Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day Meditation - Befriending the Pause

Not everyone is comfortable with the global pause we are all experiencing together. In this short video, I offer a guided meditation using a breath technique in which we become aware of the natural pauses in our breath as a means to become more comfortable with pausing in general.

I hope you are staying safe and well during this strange time.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Open-Close Breath Practice to Calm the Nervous System

Here's another short breath practice for quieting the nervous system. In this one, I'm using the open-close motion from Tai Chi, in which we float the hands apart on the inhalation and float them back toward each other on the exhalation. I like to add the slowing of the exhalation, which stimulates the vagus nerve to activate the parasympathetic nervous system - the part of the nervous system that returns us to a quiet, non-stress-elevated state.

Stay home, stay safe, stay well, and don't forget to BREATHE.

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Short Breathing Practice to Remove Fear and Other Obstacles

Hello! Since my last post, we have moved deeper into this new reality that is the Corona Virus pandemic. We are staying home and keeping our physical distance from others, in order to protect us all, and especially those at highest risk. There is a lot of fear - fear of getting sick, fear of the loss of freedom, fear of loss of income, fear of the unknown future.

At our yoga studio, we quickly transitioned from classroom teaching to online classes. We are a small business, and like all small businesses in this environment, very much at risk for survival. So we learned FAST how to use technology to serve our clients, stay connected with our students, and keep the business alive. In yoga, it feels weird to switch from what we do, which is so heart-centered, to the cold, hard realities of business. Neverless, we've risen to the occasion and within a few days, were up and running with classes. This week we ran 12 classes online, and had over 300 attendees. Last year, we ran 42 classroom classes, with 500 students. I'd say we've done quite well!

It was a little nerve-wracking - not scary, really, but nervewracking - to teach in this new format. But after the first day, I was filled with happy excitement for day 2. It felt right to start both my classes a certain way - drawing on the energy of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles such as fear. I coupled the Ganesha Mudra (a hand position) with a companion breathing practice. The two together release tension around the heart and quiet the heart-mind.

This video isn't from my actual class - I recorded it later so I could share it more widely. It's just six minutes long, but gives you a sense of the quieting effect of the combined mudra and breath practice.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

A Beautiful Mind

I came across this essay that I wrote a few years back for The Yoga Sanctuary newsletter, and wanted to share it because it may help others who struggle with worry and anxiety. I was such a worry-wart, and I feel like if I could change, anyone can, and I hope that maybe it will help someone else believe that they can too.

A Beautiful Mind

“You think too much.”
I’ve been told that more than once. And you know what? The people who said it were right. I’ve always been a worrier—I worried about everything! I also have a great imagination, which, as a writer, is an asset. But I used to believe that I had to think out everything I was going to write in great detail before I wrote it. My mind was a very busy and rather messy place!
I say “was” and “were” and “used to” because I have been working hard to change this. In retrospect, it occurs to me that all that thinking and worrying and imagining was a way of trying to control the world. It was as if I thought that by worrying enough, I could prevent bad things from happening.
I think we all know that’s not how it works.
The mind is a beautiful and miraculous thing.  But the same mind that can write poetry and solve problems can also cause tremendous suffering. A beautiful mind doesn’t use our memories and imaginations to torture us with thoughts about what happened in the past or the infinite unknowns of the future.
Once I began to delve into yogic philosophy and wisdom, my eyes and mind were opened to a wonderful realization: this practice that I loved so much could also be the key to reining in my overactive mind. It could help me reduce or even eliminate the unnecessary mental suffering caused by “thinking too much,” and it could help me be more fully engaged in my life, right here, right now.
I began meditating, but for a long time, I felt like I wasn’t getting the hang of it. My mind wandered. I criticized myself for not doing it “right.” More often than not, I fell asleep!
What eventually helped me was finding a mantra —a set of gentle, loving phrases to repeat over and over. Before long, I found myself repeating them not just during my meditation time, but when falling asleep at night, upon awakening, while taking a walk, driving the car or simply sitting quietly. After a few months of this practice, I found that if my mind started to conjure up worrisome thoughts, I automatically shifted it back to my comforting phrases.
I feel calmer now and more present in this life with which I’ve been blessed. I rarely worry. And as a writer, I’ve found that not thinking so much before I write allows a freer flow of creative inspiration that takes me to delightfully unexpected places. In my writing and in my daily interactions, my words, actions and responses feel more heart-centered and authentic than they did before.
Before this practice, I secretly doubted that the mind could be retrained. Of course others said it could be done, but they were yogis, gurus far more enlightened than I. They seemed to me somewhat like members of a special club with a secret password that the rest of us were not given.
But having experienced it myself, I can say with confidence that yes, we ordinary humans really can control our minds rather than letting them control us. The key was, and is, practice. Diligent, almost constant practice.
In his book, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri Swami Satchidananda writes, “As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” I prefer liberation, so I return to this practice again and again. And again.
Relevant Yoga Sutras:
Yoga Sutra 1.2:  Yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga Sutra 1.12: These fluctuations are restrained by practice and non-attachment.
Yoga Sutra 1.13: Of these, practice is effort toward steadiness of the mind.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A New Year's Day Meditation: Asking the Three Questions

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
                                                                                ~Joseph Campbell

I recorded the New Year's Day meditation below on our lanai here in Florida this morning. This meditation helps us to find balance between our wants, desires, dreams and goals, and our true purpose. At the start of the new year, most of us set intentions and think about how we want our lives to be. This is a beautiful and necessary thing. But we sometimes get caught up in narrowing the focus of acceptable outcomes - our minds can only conjure up so many possibilities. The universe though, knows of infinite possibilites, and outcomes far more wonderful than we can imagine on our own. So, we ask the universe some questions, and leave space to received the wisdom that knows no bounds.

I wish you a very Happy New Year! Enjoy the meditation - turn the sound all the way up - it's a little soft. I need to sit a little closer next time.