simplify your life. #MeditationThoughtMondays

shrink spiritualI finally went camping for the first time this year.  One whole night spent in a 2-person backpacker’s tent, wearing a down coat inside my Patagonia sleeping bag, listening to the October wind tremor dry leaves.  It was glorious.  Couldn’t have been better.  I love love love camping; I love the campfire and the oh-so-small feeling that overwhelms my soul when I’m contemplating the dark sky bursting with starlight.  I love the packing, the food prep planning, the waking up in the morning with no alarm and no agenda.

camping skiy

One thing I don’t love about camping?  The unpacking and putting away the car-load of stuff after driving home on only a few hours of (deflated-air-mattress) sleep.

Which makes me think: why the heck did we bring all this stuff?  Did I really need my snuggie?  (yes!)  Did we really need the extra bowls and plates and cute little tin tea mugs?  (maybe not!)  Did I really need a stack of HGTV Magazines to look through? (absolutely not)  Did I really need a set of clothes to change into the next day? (no way, camping is defined by wearing the same clothes two days in a row.)

When I unrolled my (very dirty) travel yoga mat on the grass next to the tent, I looked around and thought: well, this is all I really need.  I did my morning yoga practice in the quietude of the Missouri woods wearing my coat and my hiking boots.  I didn’t need a yoga block, a yoga towel, a yoga blanket, yoga strap, a yoga bolster or a pair of yoga toe socks, I just needed my mat and myself.  It was simple.  And it was glorious.

When you take your yoga with you– the yearning to unite with God in every breath and in every place– you don’t need much.  Your list of what you need begins to shrink.  Life gets pretty simple.  In fact, as inspirational speaker Steve Maraboli writes: “You don’t grow spiritual, you shrink spiritual.” 

I’m not engaging in an argumentative discourse about the legitimacy of yoga props while learning asanas.  That’s an entirely different subject.  What I am bringing to light is how little I really need to practice the creative expression of yoga through breath, movement, and surrender on the mat.  I mean, come on: was I really going to practice my best arm balances wearing snowboarding pants and hiking boots?  (I know it was only 50 degrees… but I like to be warm!)  No, but my practice was enlightening, cathartic and devoted. I even lost track of time and nearly forgot to go watch my Ironman finish his trail race!

camping eagle

How can you simplify your life?

Right now, I’m committed to simplifying my life by letting go of perceived expectations and the need to please everyone else.  I’m simplifying my life by letting go of the word ‘should’ and instead using ‘want.’  I’m simplifying my life by making choices with my work-life balance that benefit my family and my sense of Self.  I’m simplifying my life by saying ‘no’ to opportunities, even if they sound appealing to my bank account.  And I’m thinking about going camping more often.

Your meditation challenge:

Ask yourself, ‘What can I let go of?  How can I simplify my life?’

After you get your answers, it may take time to implement them in your life.  It may take years for you to actualize your own wisdom.  But keep trying.  Keep simplifying.   Keep shrinking until the only things remaining in your life are goodness, love, compassion and joy.

Happy Shrinking.

-lisa

Want ideas on how to simplify your life and reduce your detrimental environmental impact?  Check out my Aparigraha Challenges.

shrink spiritual

 

how can I serve? #MeditationThoughtMondays

yours to offer the world

In our previous two Meditation Challenges, we explored two questions which delve into the heart of the human experience.  First, in order to tune in to our own wisdom, we asked the question: “Who am I?”  (Find the “Who am I? Meditation here.)  Second, we fine-tuned our intuition and our listened to our deep, driving desire by asking, “What do I want?”  This week, we explore the third question from Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga Program.  This question is: “How can I serve?” 

Deep Chopra writes:

“Regularly bringing your current answers [to these questions into] conscious awareness enables you to be alert to the opportunities that resonate with the needs of your soul.”

When we transition from asking “what do I want” to “how can I serve?” we are transitioning from an ego-centric point of view to an expanded point of view where we realize how our action impact our communities.  Even this littlest action: what we eat, where we shop, how we treat the customer service agent at the print shop, how often we wash our own yoga mat, etc. etc. etc.

Yoga asana and meditation practices are often done in a group because the communal setting reminds us that we are intimately connected to each other on the physical level.  When you share breath with other people in the yoga practice room, this connection is obvious.  Practicing as a group also reminds us that we are intimately connected to each other on the soul level.  As your consciousness expands from individual to communal, it becomes apparent how important it is to treat every other person (and animal!) with compassion and ahimsa (non-harming).

The question, “How can I serve?” expands opportunities for fulfillment in life.  It asks us to identify our unique talents and skills to discover how we can be of service.  In yoga, we often call this dharma or ‘life’s way of purpose.’  Just as each cell in the body – blood cell, brain cell, skin cell, stomach lining cell — has a very unique and important function in the body’s health, we each have a unique and important role to play in the overall health of our community.  Asking “How can I serve?” helps match our creative expression of our talents with the community’s needs. 

And, luckily, it doesn’t require saving the whole world.  You don’t need to carry the weight of the world on your chaturanga-strong shoulders.  This is a only recipe for catastrophe and lots of chiropractic work.  Instead, you simply need to ask the question: “How can I serve?” and listen as opportunities arise which match your talents and help fulfill your desires.  The opportunities are limitless- I don’t even want to give you a list to start with because I don’t want you to limit your thinking to the usual ‘community-service-volunteer-actions.’  Your true dharma can be expressed through your family, your job, or your hobbies.

The following excerpt from Bill Plotkin’s work Soulcraft was completely transformative in my life.  It reminded me—“Ms. Fixer-Over-Achiever”—that I didn’t have to fix the whole world; instead, my first job was to find and love my true self as an offering to the world.  I hope this text guides your exploration into the question: “How can I serve?”

“The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world, but to fully belong to it.  It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it.  You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place.

Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is a challenge.  Your offering is your TRUE SELF.  It is the most you can do to love and serve the world. 

It’s all the world needs.”  -bill plotkin

Today, I want to challenge you: not to change the world, but to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world. Start with this Meditation Challenge:

“How Can I Serve?” Meditation

  1. Sit in Meditation.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  (Have a pen and paper handy.)
  2. Take 10 steady inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
  3. Breathe easily and normally.
  4. Silently ask yourself: “How can I serve?”  Ask yourself these questions every 15 seconds.
  5. Notice the answers.
  6. When the 5 minute timer goes off, take 10 steady inhales and exhales.
  7. Open your eyes and write down your answers.
  8. Repeat for 7 days in a row. Notice how your answers change and expand.
  9. Re-visit the list next week to re-orient yourself with your true desires.

Again, please consult The Chopra Center for more details about The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga.  This meditation has been adapted from Chapter 2 of Dr. Chopra’s Book.

In service,

-lisa

yours to offer the world

what is my driving desire? #MeditationThoughtMondays

deep driving desire

“You are what your deep, driving desire is.  As is your desire, so is your will.  As is your will, so is your deed.  As is your deed, so is your destiny.”  -the Upandishads

I was digging through my bookshelf, searching my archives for an inspiring quote to use in class this week, and was distracted by an old journal of mine.  I poured my heart into this journal a few years ago while I was living in San Francisco immersed in the bedlam of being a young adult between steady jobs.  During this (very transformative and completely financially irresponsible) time of my life, I was searching for the answer to the question: “What do I want?”  I was exploring a new city, preparing to move to a new continent, and pursuing a new (intimidating) Yoga Teacher Training Program.  All of this ‘newness’ was very exciting, but left me wondering: “What is my deep, driving desire?… What do I really want?”

In last week’s Meditation Challenge, we began exploring a set of questions that dive into the heart of the human experience.  We asked the question: “Who am I?”  (If you didn’t catch it, please read this article.)  This week, we explore the second question from Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga Program.  This question is: “What do I really want?”

In my journal from several years ago, I found a list of wishes: wishes that described what I really wanted in life.  I remember making this list one chilly November night (11.11.11 at 11:11 pm; four years later I wouldn’t be caught awake at 11:11 pm even if someone paid me) and I was hesitant to re-read the old list.  Would I find my former wishes self-indulgent and embarrassing?  Would I be surprised at how drastically my current desires had changed from my former desires?  Would I feel disappointed by the divergence in my present life from my previous dreams?  But, of course, I was curious and I read everything I can get my hands on… so I prepared for awkwardness and dove in.

You know what? Every wish on that list has come true.  Sure, maybe not in the way I would have expected.  A few of the details are a bit off— I never would have guessed when I wished “to teach in a school I love, making positive change in a community I believe in” that my “school” wouldn’t be an elementary school and would instead be a yoga studio– but the general idea has manifested into reality.

Is it ‘destiny?’  I don’t know.  Does the universe tend to support me when I make a declaration of my intentions and trust that they will be fulfilled, despite my own worry/meddling along the way?  Yes it does.

Here’s the short list of my wishes that answered the question: “What is my deep, driving desire? What do I really want?”

  • A gorgeous family filled with love
  • Confidence to go out and try new things
  • To be fully present in a loving relationship
  • Consistent compassion and courageous vision
  • A home with a porch, a garden, a dog, and a huge kitchen
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Life-long yoga and hiking everywhere I go
  • To be content and at home within myself

Even looking back, not a bad list.

Will I always get everything I desire?  Probably not.  But maybe: if my intentions are clear and my desires are pure, the potential for their fulfillment will be evident.  And maybe: if I fully expect that my desires will be fulfilled, then I’ll gain perspective on what is really important.  I mean…I don’t have a huge kitchen.  But I have a kitchen with running water and electricity, inside my own house; that’s pretty huge compared to many people I know.

I plan on re-writing my list at the end of this year, after a few months of practicing this Meditation Challenge.  After all:

“You are what your deep, driving desire is.  As is your desire, so is your will.  As is your will, so is your deed.  As is your deed, so is your destiny.”  -the Upandishads

What do you really want?  What is your desire?

This Meditation Challenge will help lead you to the heart of your experience. 

“What do I really want?” Meditation

  1. Sit in Meditation.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  (Have a pen and paper handy.)
  2. Take 10 steady inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
  3. Breathe easily and normally.
  4. Silently ask yourself: “What do I want? What do I really want?”  Ask yourself these questions every 15 seconds.
  5. Notice the answers.
  6. When the 5 minute timer goes off, take 10 steady inhales and exhales.
  7. Open your eyes and write down your answers.
  8. Repeat for 7 days in a row. Notice how your answers change and expand.
  9. Re-visit the list next week to re-orient yourself with your true desires.

Again, please consult The Chopra Center for more details about The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga.  This meditation has been adapted from Chapter 2 of Dr. Chopra’s Book.  I can’t wait to hear your answers.

deep driving desire

Happy Dreaming,

-lisa

 

 

who am I? #MeditationThoughtMondays

who we really are

At its core, yoga is the journey to unite with our True Selves.  It is much beyond sweating in spandex.  It is beyond having a perfect Virabradasana stance.  It beyond having a high-tech yoga mat.  It is a process of remembering our True Essence.  Even if only for one hour a day.  It is a big deal. (Remember this “no big deal” post?)

The authoritative text of yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, describes the goal of yoga as nothing short of total freedom from suffering and total uniting with the Divine.  We can’t do this when we are attached to our ego.  We have to move from local (personal consciousness) to nonlocal awareness (community consciousness), which helps us see the bigger picture.  And it’s really, really, hard work.  And it can feel like a really, really, long journey.

I’ve been studying yoga for a decade and teaching it for over seven years.  And I’m nowhere close to being unattached to my ego; I’ve experienced total union with the Divine for an approximate total of 5.8 seconds over the past decade.  I’m still on the really, really, really long journey.

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, “One way to connect with your soul is by consciously asking yourself questions that go to the heart of the human experience.”

Three key questions that bring you into the heart of your human experience are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. How can I serve?   

These questions are outlined by Dr. Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, which we are currently studying at Maya Yoga in my 6 am classes and in my Sunday morning Meditation Classes. You’ll want to investigate this summary if you don’t own the book.

The first question, ‘Who Am I?’ is usually answered with our role in relation to other people.  We may answer: daughter, wife, boss, father, etc.  Or we may identify in terms of positions or possessions: home-owner, assistant (to the) regional manager, middle school art teacher, etc.  Or we may identify with our choices: vegetarian, runner, lobbyist, etc.

But can we respond with answers that delve deeper than surface?  Our jobs may change, our families may change, our residence will change, our goals and experiences will certainly change over time.  What remains?  According to Yoga wisdom, It is the Experiencer, or the Inner Witness beyond our ego attachments, which remains.  Can we forget who we think we are… in order to come closer to who we really are?

Dr. Chopra illuminates: “The true purpose of yoga is to discover that aspect of your being that can never be lost.”

When you ask the question: “Who am I?”  Try to imagine who you are in Silence. You may want to start with this Meditation exercise.  Without words.  If you were completely alone: without a job, without a deadline, without a phone, without a hobby, without a family: who would you be?   

Try it.

  1. Sit in Meditation.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  (Have a pen and paper handy.)
  2. Take 10 steady inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
  3. Breathe without agenda. Silently ask yourself: “who am I?”
  4. Notice the answers. Do not judge. Just notice.
  5. When the timer goes off, take 10 steady inhales and exhales.
  6. Open your eyes and write down your answers.
  7. Repeat for 7 days in a row. Notice how your answers change.

We will work on Question 2 next week…

“We need to forget who we think we are so we can become who we really are.”  -Paulo Coelho

Happy Forgetting,

-lisa

who we really are