when no one wants to hang out with me.

My Ironman AND my parents were out of town, my private client cancelled last minute and my dinner plans with girlfriends fell through. I had zero plans after 12:15 pm. On a Saturday.

Immediately, my brain started its persistent forecasting, planning and scheduling: I should call Katie and see if she wants to hang out, and if that doesn’t work I’ll invite her to brunch tomorrow, and if that doesn’t work I’ll just show up at her work and beg to take her to coffee… and if that doesn’t work I’ll put an ad on Craig’s List for someone to PLEASE hang out with me and distract me from all that is going on in my life/brain/heart these days. And also..I have a HUGE e-mail list and housework list and gardening list that I should tackle.

Instead, I sat on my back porch, ate hummus and listened to squirrel chatter. I did nothing.

It was glorious. For about 8.3 minutes; then I was ambushed by an undeniable-pee-your-pants-urge to do something and be ultra-productive.

The idea of Spaciousness (‘kha’ in Sanskrit) is a valuable idea in Yoga Philosophy. As we’ve learned in the recent two posts, ‘kha’ denotes the spaciousness and the quality of the heart/mind (citta) and determines how we interact with experiences in our daily lives. When we feel like our minds are spacious, we feel free. When we feel like our minds/agendas/brains are crowded with ‘too-much’ and ‘you-need-to’ we feel confined, trapped, overwhelmed.

I like the idea that Spaciousness can be appreciated in three ways: Time, Form and Soul.

Space in Time is a gap between activities, agendas and to-do-list items. It’s a vacation from the incessant need to be efficient and put-together and follow-all-the-rules. Time Space is priceless because it doesn’t happen all that often in my life, during which I yearn for space to rest but instead fill up my hours with appointments and classes and clients and laundry and e-mails. Time Space for me is permission to sit still and withdraw from my addiction to efficiency.

Space in Form is that unbelievable feeling of sprinting into a spacious field, flinging my arms wide open like a nut-case and breathing BIG into the uncluttered world that holds me. It’s why I YEARN to be in the mountains every summer and why I will endure 10 hours of hiking to get to the top of a 14er in Colorado. It’s why I MUST, for my own sanity, get out of Westport and into trees and on the trails weekly. Space in Form is necessary for my survival, I think.

Space in Soul is, literally, my mental salvation. It is freedom FROM. It’s learning to listen to my Inner Voice that says: Um, maybe don’t be so stressed about this, Lis, it’s probably not a big deal. At all. (It is, usually, never a big deal.) Soul Space for me is freedom from having to re-act with defensiveness or insecurity when someone criticizes me or what I choose to share on the omniscient inter-web. Soul Space for me is freedom from judging and disapproval when I look in the (fun-house) mirrors at Westport Yoga and instead just being glad that I even remembered to take a shower and put on my shirt right-side-out. Soul Space for me is learning to celebrate other yoga teachers and yoga studios instead of feeling jealous or inadequate. Basically, it’s freedom from having to react from fear because that’s what I’ve been conditioned to do and instead being free to respond from a place of worthiness and love. Oh, that is a sweet, sweet space.

I’d like you to take 5 minutes of quiet time and think about appreciating space in 3 different ways:

Time, Form and Soul. How do these qualities of space (kha) show up in your life? How can you make more spaciousness, more sweet space (sukha) in your day today?

I’d love to hear your answer–

-lisa

p.s. here are three possible answers:

  1. take a yoga class.
  2. listen to a guided meditation.
  3. tell everyone in your house how much you love them.

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 
2013-02-16 14.49.19

go sit yourself down and ask: who am I, really?

the language of yoga: karma.

The Language of Yoga: Karma

The language of yoga: karma.

“Karma-a-a!” the teacher hollered across the pre-school classroom.  I looked up, expectantly, wondering: what the hell happened?  A little girl in wearing a backwards purple shirt and Pebbles Flinstone hair rushed past me, rushing to hug the teacher’s knees. The teacher wasn’t yelling “karma” in exasperation as I expected… she was calling the name of an adorable pre-schooler with an under bite.  Seriously?  Seriously.  Someone named her little girl Karma.  Oh dear God, I thought… What an unlucky name.  Or, wait, maybe it’s a really lucky name.  Was this Karma a good karma or a bad karma consequence?  

Karma is probably the most-used and least-understood concept in the Yoga philosophy.  Its meanings are many, and do in fact, vary across Religious traditions.  (e.g. ‘karma’ means something different in Buddhism than in Taoism.)  A few months ago, I stumbled across this article which explains the Sanskrit term of Karma.  It isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start… and it may inspire you to re-think the next time you pull out the old shrug-and-sing ‘karma’ when your friend gets a parking ticket.

This article is re-posted from Yoga Glo.  Its original format can be found here.  Written by Alice G. Walton, PhD

Karma may be one of the most colloquialized expressions from the yogic tradition, and unfortunately it’s also one of the most misunderstood. It originally comes from the Sanskrit word “karman,” whose root “kri” means simply “to do” – no morality or ethics implied. In fact, Karma itself is usually just translated as “to act.” But we tend to think of it as having more significant undertones, with god or fate in there as a mediator between action and consequence. And this is actually not so close to the original meaning, which is much more straightforward.

Maren Showkeir, who co-authored the book Yoga Wisdom at Work, points out how misinterpreted the word often can often be today. “I think people get really confused about Karma,” she says. “Many people have the misconception that it’s about the Universe or the Cosmos or even god rewarding/punishing based on actions we take.” It’s not about this at all, she says, and there’s no third party judging or orchestrating the actions we do.

Karma is just about what happens in the world after we take action of any kind – and the fact that our actions do have consequences, though we may not always be aware of what they are. “It’s nothing more than the connection between action and consequence,” she says. “That is always neutral. It’s our perceptions and judgments that label ‘good and bad.’” Some have pointed out that it’s really just as basic as Newton’s third law of motion (“for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”). And if we can get on board with this simplicity, we’ll understand the essence of Karma pretty well.

The problem is that we’re not always aware of how our actions will affect others, so there’s always some element of unknowing – and this can give way to the feeling that there must be another force at play. “We can’t really shape karma because we can never know the consequences of our actions,” says Showkeir, “which may be why people want to chalk it up to ‘the universe.’ However, we can be mindful about the actions we take.”

In other words, it’s about keeping intention, rather than consequence, in mind as we decide on our actions. There’s no guarantee, of course, but we can hope that decisions that come from a place of kindness will – in most cases – end in positive results. Showkeir agrees that for her, “the challenge is to try not to get too hung up on the potential consequences. If I act with the assumption/expectation that if I do X, we’ll get Y positive result, I am setting myself up for disappointment. The thing that drives my actions is my intention, and that is where the focus belongs. It is a fine distinction, but in my mind, an essential one.”

Acting from a place of intention frees you up to make better decisions, because you’re not overwhelmed – or worse, paralyzed – by all the potential outcomes. In those cases, like Showkeir says, your brain sort of shuts down because it’s impossible to predict the future. But acting with the assumption that good intentions usually lead to good outcomes is a lot more logical and a lot more liberating. “We can recognize that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions,” says Showkeir. “And that will lead to more peace.”

Alice G. Walton, PhD is a health and science writer, and began practicing (and falling in love with) yoga last year. She is the Associate Editor at TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com and a Contributor at Forbes.com. Alice will be exploring yoga’s different styles, history, and philosophy, and sharing what she learns here on the YogaGlo blog. You can follow Alice on Twitter @AliceWalton and Facebook at Facebook.com/alicegwalton.

This article is re-posted from Yoga Glo.  Its original format can be found here.