Obstacles to Practice: Perfection

Intention is a powerful guiding force. However, sometimes we get our ideas mixed up with our intentions and then the ideas stand in the way of manifesting the very intentions from which they grew.

We intend to practice every day. Then we wisely think about what that means.  We imagine, we set up schedules and guidelines. And then when we can’t meet the schedules and templates, feelings of inadequacy or futility can overwhelm us. And the intention dies, or goes dormant.

So here’s an idea: think about what it means to practice yoga every day in terms of how it will make you feel. That’s all. Imagine a single down dog or warrior or balance. Imagine a single breath seated in repose. Over at becomingayogi.blogspot.com, she reports on the amazing feeling of drishti – gazing at her toe in a forward fold. That moment, being in it. Now, go practice and see what you find! Accept what you find, embrace it, have compassion for it. As Thich Nhat Hahn says “Darling, I care about this pain.” A moment is all it takes.

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WoYoPracMo!

Worldwide Yoga Practice Month! It’s on, Baby!

January is WoYoPracMo. You can be a part of it just by practicing every day in January. Join your energy, practice, intention and effort with others all over the world in celebration of emodiment, enjoyment, enlightenment: Yoga!

Visit the website , join the community and raise your heart in urdva danurasana or your leg in adho mukha svanasana, raise your voice in mantra or your spirit in meditation and celebrate union with your Self, your breath and your fellow yogis!

"everyday 20 minutes yoga is good?"

Yes! This question comes up almost every day in the searches that lead here. And that’s the whole reason for this blog: to say, “Yes, yes, yes! Yoga Every Day!”

And 20 minutes is brilliant. Maybe you pick three poses to work on today, or this week. Or five. It doesn’t matter. Make sure you have Savasana before you leave your mat so you can distill the essence of what you find there and carry it forward into the rest of your day and night. Maybe one day you do all pranayam, another is all mantra and yet another is all Sun Salutations. Beautiful! Answer the call of your embodied bliss – Sat, Chit, Ananda (Being, Consciousness, Bliss), Sanskrit: सच्चिदानंद.

Restore by Release

Take ten minutes tonight and try one or two of these poses. All are restorative, meaning you support yourself in a position facilitating physical release and you surrender to the pose over time, usually about five minutes. Prepare your surroundings with candles, music, scent. Use a folded hand towel for an eye pillow. Focus on your breath. Begin by allowing the belly to expand in every direction, opening the abdomen to allow room for your organs as your diaphragm pulls downward. After a few minutes of focusing on your belly, imagine your breath beginning just in front of your sacrum, inhaling the breath rises along a channel in front of your spine until it swirls in your head. Exhale, the breath flows down the same channel, exiting in front of your sacrum.

Supported Balasana (Child’s Pose): sit with your feet folded under your buttocks, knees wide. With a bolster or blankets folded in front of you for support, hinge your torso forward and lie your belly and chest on the support, arms alongside. Turn your head to one side. Feel your body move as you breathe.

Supported Bridge: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor hip width apart. Raise your pelvis up, having support (bolster, stack of blankets, block) handy to place under your sacrum or pelvis. Allow your torso to slant gently toward your shoulders on the ground. Arms angle down from shoulders to hands open to the sky.

Setu Baddha Konasana (Bound angle pose): Sitting upright, perhaps with hips elevated on a blanket, place the soles of the feet together in cobbler or butterfly pose (this was a favorite of mine when I was a little girl… I remember doing it with my Mother). Arrange the bolster, blankets or pillows behind you so that you can recline your torso with your arms opening down from the shoulders, palms releasing upwards. If your knees are above the ground, support them with blocks or soft blankets.

Vitparita Karani (Legs up the wall): Place a bolster or a stack of three folded blankets 6-8 inches away from the wall. Sit on one end with a shoulder toward the wall, facing away from the stack. Place opposite hand on floor and rolling down to your back swing your legs up parallel to the wall. Your tailbone will sink into the space between the support and the wall. You may keep your legs up or open them out to a great “V” or place the soles of the feet together in cobbler or butterfly. Arms angle gently down, again, from the shoulders, hands realeasing toward the sky.

Finish in Savasana, or Corpse pose, on your back, legs apart, feet flopping out, arms out a bit to the side of the hips again, hands open to the sky, eyes closed. Keep returning to breath. Breathe. Breathe. Let breath breathe you. Namaste.

Gossip, Gurus & Growth

“If your path is through the guru,

then you see each daily life experience as part of a dialogue in which the guru keeps facing you with experience after experience,

each one designed for your awakening.”

So begins today’s daily wisdom quote from the venerable Ram Dass. Now, I’m not on the guru path per se. But when I have an experience that is vivid or troubling or moving, I try to see how it alters the story so far, adds meaning and shifts my life picture. Through meditation events shift me, offer me new places to stand, sometimes altering the whole story.

Often the most powerful are the ones which at first bring me frustration, embarassment, unsettledness. The shifting point often comes when I remember to look for the winking eye behind the story. If I were an author and I put a character in this position, what joke would I be playing on my character? What joke is being played on me? And what is the nugget of truth at the center of the indignity that has me so off center?

So the gossip around work after my recent resignation from management has been a real guru for me. I knew it would come. I even knew the hottest story lines. Gossip is predictable. What is not are the little stories people tell themselves. We reveal our vulnerabilities in how we weave our stories together. And the little stories I found me telling myself were horrifying! Destabilizing, undermining. That’s the truth about gossip, it doesn’t hurt from the outside, we hurt from the inside out.

And so I am back to my breath. I knew these moments, these stories would come.  I knew that as surely as I knew my decision was right.  Before all the reasons, the stories, in the moment, in my gut.  The truth is I never knew why I took the job: I just knew it was my next step and that meaning would come. It did, and I served a purpose, one in which I believe. The purpose is gone and there will be more opportunity for what I truly value and for new lessons by stepping back into the ranks and giving up the promotion. In the moment of decision there are no stories. There is truth and sensing. In meditation there are no stories, no words. Moments – a moment, really – and witnessing. It’s a lucky person who has opportunity to act on what is revealed there. I’m very lucky to be right where I am, to give up what I give up and to receive what I receive. Very Blessed. So are you.

What do you let go? What do you receive? Before words, after stories, in silence, underneath choice. If you let go, what do you have? Try it. Find out. Bless it with your tears.

Clarity

Like clouds moving in water,

problems make me forget

I am clear.

                               epigraph from Mark Nepo’s book

Giving

Holidays… It’s so easy to forget that the very name is an elision of “Holy Days.” And they are Holy: the short days, the predominance of grey skies in many places, the extra layers of clothes so many climates invite us to don all encourage an extra measure of introspection, even in this era of electric light and flat screens.

As we turn inside, we find so many images, so many voices. The ones we cherish, the ones who’ve grown us, supported us and challenged us belong to people we might want to honor and communicate our gratitude toward by a token of our affection.

I heard someone say today that it’s easier to give than to receive. I think this is true for lots of reasons. When we receive, we can take ourselves out of the moment of feeling appreciated by immediately thinking of what did we get the giver? is it enough? is it what they wanted? am I deserving? It takes some spiritual discipline to simply receive, heart open, gratitude spilling over.

We honor what we find by turning inward when we give, but so often the ritual has become legalized and the demands brittle, constricting. Worthwhile, then, to imagine what would bring holiness, honor and play back to the ritual. Let’s start with our gift list. Decide in advance who you will be choosing for, and do this by noticing what bubbles up. So often we decide by remembering who gifted us last year. There is something sweet in this, but when it is done on the basis of expectation and the fear of being empty handed, we are blocking our own ability to feel worthy, to allow pure generosity on the parts of others and avoiding possibly uncomfortable emotions. And if they really do expect reciprocation? OK. They can expect it and there’s another opportunity for us to simply be with what comes up. They might not get you anything next year! OK too. Sit with that.

Now that you have a conscious list, allow for small things to bubble up. You might not have the sweet person who helps you at work on the list yet, but when you go to the tea store, you remember the tins on his desk. Pick out a few ounces of something lovely, just enough to communicate “I remember your sweetness.”

So, a thoughtful list, some room for spontaneity… now a budget. A budget! How does that go with spontaneity?!? Guiltlessly. Just like consciously decided who you want to honor this year, this is another way of creating awareness about resources and maintaining your awareness that thoughtfulness doesn’t require dollar signs. So maybe you set 10 dollars per person, or 25, or 2 or 5 or 50. Good. Remember equality of dollar signs also doesn’t represent anything about meaning.

One of my favorite ways to really engage the process is to give handmade gifts. I know! It sounds either pricey or time consuming! But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Last year I gave homemade bath salts in 4″x5″ decorative bags available at Michael’s craft store as gift bags.

     For each pound of epsom salts, add half a pound

     of baking soda, stir until evenly distributed.

     Mix in paper grogery bags and use as many

     pounds as you want for 3 bags per person.

     You’ll get about 6 bags (of the size I used) out of

     each pound.

     I used three fragrances, obtaining the essential

     oils at the local school for massage therapy.

     I used rose, orange blossom and sandlewood.

     Add essential oils and mix again. Let sit for a

     day or more and then scoop into gift bags.

Homemade marshmallows are easy and fun and can be made vegan! It’s easy to flavor them with vanilla or peppermint to add flavor to hot chocolate or coffee.

I found etsy today, too, and was impressed with both quality and price. These are handmade gifts, just not by you 🙂 My fave by far are by Mormar, though I should’ve told you that before I cleaned her out:P

 Another stress-reducing strategy is to buy multiples of books and DVDs that have added depth and sparkle to your life. Then, each person you’ve chosen to give to gets one or more of this pile of inspiration and something else to make it personal. These can be collected in gift bags (maybe paper grocery bags with quotes on them?) and added to as the weeks go by and you encounter small items of joy. My current recommendations are Blink, Malcolm Gladwell’s trenchant examination of our sublinguistic preferences and processing, The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo’s daily dose of gentle clarity, the DVD Ghengis Blues, an indescribable tale of a blues singer, some throat singers, an ancient culture, a timeless grief and healing, and finally for the more intrepid, Shortcut to Nirvana, a thouroughly contingent journey to one of the largest, most chaotic spiritual festivals ever the telling of which proves that enlightenment and spirit are composed of the sheer, delightful randomness of our beings thrown together, shaken, and yes, stirred and allowed to settle out. Be advised, some of the practices shown are indelicate, to say the least.