just stop waiting for unicorns.

“True space is encountered only with the willingness and courage to experience things just as they are.” -GM


‘Waiting’ (i.e. thinking and worrying and meditating and worrying and praying for days) is generally how I operate.

It’s how I make big decisions and small decisions. It’s how ensure that I am living a life of integrity and not a life of greed or compulsion or defensiveness or (god-forbid) absurdity. Waiting is how I make Soul Space, a place for sweetness and relief, for intuition; a place for sukha.

Soul Space is something most of us are missing in our lives.

Why? Because making Soul Space is demanding and messy and uncomfortable and requires just about as much patience as putting a buttoned-down Christmas sweater on a llama.

What I discovered about Soul Space during my very big emotional inhale the past few months, was that it required me to wrestle with suffering (duhkha) and stop waiting around for my Present Moment to be a magical unicorn-rainbow-puppy parade. Instead, I needed to start making my Present Moment as free as possible given the present circumstances (with puppies, sans unicorns, naturally).

The head/heart/Soul space (in Sanskrit ‘kha’) I lived in last spring was far from inner contentment. It was grieving and frightened and nervous and doubtful and overwhelmingly stressed. I didn’t write about it ‘real-time’ because living it ‘real-time’ was enough; but here’s what happened:

  1. I quit teaching at my home Ashtanga Studio, the place where I launched my yoga teaching career in Kansas City, learned to structure my life around the discipline of yoga and even met my husband. (Sad, but not overwhelmingly so.)
  2. I purchased Westport Yoga, the place where I transformed from a good yoga teacher into a great yoga teacher, learned how to be a leader in the industry and delighted in the invaluable mentoring of my boss Kate who taught me to lead with integrity, creativity and wisdom. (Exuberant, almost overwhelmingly so.)
  3. Two days after the deal closed, as I was still wrapping my mind around the 11-day whirlwind of legal crises, bank accounts and paperwork required to purchase Westport Yoga, my mentor, colleague and dear friend took her own life. After decades of battling bi-polar disorder and depression, Kate’s decision was not unexpected but it was still extremely, horribly shocking. (Devastating, decidedly overwhelmingly so.)

Within me clashed momentous emotions: shock, devastation, excitement, determination, grief, anger, disbelief, anguish… duhkha. Immense suffering.

I did what any sensible person would do: I shut down my Soul Space, repressed a whole lot of emotion, turned into an efficiency robot and disconnected from any hope of grace.

I did what needed to be done: I called teacher meetings, I presided over Kate’s memorial service, I taught 15+ classes a week, I held students as they cried, I wrote lesson plans, I planned professional development and wrote contracts for teachers, I organized insurance policies, I went to therapy appointments, I rain trails with Russell Clive, I drank wine and binge-watched three seasons of Scandal and I even tried to learn tax laws (remember that post?). I filled my hours until I didn’t have to bear the discomfort of my Soul Space. I told myself I was WAITING for life to get back to normal, waiting to feel free again.

And then I read this, about repression of the Soul Space:

“…the more we repress, suppress, procrastinate, or anesthetize, the more resistant we will be toward space. Conversely, the more true space we give ourselves, the less we will repress. And to the extent that we consecrate our spaciousness, intend it for love, point it toward love’s source, space will be merciful. The unpleasantness of space will never be more than we can bear.”

-Gerald May, The Awakened Heart

And my Soul Space demanded to be opened back up and directed toward Love, immediately. What I needed was not more WAITING to feel the right thing or to find the right words to put down on paper about this experience, but more courage to consecrate my Soul Space toward love so that I could heal from it. I needed more Safe Soul Space, more sukha.

In the first post of this series, I introduced the Sanskrit term ‘kha:’ space or spaciousness. Yoga philosophy insists that duhkha (bad space, suffering) is a shared and unavoidable human experience, but yoga teaches us techniques to alter our reactions to suffering so that we can experience a space of relief and sweetness, sukha, even in the midst of suffering.

Meditation master Jack Kornfield writes, “The purpose of spiritual life is not to create some special state of mind. A state of mind is always temporary. The purpose is to work directly with the most primary elements of our body and our mind, to see the way we get trapped by our fears, desires, and anger, and to learn directly our capacity for freedom.”

In the mayhem and the emotional inhale of the last few months, I worked directly with the fear, grief, and anger in my very real and very temporary state of mind.

What I found was this: I only started to heal when I stopped waiting for things to be ‘back to normal’ and just acted like they were. I stopped waiting for things to be funny and just started laughing (loudly, probably obnoxiously). I stopped waiting to feel confident and secure and just started acting like I was a freaking Rock Star. I stopped waiting to feel like I could take a big, deep, FREE breath and just started making space for freedom in my body and my mind. I stopped waiting for the Present Moment to be a perfect one and just started seeing the present moment for what it actually was.

Gerald May, that blessed genius, came to my rescue again by reminding me that, “true space is encountered only with the willingness and courage to experience things just as they are.”

I just had to stop waiting for those love-filled rainbow unicorns to arrive on the scene and just go ahead and consecrate the Present Moment toward love, hope and freedom all on my own. That’s a Soul Space worth not waiting for.

Are you feeling the same way?

Here are 3 Guided Practices to help you encounter and maintain Soul Space today:

Equal Duration Breathing

Body Scan Relaxation

Extended Exhale Breathing


Pranayama Guided Teachings

$4.00

i appreciate you scooting over.

I haven’t been able to write much lately, not because I haven’t made time, but because I haven’t made space.

Like the genius warrior/writer Glennon Doyle Melton, reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale. I’ve been inhaling everything I can get my hands on for the past two months: self-help books, leadership books, spirituality books, yoga books, chick-lit-Savannah-wedding books, don’t-send-your-business- down-the-drain books. I’ve been inhaling so long and so deeply, I haven’t taken one exhale in months. Do you know how awesome it feels to be so full of breath that your eyes are popping out of your head and your lungs are Blimping it to anywhere but here? There is no space. There is absolutely no grace or conscious awareness or invitation for emotional healing when I hold my breath for two months straight. And definitely no space for writing about it.

In Sanskrit, the idea of space is defined by one little syllable: “kha.”

In the Yoga Sutras, we learn early on that the whole idea of yoga is to teach humans to mindfully breathe their way from duhkha, suffering, (literally: Bad Space) toward sukhaSafe Space.

In yoga practice, we discover sukha almost immediately. We learn that we find sukha through releasing physical pain, tension and fatigue with yoga poses that stretch and open our bodies. We learn that we feel a sense of sweet serenity when we finally trust our yoga mat enough to hold us safely in final relaxation pose, savasana.

And we also learn about Bad Space, suffering (duhkha), very early on in our yoga practice. We learn that pushing ourselves into a pose is a very, very bad idea because we wind up so sore we can only waddle the next day. We learn that holding the breath beyond the natural inhale and the natural exhale brings us face to face with our aversions, our desires, our addictions, our cravings. We learn that the mind will trick us into duhkha with its infinite configurations of distractions and illusions and lies, yelling things like: ‘You have no business being here! Get out now while you still can—before all the perfectly-clothed-bendy-peppy people in this room figure out you’re a big giant faker!

Being in a Safe Space versus a Bad Space is a big deal. It feels like the difference between being a weirdo robot about go berserk and being a real-life functioning person. It feels like the difference between crouching in a dank dark hole and cart-wheeling through a brilliantly sun-drenched glade. It feels like the difference between filling myself with more and more and more and more, still unable fill the void of yearning in my heart, no matter how much I fill it with, and being a person who can sit with herself in silence and actually enjoy it. It feels like the difference between living through the days and actually LIVING LIFE.

And here’s the thing: practicing yoga doesn’t prevent suffering in life—it doesn’t, actually, (even though I really want it to) prevent really crappy things from happening. Practicing yoga doesn’t earn me a free pass from turmoil; it just teaches me how to lead my thoughts away from a continuous loop of turmoil and get my head into a Safe Space where I can find sukha, relief, sweetness.

Over the next few posts I want to explore the concept of kha; what it looks like and feels like to find spaciousness in our lives.

I’m finally ready to explore exactly what kind of kha I’ve been hiding in the past few months as I’ve transitioned from yoga teacher to business owner, left my Ashtanga Yoga home and shepherded a community of grieving students through the loss of our former owner and the change in leadership at Westport Yoga.

I’m finally ready to exhale my way into the spaciousness of sweet, forgiving, Soulful living… and since writing is my exhale, I suppose I’m inviting you along for the ride. I appreciate you scooting over and making space for my Blimp-sized emotional exhale.

-lisa

 

who are you?

The first week of my 2016 sabbatical was spent sharing a room with seven high school ladies and being responsible for the well-being of forty six female campers. The week was challenging: it was raw and real and really, really exhausting.

camp 1

teaching yoga to high school kids?  in this beautiful setting?  sign me up!

Every time I volunteer at this Community of Christ High School Camp, I lose my voice, I forgo sleeping for a week (this just in: kids stay up late), I laugh until I pee my pants, I sweat more than should be physically possible, I miss being at home, I miss the routine of my wonderfully full (and air conditioned) life, I am overwhelmed by too many people in one space and too many loud voices, and every year, I come back. 

Because in this week, I am witness to the incredible power of positive community.  I watch young people transform from awkward strangers into best friends, open up to the idea of loving themselves, learn something brand-spanking new, try something they would never before attempt, get bloody noses from getting smacked in the face with a pool noodle, attempt to beat the far-superior staff members in dodge ball tournaments, fall in love, and inch closer to the type of adult they desire to be.

Hands down, the best part of camp for both campers and for staff members is meeting new people.  I asked the question: “What’s your name, again?” about a million times a day.  Knowing someone’s name is intimate.  Isn’t it true that when we ask someone: “What’s your name?” what we are really asking is: “Who are you?” I’m actually really good at remembering names.  I learned 90 camper’s names the first day of camp, but definitely forgot most of them by the time we jumped in the pool that evening.  Name tags off, swimsuits on, hair wet;  I had no idea who these kids were.
“Who are you?” is a difficult question to answer.  For high school kids, that answer is usually a label. Sometimes, it’s even a label they didn’t choose for themselves;, it’s a price tag slapped on their back by their peers. This label: nerd, athlete, outcast, weird, smart, stupid, fat, pretty, popular can only go so far in its ability to describe who they are as changing, growing and maturing people. Adults still have these labels affixed permanently on our exterior, too.
We are still one word to new people we meet: immigrant, businessman, homeless, hipster, athletic, gay, rich. These labels we carry around may or may not be accurate. They may or may not be apparent to everyone we meet. They may or may not be damaging, but they are never the full truth of who we are.  They will never truthfully answer the question: “Who are you?”  (Read my personal take on Deepak Chopra’s “Who am I?’ meditation here.)
camp 3

In fact, that’s the whole reason we do yoga! To clear our minds of misconception so that we can re-connect with who we truly are.

In yoga philosophy, this label would be an accumulation of all your experiences and memories stored in your citta or ‘heart-mind field of consciousness.’ The citta consists of four components: outer mind, inner mind, ego and memory. Together, these components determine how we construct our identity and how we interact with the world.
The citta is a filter between our ever-changing external experiences and our inner light of awareness. Overtime, this filter needs to be changed: your citta or heart-mind-consciousness is clouded and dirty. You are no longer swimming in a pristine chlorine-treated swimming pool, you are stuck in the muck of a snapping turtle infested lake. And it’s easy to forget who you are.
Patterns of thought, impressions that are untrue, and experiences that are painful sully the lens of our citta and block our inner light of awareness. We forget who we truly are: we forget that we are made of light and in light. This forgetting is the cause of our frustration, our pain and our habits. However, with self awareness and courage gained through meditation, we can clear up our misconceptions and start to peel away the layers of grime until we feel clear again. The meditation, the asanas, the pranayama, the focus we gain through our yoga practice makes this possible. In fact, that’s the whole reason we do yoga! To clear our minds of misconception so that we can re-connect with who we truly are.

According to scholar Nicolai Bachman, “Purification and clarification of citta is the primary result of yoga practice and leads us to connection with our divine inner light of awareness.” -The Path of the Yoga Sutras

Every single day, we have the opportunity to answer the question: “Who am I?” with more clarity and freedom.
My challenge for you is to look closely at who you are and sit in meditation with yourself. Use this time to clear your heart-mind field of consciousness and move forward into the light.  When you do this, you aren’t changing yourself into someone new, you are changing yourself into who you’ve always been and simply allowing that light to shine.
Happy Shining,
-lisa 
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go sit yourself down and ask: who am I, really?

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?” 

Dr. 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 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.  That mindset is a 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.

“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.”  

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

are my emotions helpful? #MeditationThoughtMondays

need light and dark

 

The shorts were Radioactive.  I couldn’t wear them without putting on sunglasses.  These shorts were beyond-bright: my sister called to say she could see me walking down the road.  She lives in Washington D.C.

I usually avoid neon.  At all costs.  But I traded in a pair of old hiking shorts for this pair of orange running shorts from the free pile at Westport Yoga.  And I thought, ‘Why not? They’re free, and I’ve been craving color in my life lately.

Slide my closet door open and you’ll see the same four colors: black, grey, white, and teal.  The best colors, in my opinion.  (It makes packing for a trip super easy when everything I own matches!)  But this year, summer inspired me to break out of my monochromatic obsession and add vibrant colors to my life. I picked a terrible shade of neon green for a pedicure, I snagged (free!) neon shorts for my wardrobe, and purchased a planter of pink flowers for my front porch.

I’m usually one for blending in: I had to give myself a mental pep-talk to wear those neon shorts in public, knowing that I was a walking billboard for all things conspicuous.  It made me wonder:  Why do I feel so exposed?  What am I trying to hide? 

I’m generally a very open, transparent person.  But I definitely have feelings, reactions, and habits that I’m not particularly proud of.  It is the nature of being human to experience both ‘positive’ feelings and ‘negative’ feelings.  In yoga classes, I try to teach my students to closely examine their reactions to a certain pose but not to judge them.  For instance, instead of thinking, ‘I’m terrible at this pose because my arms aren’t long enough and I’m too weak to hold myself up and I’m never going to be good enough to do it, we more accurately think, ‘I’m experiencing frustration.’

I’m consistently asking students to examine their thoughts and consider: ‘Are my thought patterns helpful?’  This nonjudgmental attitude takes practice and patience to develop.  Eventually, we may get to the point where we don’t judge our undesirable emotions as ‘negative’ we just see them as a natural expression of energy.  And we know that we have the capacity, and the propensity, to experience emotions across the spectrum.  (Remember this article about how emotions can be seen in the body as different colors?)  It’s nothing to hide.  It’s part of being human.

According to yoga philosophy, each person is a unique mix of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ energies.  One energy is called Pingala.  This energetic quality can be described as: active, strong, bright, hot, masculine.  The other complimentary energy is called Ida.   This energetic quality can be described as: passive, yielding, dim, cold, feminine.  The Yoga Philosophy also borrows terms ‘yin and yang’ from the Daoist tradition.

The state of balance between these two energies is always dynamic.  Stand on one foot long enough and you will see: balancing is never a static act.  These energies are always in flux within our physical bodies and in our emotional states.  Sometimes we are strong, decisive, demanding, and active.  After a entire day of this energy in a hectic workplace, we arrive home drained, indecisive, yielding and tired.

We need both the Pingala and the Ida in order to feel balanced.  We need the light and the dark.

It helps me to remember that I am a range of human experiences and emotions:  it never has to be ALL or NOTHING.  It’s ok for me to be 60% happy and 40% frustrated.  And it’s ok for me to be 99% content and 1% jealous.  It’s ok for me to experience both the light and the dark.  Both can be helpful.  And if my thoughts are unhelpful—well then—I don’t need to keep them. 

need light and darkLike the neon shorts, I can wear them once, and then send them on their merry way.  I’m not sure if those shorts will stay in my dresser until next summer.  But I have them now, so maybe I can learn to appreciate them.

What feelings or habits do you need to examine?  When can you ask yourself: ‘Are my thoughts helpful?’  How can you learn to embrace both the light and the dark?

Happy Healing,

-lisa

 

suffering can be transformed. #MeditationThoughtMondays

suffering can be transformed

Thank goodness nothing lasts forever.  After seven months of intensive chiropractic, yoga therapy, and meditation, my shoulder is no longer suffering.  More importantly– I am no longer suffering.  I took this picture not as a humble brag, but as a reminder that everything is impermanent; that nothing lasts forever.

Last December I spent three days on the couch suffering a horrible cold.  I was miserable. (And also a bit dramatic; I actually tried to ‘cancel Christmas.’  Good thing no one took me seriously.) When I finally got off the couch, I could no longer lift my left arm above shoulder level without experiencing excruciating pain. My shoulder had been bothering me for over a year, but I kept pushing my yoga asana practice to the next level and ignoring the pain in my shoulder, ribs, and back.  It was initially exhilarating to ‘achieve’ my ‘dream poses,’ but then I’d spend the rest of the day recovering in order to teach my yoga classes.

I (eventually) decided that ignoring my injury wasn’t going to heal it. I started an intense treatment of bi-weekly chiropractic adjustments, weekly yoga therapy, daily physical therapy, and meditation.

I would find respite from the pain after a chiropractic adjustment and then over-do it on the mat —so excited that I could backbend again!  My excitement was usually fleeting: the next day I’d be back at square one, moping around my house like a sad puppy. My Ironman (who earned the World’s Greatest Fiancée award for listening to me whine for months) would gently remind me that nothing is forever: everything is impermanent. 

In other words: suffering can be transformed.  I love reading books by Tich Nhat Hanh, the foremost leader in happiness and the art of transforming suffering into joy.  My guiding light through the process of healing over the past year has been his book, No Mud, No Lotus.  In it he writes:

“The art of happiness doesn’t require that we have zero suffering. When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less.  Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy for ourselves and for others.  In fact, the art of happiness is also the art of suffering well.”

When I was exhausted and my stores of internal optimism waned, I needed reminders that suffering and happiness are not mutually exclusive.  I needed to embrace my injury with tenderness, not live in futile frustration.  And I really needed reminders that nothing lasts forever: pain does not last forever just as non-pain does not last forever.  As simple as this ‘impermanence- business’ sounds, it’s extremely difficult to embrace in times of suffering.

I definitely haven’t learned my lesson.  My hip is hurting like crazy and I’m being very impatient in the healing process.  There are times when I’m being dramatic: ‘This injury is never going away. I’ll probably never progress in my asana practice. I’m not even 30 years old and I’ve hit my peak.’  And then I have take a big breath.  And remember my shoulder.  And the work I put in to embracing the suffering.  And the patience I cultivated through hours of meditation.  And the suffering that was eventually, slowly, faithfully transformed into something beautiful again.

When have you witnessed your suffering being transformed?  When have you needed reminders that ‘nothing lasts forever’?  When have you learned to embrace happiness as it comes—even when the conditions weren’t perfect?

Tell me your story.

Happy Transformation,

-lisa

 

 

say thanks. #MeditationThoughtMondays

Here are some of Thank You Cards I’ve received lately. Each card has been a surprise, each card has been purposeful, and each card gave me moment to pause with sincerity.Thanks

As I was healing my left shoulder the past few months, my yoga practice routine was forced to change drastically. I could no longer maintain my Second Series Ashtanga Routine and then still teach all my classes because the fatigue was too great.

I could no longer go straight from practicing to teaching because I had to go home and ice my shoulder in between every class. I could no longer rely on my two hour moving meditation every morning to ‘shake all the thoughts out of my head.’

I discovered the challenge of long, deep stretches and a personal restorative yoga practice. I discovered a new love for the anatomy of the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff as I delved into possibilities for yoga as shoulder physical therapy.  I discovered that I could still be proud of my body even with an injured shoulder.  It was a long process full of tears, fears and self-questioning.

Even in my times of pain and frustration, I tried to remember that I could be grateful for the things my body COULD do, instead of focusing solely on the things that it COULDN’T do. I tried to be grateful that I had a body.  

I started using the mantra “healing and gratitude” during my personal meditation sessions. I even went so far as to write my body a Thank You Card.  The card was realistic: it recognized that my body could not perform backbends, chaturanga push-ups, twists, or any of the poses that I wrote on my 2015 “Resolve Board” at the moment, but it said “Thank You” for being a body that could breathe, walk, hug and teach.  It was really cheesy.  And really wonderful.

Are you grateful for your body?  Have you told it so lately?  How can you say “Thanks” to yourself by providing a moment of self-care?  (Hint… a yin yoga class at Westport Yoga KC and a luxurious bath?  a healthy green smoothie? a moment of sitting still? )

Say “Thanks” today.  You may need to hear it.

-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.
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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. 

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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