everything is always changing.

I love my new house. It’s super cute, it’s the perfect size, and it’s on the same street as Westport Yoga so I can often walk to work. I love the craftsman style woodwork, the lofted home office and the spacious kitchen (WITH a dishwasher!).  It’s seriously the best little rental for my little family. However, it was quite a different story five months ago. I didn’t want to move. At all. My Ironman expected to drag me out of our old house kicking and screaming. I wasn’t ready for change.

You know that saying: “The only thing constant in life is change”?

It’s probably true, but I still don’t like it.

new house

Last year, I thought I had the perfect set up: I had hand-tailored my yoga teaching schedule, I had refined my weekly walking routes with Russell Clive, I had regular coffee dates with a Mentor… life was good.  I remember saying, “Everything is perfect; I don’t want anything to change next year.”

 ‘Well, guess what, honey,’ the Universe said, ‘That’s impossible. So get ready.’

The worldview in yoga includes the belief that all of creation is in a constant state of flux. This means that what we see may not actually be permanent reality. The two Sanskrit terms used interchangeably in the Yoga Sutras to describe this are Drsya and Prakriti.

Prakriti is the opposite side of the coin to Purusha, the term for the Light of awareness inside each of us that is immutable and non-transitory (read about Purusha here.)  Prakriti describes ‘what is seeable’ and what we observe through our senses, which is then filtered through our citta (heart-mind field of consciousness.)

Grant Tetons National Park

The worldview in yoga includes the belief that all of creation is in a constant state of flux. Which is good, otherwise we wouldn’t have mountains and streams!

Why is this important?  Because most of us experience anxiety and distress when things change. Some changes may actually be positive (i.e. my new house has TWO bathrooms AND a dishwasher!) but we cling to old attachments and try to stop the natural progression of life; then we get frustrated when our efforts are in vain.

As scholar Nicolai Bachman writes, “Understanding the transitory nature of all things is prerequisite to letting go of expectations and attachments.”

This is really hard to do if you don’t like change. (Join the club.) In fact, understanding the transitory nature of all things and being ok with it is probably my principle challenge right now. I understand that I am the ‘seer’ and all that I ‘see’ is being filtered through my emotional (and very busy) citta, and I understand that everything I perceive and feel is according to my perspective. What I think of as a heartbreaking change (like moving out of a house I loved) someone else may think of as an exciting and fulfilling new adventure.  It’s all in perspective, just like the time I had to practice on top of a picnic table.

But how the heck do I not get upset when things are changing and I liked them just the way they were?

What the Yoga Sutras tell us is that we can alleviate some of our suffering by distinguishing between what changes and what never changes.

Basically, if it changes, grows, shrinks, ages, dissipates, erupts or ultimately goes away, it’s probably in the Prakriti category, and it won’t help us move toward clarity and enlightenment if we hold on to it for dear life. Even extremely distressing emotional states such as grief, depression, and anxiety will evolve, change and dissolve over time. Just like Thich Naht Hanh told us in this post, suffering can be transformed, and it won’t last forever. However, if what you are experiencing is part of the conscious, permanent inner light of awareness that pervades our impermanent reality, then it belongs in the Purusha camp. That, we can rely on.

I am NOT AT ALL the Master of this concept, but I’m trying to get it. I’m trying to view material things as manifestations of an ever changing world, and think: “That’s just life, moving right along, and I am a small part of it!”

And maybe next time I move to a new house, I’ll look forward to the change.

What changes are happening in your life right now? Are you able to welcome these changes or are you resisting them? Are you able to separate what is part of the ‘seeable world’ (drysa or prakriti) and what is made of pure conscious awareness (purusha)? How can these two concepts change your world view?

Happy Changing,

-lisa

the multitasking epidemic.

roasted beet and black rice spinach salad

roasted beet and black rice spinach salad

I choked on a piece of spinach, slick with homemade garden-herb dressing. Not the usual choking culprit. I coughed for a good three minutes before slugging back some lemon-water and finding my breath again.

Why did I choke? Multitasking. It’s become an epidemic. I thought I was immune to it, but somehow I caught the multitasking bug. For many years I suffered from multitasking; I deluded myself into thinking that I could, in fact, do four things at once with equal care and attention to each item.  Untrue. As awesome as my brain is, the research still stands that humans are not great at multitasking, even though our deluded grandeur tells us we can master all things.

This particular spinach-choking-day, I was trying to text my Ironman, plug my phone in to charge, talk to my dog, and eat a salad all at the same time. NONE of these things were life-changing, life-threatening, immediate or necessary.  All of them could have happened in a neat, organized, sequential order and I would have lived to tell about it. Instead, I almost didn’t.

Seriously, haven’t I learned that I should do one thing at a time, with full and careful consideration, in order to truly enjoy it? Isn’t this called something like… mindfulness?

I try to practice this during my seated meditation, and during my yoga classes, but mindfulness doesn’t always follow me around like multitasking does. The wise Thich Nhat Hanh even says doing one thing at a time (like eating my delicious breakfast salad) is the secret to my success.

“Sometimes we eat and we are not aware that we’re eating.  Our mind isn’t there. When our mind isn’t present, we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food. This is a state of forgetfulness. To be truly present, we have to stop our thinking. This is the secret to success.” -TNH

Let me repeat: the secret to my success!

So, could the epidemic of multitasking be my downfall? (Ugh, another habit to re-train.) I think it might be. I mean, the other day I was on the phone chatting with a friend, prepping breakfast for the next day, and I started to grind coffee. Not lying: I was so overcome with the need to multitask that I thought grinding coffee would be a good thing to do while I was talking. On. The. Phone. (I can see you shaking your head in disbelief, dear Reader.)

How am I going to cure myself?  I’m not sure, but it may require a change in mindset that approaches all I’m doing as play, instead of work (remember this fun post?). And it may require me to set an intention at the beginning of the day that I am going to practice self-care by giving my brain the opportunity to be present. It may require diligent awareness of how I can heal my fragmented mind-body connection by slowing down, sitting still, and setting this intention:

“Today, I will consciously choose to focus on one thing at a time.”

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“Today, I will consciously choose to focus on one thing at a time.”

And, above all, it will require me to return to Mindfulness as often as I can, calling myself back repeatedly, like the ringing of the Bell calls monks to meditation.

When it starts to work and I feel myself growing more whole, present, and mindful, I will let you know.

When do you find yourself multi-tasking?  What are you missing out on because you aren’t paying attention? How are you going to pay closer attention to all the little things that could bring you joy?

Looking forward to healing with you,

-lisa

 

 

 

 

stop your wiggling.

Lately I’ve been enamored with the dichotomy between stillness and movement.  You may remember this post where I talked about travelling horizontally vs. travelling vertically. To borrow from Pico Iyer,  travelling vertically means traveling into Stillness within. I’ve discovered that I’m fairly skilled at resisting extracurricular fidgeting in two areas of stillness: savasana and seated meditation.

But I’m nearly terrible at finding stillness inside a yoga pose. 

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This is one of my favorite poses, but I’m constantly wiggling once I’m in it. (photo cred: epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney)

It’s part career hazard: as a yoga teacher, my eagle eye is scanning the room, looking for any opportunity to help a student move more efficiently and enjoyably in and out of each pose.

And it’s part habit: I always want to find a way to make my pose look and feel ideal.

But what if ‘ideal’ for today is exactly where the pose landed in its first mental conception and physical manifestation? What if the pose doesn’t require a shifting of the hips, an extra elongating of the spine, an extra stretch of the ribs, or an extra visual scan around the room to see who’s doing the pose better than I am? It usually doesn’t.

One thing I adore about the Ashtanga asana system is that I only get 5 inhales in each pose. I sure as heck better get myself into my pose in one movement. Forget about wiping sweat, drinking water, fixing bobby pins, adjusting bra straps: there is simply no time for these shenanigans. There is only time for stillness.

Again, to quote the very wise Pico Iyer, “Stillness is not an indulgence… it’s a necessity for anyone who wants to gather less visible resources.”

Meaning: we don’t need 3 hours in meditation to find stillness. We don’t need to indulge in a three week sabbatical to make stillness a part of our lives. (Although, how cool is it to get into the mountains, set up your yoga mat on a pine needle carpet and start your day with birdsong? It’s really cool!)

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Travel, if you have the chance.  But also be brave enough to be still.

I’m working on finding stillness in each pose—getting into the pose and staying as still as possible. Physically, this could conceivably be a long time but mentally, this is SO difficult for me! I want to wiggle my way to perfection– shifting ever so slightly with each breath, nailing that pose and moving on to the next.

But when I do this ‘quick and conquer’ thing– what mental resources am I gathering?

Perhaps not the ones I need.

What do I need?

I need patience.

I need patience, patience, patience, and the tenacity to be imperfect. I need to gather up all my courage to get myself into an emotionally uncomfortable place and stick it out. This freedom to find stillness, to gather up the less visible inner resources feels like the ultimate prize.

My challenge for you today is to change your view of stillness from an indulgence to a necessity. 

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My challenge for you today is to change your view of stillness from an indulgence to a necessity. (photo cred: epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney)

When you are practicing yoga (or not… maybe you are just trying to make it through the day without losing your mind at work and your temper at your kiddos) can you be brave enough to stop fidgeting and fixing? Can you be brave enough to be still and gather up resources that will ultimately fill you up? These are the resources of patience, gratitude, resilience, and ease. The resources that allow you to look around the room with your eagle eye and assess your life as being blessed, even if you are momentarily uncomfortable.

If you aren’t great at doing this, perhaps try listening to one of my Guided Meditations. Give yourself time and grace; expect a natural learning curve.

In the meantime, let me know which inner resources you’ve gathered while in a moment of stillness, and how your outlook on life is beginning to shift.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

-lisa

Author’s Note: this article first appeared on MayaYoga.com in September 2016. Lisa Ash Yoga retains the rights to this article