should yogis watch the news?

should yogis watch the news?

I mean, the morning/daily/nightly news is filled with disturbing, stressful stories.  And as yoga students, we are learning to transform our hearts and our minds to become peaceful, content, calm, and free from unnecessary fear and suffering.  But what we absorb from the local/national/world news is full of fear, anger, sorrow… should we even pay attention to it?  Watch it?  Listen to it?  Read it?  Recently over lunch in Waldo, my friend who is a local newscaster confided in me that her work day is focused on three things: reporting who died, reporting who almost died, and reporting who’s upset about it.  That’s grim.  And slightly unsettling.  And very disheartening.

Spending our time and energy becoming absorbed in major news events can induce stress.  A recent article on NPR.org proposed that repeatedly watching the same clips of disturbing, violent images in the media can produce symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder.  You can read the full article, “Binging on Bad News Can Fuel Daily Stress”, here.

Yoga teaches us that the fullness of experiencing a life here on Earth includes experiencing the ‘good’ and the ‘bad.’  The God-Spirit is omnipresent, encompassing all things and events.  Right?  Well, not exactly, because then: yoga teaches us NOT to assign the labels ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to anything.  This is the quality of equanimity, which the Bhagavad Gita uses as the principle definition of yoga.

“Self-possessed, resolute, act without any thought of results.  Open to success or failure.  This equanimity is yoga.”  (Mitchell’s translation of B.V. v 5.24)

Meaning, you may not be able to control everything, but you can surely control your reaction to that ‘thing.’ 

Christian theologian Thomas Merton says this: “No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood whether we want it to or not” (Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master, 1992).

Meaning: here we are.  On this Earth we are in the midst of vacillating joyous and sorrowful experiences.

photo cred HM.  equanimity is a little like balancing on one foot, on the top of a mountain, in Africa.

photo cred HM. equanimity is a little like balancing on one foot, on the top of a mountain, in Africa.

So, I guess the question is this:  how do we maintain a sense of inner peace (not anger, however righteous it may be) and avoid fearful, anxious existence, even when our communities at large experience suffering or are plagued by violence?  Should we just shut off the TV (yes, I have one now, Bonyen, and I will one day watch your newscast) and never listen to the news again?  Should we become hermits (that sounds really enticing, until I remember that hermits don’t walk to their favorite Vegetarian restaurant with friends on a Monday evening) and block out all ‘bad news?’

Can we find a way to ‘stay present’ in our communities without experiencing despair?

I once heard this analogy:  If an ambulance driver responded to an outrageous car accident and immediately started freaking out, yelling about the catastrophe, weeping uncontrollably about the ‘state of things,’ and attracting an anxious/terrified crowd… who would help the victims inside the cars?  We expect a first responder to arrive at the scene of an accident and maintain serenity, choose action over fear, address the situation with loving-kindness, and offer all the help he can.  You are the first responder.  And I suppose the car accident is the news story.  (Think on that for a few days.)

So, yes, my heart hurts every time I see the front page of the newspaper covering the violent assault on Gaza and the drowning death of a young autistic boy.  It does.  But then I remember that if I didn’t know about these sorrowful events, I wouldn’t know to pray for these victims of war and this family in grief.  In fact, I purposely listen to the 4 minute newscast on my NPR app on my way to my 6:00 am classes so that I can dedicate a piece of my yoga experience to anyone I hear about on the news who needs extra support and good energy.

So I guess it goes two ways when you read the news:  you can choose desperation or you can choose hope.  

photo cred EMA

photo cred EMA

Or maybe, in the spirit of equanimity, somewhere in-between.

 

What do you think:  Should yogis watch the news?  How do you get your news?  How do you respond?  I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

Tell me!

-lisa

P.S. Haven’t read the Bhagavad Gita yet?  You totally should.  I have two favorite translations.  The translation I used here is by Stephen Mitchell, published by Three Rivers Press, New York.

 

 

Just in case the link to the NPR blog didn’t work, here is the full URL: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/10/323355132/binging-on-bad-news-can-fuel-daily-stress

 

FALL in Love.

Image

2013-10-26 07.01.12

I found this sign, tucked inside the window display of a possibly-abandoned storefront, and simply had to take a picture.  Lately, I’ve noticed negative images, graffiti and advertisements scattered around town… and coupled with the change in daylight patterns and loss of summer, it’s been a little disheartening.  However, this sign, reminded me to Fall in Love today.  And every time I see it, I smile.  It’s great advice for the new season.

If, like me, you need a little pick-me-up today, you’ll enjoy this poem from my good friend Meister Eckhart who has a grand view of the Universe as being permanently In Love.

Always Kissing

They are always kissing, they can’t control themselves.

It is not possible that any creature can have greater instincts and perceptions than the mature human mind.

God ripened me.  So I see it is true: all objects in existence are wildly in love.

-m. eckhart

2013-10-26 07.01.12

What are you going to fall in love with today?  One year, my aim was to find something NEW to love every day.  One day, it was the copy machine in the teacher’s lounge.  (That must have been a bad day.)  One day it was my new coffee mug.  Another day it was a hug from a friend.  It didn’t have to be a life-changing event or a life-saving item, I just wanted to recognize that, even in times of turmoil or stress, all objects in existence were wildly in love.  My list looked ridiculous, but I did practice finding love in the innocuous.  And I practiced falling in love with life.

What are you going to fall in love with today?

Happy Falling.

-lisa

 

 

2 lessons yoga has taught me.

2 lessons yoga has taught me.

A few months ago, my dear friend and yoga student Stina Hergott blasted a post on her Pink Moon KC Blog called “10 lessons My Bike Has Taught Me.”  It got me thinking.  And thinking.  And thinking: could I narrow my list of ‘lessons that yoga has taught me’ to a list of 10?

Well. As it turns out, I can synthesize my list to two.

  1. There is only today.
  2. There is always tomorrow.
2013-09-23 19.52.13-2

photo cred Saunders Fine Arts

 

1. There is only today.  Yoga is not a hobby or an activity.  Yoga is a practice.  Which means every time I practice yoga, it’s a practice of learning to be actively engaged in the present moment.  The present moment may be super enjoyable.  It may be slightly uncomfortable.  It is the only moment I have.

Yoga is a meditation on the Spirit that is found within the breath.  I can’t breathe into the future and I can’t breathe in the past.  Which means I shouldn’t let my mind live in the future and I shouldn’t let my mind live in the past.  Which means: there is now.  And there is today.  And if I desire patience, I practice that today.  And if I desire compassion, I practice that today.  And if I desire to be filled with God-light, to spread forgiveness, to find moments of hidden healing joy everywhere I look, I practice today.  When my shoulder was injured last fall, my daily Ashtanga practice was often excruciating.  (As was opening my car door, taking my Russell for a walk, and holding my coffee mug…ugh, much better now, thank you.)  So I challenged myself to ask this question when I was practicing:  “What if this were my last opportunity to take Downward Facing Dog Pose?  If that were the case, how would I want it to feel?  How would I want to enjoy it?”  Turns out: I would want to SAVOR it.  Yoga taught me that there is only today.  And today is to be savored. 

2. There is always tomorrow.  I like to accomplish things.  (Some might call me an over-achiever, yes, you, Mimi.)  Yoga taught me that it’s ok not to be perfect today.  I can attempt a pose (such as Royal Pigeon, which was my New Year’s Resolution in 2008 and I still can’t do!) and not freak out that I can’t do it.  I can’t take the full expression of this pose, YET.  Yet being the key word here, because there is always tomorrow.  I can get back on my mat tomorrow, even if I am sore, or tired, or cranky and: I can try again.  My all-time favorite Yoga Inspiration comes from Rolf Gates’ book Meditations from the Mat and it says this:

“We show up, we live passionately, we burn brightly in the moment, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.”

Yoga taught me that life doesn’t require perfection, it simply requires me to savor the present moment and do my personal best… then let go of the results.  This lesson, more than anything else I’ve learned from practicing and teaching yoga, has had the greatest impact on my experience with the world and my often-anxious mind.  It has offered me peace of mind, it has calmed my anxiety, and it has truly healed my body and my heart. 

2013-09-23 19.49.21-2

photo cred Saunders Fine Arts

 

 

There is only today.  There is always tomorrow. 

What lessons has your yoga practice taught you? Please, share with me.  I would love to hear your answer.

-lisa

yoga is ‘the good life.’

April Showers 012 (2)

“You know, yoga is a good life.  It’s pretty amazing, I just did yoga once and I was really surprised that I liked it.  I kept going back because it was the only form of exercise that I actually liked.  And it’s amazing, you know… the more you do yoga the more you start to pay attention to what you put in your body.  What you see, what you do, what you think, what you eat.  It just makes life good.”        -Tim

 

Well, that says it all.  Tim: Thanks for stopping to talk to me while I was drinking my beet smoothie, enjoying the sunshine and my laptop, taking in ‘the good life.’  Thought I’d share your joy with the rest of my friends.

If you are interested in starting your own yoga practice and need some motivation, check out my Teaching Schedule.  If you don’t live near KC, MO e-mail me for some great recommendations of studios in your area.  My information can be found on my Contact page.

 It’s about time to start living ‘the good life.’  

See you soon,

-lisa  2013-10-28 17.28.36 (and Russell Clive Ash… enjoying ‘the good life.’)

 

defy gravity: arm balance workshop with Lisa

defy gravity workshop advert

(click to enlarge)

Defy Gravity Arm Balance Workshop : Saturday, September 20, 2014  3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Special workshop with Lisa Ash. Learn the structural integrity of arm balances and benefit from personal attention to learn new variations of traditional arm balances.  Must have yoga experience, but proficiency in arm balances is not required.  Limit of 15 students.

You must pre-pay to reserve your spot in this workshop.

Cost:  $25 for Westport Yoga Members and $35 for non-members.  (tax not included)

Please E-mail lisa@westportyogakc.com to Sign-Up.  Visit Westport Yoga’s Site  for more details.

 

what makes you happy every time you hear it?

what makes you happy every time you hear it? 

June 17One word, one phrase, one question, one utterance, one sound.  What makes you feel happiness every time you hear it? 

I mean heart-warming, smile-causing, hand-clapping, toe-tapping, tall hat-wearing-Pharrell-happy.  (That song may be [slightly] over-played but you have to admit that it does make you bob your head and smile, just a little bit.)

I honestly want to know.

Since I can’t commit to one, I’m skirting the rules (yes, CKay Ash, you can roll your eyes at my inability to stick to rules even I’ve written) and giving you three:

1. Birds chirping.

2. My Russell Clive doggie-sneezing.  (Even when it’s in my face it’s still pretty hilarious.)

3.  “Thank you. This food is delicious.”

Ok, your turn.  Email me or write to me on this page: answer this question:

what makes you happy, every time you hear it? 

-lisa