mean really, what is normal? Normal upbringing, normal social constructs, normal what exactly? I can attest as a child, I knew what normal was in my family. It was not exactly traditional. There was a bible on the coffee table, church choir on Sundays, but we also had beautiful sensual charcoals on the walls by Betty Dodson, my mom read astrology charts and palms at the kitchen table, and five siblings working as child actors mostly in commercials and on broadway. Opening night parties at cabaret clubs were par for the course for the 8 year old in my house. I admit it did not help me make friends in my peer group at parochial school. Judgement, fear, only seeing the differences, jealousy, I don’t know the rationales, nor does it matter anymore. I learned a long time ago, not every one will like you, but you won’t like everyone either. Be compassionate and kind, but not a doormat!

“I ask myself, is it a sin, to be flexible, when the boat comes in?” Depeche Mode20140624-165824-61104011.jpg

With that lovely photo, David posted on Yoga sutra 1.20: Others follow a five-fold systematic path of 1) faithful certainty in the path, 2) directing energy towards the practices, 3) repeated memory of the path and the process of stilling the mind, 4) training in deep concentration, and 5) the pursuit of real knowledge, by which the higher samadhi (asamprajnata samadhi) is attained. By utilizing those principles in our gestures, can we stop the other nonsense? Maybe😊

We spend an inordinate amount of wasted time trying to be alike, striving for perfection, judging ourselves and others. Yet, in that we lose sight of how alike we are, very much so, all human, experiencing joy, love, wonder, pain, and sorrow. We each require sleep, nourishment and protection from the elements. The journeys are different. What we choose to take from the journey is different. Even if the goal is the same, and ultimately contentment, with who we are and what we are, feeds that purpose, we will go about it with our own choices.

Sutra 2.2 introduces the subject very clearly: “The goal of Yoga is not to obtain something that is lacking: it is the realization of an already present reality. Yoga practice removes the obstacles that obstruct the experience of samadhi, or the state of complete absorption.”

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The ripple effect

While studying in India, part of the after morning practice routine was a well needed stop at the coconut stand. Most mornings I was just spent and blissed out greedily quenching my thirst, not taking in much around me other than the fact that there were others in the same transfixed state of needing to replenish some lost fluids with this amazing gift of nutritious coconut water gloriously and skillfully machete chopped open right before my eyes.

Certainly as a place of congregation there was always snippets of conversation floating about. Though many spoke of details of practice, struggles, or bragging rights, there was also just some getting to know each other. I made a few friends by the stand. I overheard a conversation where someone was discussing something about his astrological chart, he mentioned that the astrologer had told him, in this life he wasn’t meant to do anything great or spectacular. I couldn’t help myself, but to turn, and say, wow, that wasn’t a very good astrologer, because how could they possibly know the full ripple effect of your existence? Maybe you won’t be the next Gandhi, but who’s to say that you smiling at a random stranger didn’t change them, or something you said didn’t inspire someone else to start a revolution of peace or kindness or just getting back on the right path? I mean it’s like past life regression, not everyone was Joan of Arc or Confucius, but maybe, if you believe in it, maybe you were the person who gave Da Vinci his first paper and charcoal or read Shakespeare his first poem? Who knows how fully our actions effect this world around us, and why wouldn’t just showing compassion be great enough? The gift of love is liberating and inspiring. We became friends.😊

This morning, my son was telling me a story of his experiences doing community service in Sicily two summers ago. He was working with a group of teens helping build and refurbish a community center and orphanage. As they were only there for two glorious weeks and all aspects of this work was done in stages, his stage was part of some of the finishing touches around the main home. The home was already completed but a courtyard still needed to be made and construction debris, which was basically stone, that had to be moved to a safer place or where it could be used. So much of their work involved literally picking stones up from one side of the road and bringing them to the other side. One of the other boys, my son explained, complained that this work was boring and didn’t seem as grand or noble, to just pick things up and put them down again. The counselor in charge shook his head laughing stating it might not seem like much, but that each facet was just as important to making the project a success. I was thrilled my son understood this. That all the work to make this project safe and welcoming was needed, that the cherry on top came from the effort and the process may not always be glamorous but that the little things matter.

Who will come from that home? Who will be raised there? Will they change the world? Will they have a better life? Will my son? Will I? I have no idea, but I will try to appreciate and love this journey of life. With everything, it’s about the process, not the product. The Bhagavad Gita states in 12.12 “Give up the belief that inner peace depends on results of action. That result-renouncing state is pure inner peace.” So lovely to think, yet I know how hard that is to maintain, hence 99% practice!

Did you know the coconut is a drift nut?
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Samskaras…why does the past haunt us so?

We all have scars, some visible, some not. Some, I think we are able to wear with pride of survival, others, well, it’s not always so easy. About 3 years ago, almost to the day, I was bit on the thigh by a friend’s dog. I have always been an animal lover, I have two dogs of my own. I was just walking up to her door and the dog came out and just attacked me. I knew the dog, had played with him and pet him before, one of my kids spent the night there all the time. It was scary, painful, bloody and unprovoked.

The intensive bruising, two punctures and one inch long rip all healed up nicely. My friend whom I didn’t turn in, felt terrible. I tried to go around Hugo again, but literally shake every time I’m near him, alas, I still tremble anytime I’m around new big dogs now. I wish I could control it, but it’s hard. I’m rational, I thankfully haven’t let my fear overtake me, but it’s there.

In my yoga practice, about a year later, I switched to wearing shorts on the mat. (It makes everything harder for me except garba pindasana, no more fabric to help with my binds!) As I practiced one day, all of a sudden, the faint scars on my right thigh were glaringly obvious to me. It made the memory stronger again. At first I was upset, I wanted it to be the past, I wanted to be able to pet a big dog again without shaking fingers and prayers in my head begging the dog to not assault me. I wanted to not visualize that horrible day. I wanted to be stable! Chitta vritti nirodahah and all. How could I master that?

Compassion. At first, I just tried to pretend I didn’t see the scars, that didn’t work at all. My next approach was repeating a mantra, that helped a bit, but I could still feel the extra adrenaline running through me. I was frustrated. It dawned on me, that I blamed myself, at least partially for the bite. As silly as it sounds, when the bite occurred I was going through a really rough patch, my friend had actually said she thought the dog bit me because it picked up on my vulnerability. It was a ridiculous rationalization and only revictimized me, done to spread the fault away from the dog that obviously shouldn’t be around people. Why is it so hard to own responsibility? I get that now, but at the time, I was in shock and injured.

I decided instead not to dwell on it, but if I saw it, and the fears arose in me, I acknowledged it. I said to myself, it’s ok, it was scary, and thankfully you healed. I utilized what I had learned in meditation. Ask yourself why, exactly, do these thoughts come to you or cross your mind. Don’t push it away but don’t obsess over it either. Observe and examine, but do not make any judgement in the sense of good or bad. Relax. Whatever appears has to be dealt with in your thoughts and emotion. Look with kindness and understanding on your own reality. (This all took place probably in a matter of seconds sitting in dandasana and then drifted subconsciously and consciously throughout the rest of practice) This mindset really works regardless of what comes up on the mat. I had one teacher word it a little differently, but as I was in some turmoil one day, he said, just get on the mat and send your thoughts out to your inner committee, they will figure it out for you. By reacting with compassion, I honestly don’t fear the fading scars anymore, and hopefully new big dogs will get a firm rub from me soon, versus my tentative touch. If all else fails, well, a hand gently placed over the heart can do wonders to soothe and heal. 💜

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Me and my Luna:-)

Intentions

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I have thought many times about different perspectives and interpretation of the Yoga Sutras. Certain passages or sutras are relatively straight forward, others much more subjective and open to different viewpoints. Why even the most basic and inherent foundation of the sutras, 1.2 yogah chittavritti nirodahah, stilling the mind. Iyengar’s interpretation is, “yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” This cessation or stilling, of course, has the possibility of variable meanings. Is the intention to make a blank canvas or to allow the mind clarity over impulsivity? Maybe both or neither? Enlightenment versus letting go of fears? Freedom from ignorance? Stopping the ripples to see your soul? All of the above? None? Something else entirely? As the sutras are ultimately a code of conduct and a guide for aspiring to see your true Self, the message and intent is of spiritual development and enlightenment.

In classes at the Shala in Mysore, my teacher, Lakshmish, had me write on the white board a string of letters all next next to each other as if one word. The letters were GODISNOWHERE. He had us all then look at it and asked what we each read. I saw, God is now here, but a few saw God is no where. The difference in meaning is profound. Lakshmish explained that Sanskrit had that same subtle ability to vastly alter the meaning based on who saw which specific words in the strings as well as the philosophical intent behind the specific sutra. In studying, he said it was important to keep a positive mindset, with the intention of purity and positive thought.

Truth exists when we believe it to be true. Self fulfilling mindsets can effect not only our belief of capability but of either a positive or negative outcome or perspective. Impossible versus improbable or possible versus certain. So much is in the approach.

A long time ago, I read a book on identical twins separated at birth,
Nature’s Thumbprint: The New Genetics of Personality
Peter B. Neubauer, MD, and Alexander Neubauer. The psychologists were trying to see the differences of nature versus nurture. How alike were the twins raised apart? A quality control flaw was noticed based upon perspective. There was a set of toddlers whose mothers were each asked simply, is your daughter a picky eater?

As the authors state. “When the twins [separated in infancy] were two and a half years old, the adoptive mother of the first girl was asked a variety of questions. Everything was fine with Shauna, she indicated, except for her eating habits. ‘The girl is impossible. Won’t touch anything I give her. No mashed potatoes, no bananas. Nothing without cinnamon. Everything has to have cinnamon on it. I’m really at my wit’s end with her about this. We fight at every meal. She wants cinnamon on everything!’

“In the house of the second twin, far away from the first, no eating problem was mentioned at all by the other mother. ‘Ellen eats well,’ she said, adding after a moment: ‘As a matter of fact, as long as I put cinnamon on her food she’ll eat anything.'”

I’m curious to know, as these girls are now women, how they each feel about cinnamon as adults. Does it still entice and smell yummy? Does Shauna feel guilt over her infatuation and obsession with it, based on how she was raised? Does she have an eating disorder? Conversely, does Ellen laugh over lattes with friends and her heavy hand of sprinkled cinnamon on top, saying, when I was a baby I teethed on cinnamon sticks? I have no idea, but I hope they are both enjoying it now. Ultimately, we cannot change anyone, just our perspectives. Having a positive outlook influences how we interpret all that we come in contact with, ultimately in how we live our lives…I’m really craving cinnamon buns now!