The Dude Abides, The Writer Comes & Goes…

To abide is to remain, to witness, to sustain and to look upon with kind regard. To abide is one definition of meditation: to remain with one’s own mind in a state of kind regard. To abide is a gift, a discipline and a way of love & I have the most loving readers in the blogosphere!

I’ve been AWOL for months, focused on other areas of my practice, following lights I didn’t at first realize would lead me away from blogging. And yet, you keep visiting, reading & letting me know you are out there. My own practice has become more vigorous and maybe you’ve been following the CampNYoga developments on Twitter or Facebook. How has your practice evolved in recent months?

So while the Dude Abides, I come & go and I’M BACK! I’ll be posting about weekly and next week I’ll have an update on the first, invitation only CampNYoga, complete with photos 🙂 Twice daily yoga and meditation classes, dharma talk with Kirtan on Saturday evening, massage in camp, gourmet organic camp cooking, wine sponsored by Meagan the Wine Goddess at ABQ Whole Foods. We’re not calling it a retreat, because it’s an advance: we’re retreating from nothing, we’re embracing our lives with Love. Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now. Peace.

Yoga Thoughts on Ashtanga, ~Amy Nobles Dolan

Amy Nobles Dolan teaches yoga in Wayne Pennsylvania and writes a blog at Yoga With Spirit.  She exemplifies the addage that you’ll know you’re ready to teach when students come to you, and her expansive sense of generosity and gratitude, grounded in experience, wisdom and knowledge illuminate her writing. She’s an Ashtanga Yogi who brings an embracing perspective to both her choice of tradition and her teaching. On her website bio, she affirms, “…yoga works for everyone.” Here’s her reflection on why Ashtanga works for her. Thank You, Amy!

ps: also check her out at the YogaJournal website featured blog!

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Not too long ago my husband and I took our three kids to Baskin Robbins.  When I ordered (as I often do) Rocky Road, my youngest daughter, Sally, asked me why I chose that flavor.  Hmm.  I actually can’t think of a single reason not to order Rocky Road!  But trying to explain to my daughter why this flavor beat out the other thirty left me tongue-tied.  Where to start?  The creamy chocolate ice cream?  The delicate swirl of marshmallow cream?  The chocolate covered nuts that add a perfect textural balance?  I had no idea there were so many reasons I love this flavor!  Not wanting my scrumptious scoop to melt while I crafted my response, I bailed out of the question with a wholly unsatisfying “Because I like it,” leaving her to make her own choice without my input.

 

Shortly after this incident, a curious student asked me why I had chosen ashtanga yoga over all the other types of yoga out there.  Perhaps because yoga is a lot more important to me than Rocky Road ice cream, the retort “Because I like it” felt even more like a cop-out than it did in the ice cream parlor.  And, perhaps because yoga doesn’t melt, I was more willing to take the time to put my thoughts into words.  I’d love to be able to say that I stood in front of the ice-cream-case of yoga and selected ashtanga for myself.  But I can’t.  It was pure providence that led me to my first ashtanga yoga class – which was also my very first yoga class.  Had I turned up in another kind of class, the practice may not have “stuck.”  And I shudder to imagine my life without this sustaining daily practice.  You see, throughout the years, ashtanga yoga has always been a perfect match for me.

 

In the beginning, I was searching for a way to regain my body after years of sharing it with babies.  I craved the physical.  I needed the endorphin high of a good work-out to carry me through the grueling day ahead filled with diapers, bottles, heavy car-seats and temper tantrums.  I yearned to look good again.  Heck, I yearned to simply feel good.  Ask and ye shall receive.  Ashtanga yoga fulfilled all these desires and then some.  The challenging asanas toned and strengthened my body.  The vigorous, at times speedy, flow steadily increased my stamina and endurance.  The stronger and fitter I became, the better I felt.  My regular ashtanga yoga practice had completely revamped my physical body.

 

Time passed (as it does) and I changed (as we do).  My babies got bigger and the challenges that filled my days changed.  The demands I faced were no longer as physical.  I needed the wherewithal to focus on thirteen things at once – imagine three simultaneous requests for help with math homework while cooking dinner, folding a load of laundry and developing a marketing plan for my new yoga studio!  I needed the self-awareness to understand that my short temper had more to do with an over-abundance of volunteer commitments than with my husband and children.  I needed the prescience to see past the scowling face and rude demeanor to sense that something had happened at school to upset my child.

 

Again, ashtanga yoga met my needs.  The ashtanga series requires high levels of concentration and focus.  As my abilities to focus on one thing at a time and to stay present in the current moment developed, I found myself better able to deal with the multiple demands for my attention one at a time.  As I was learning to be curious and aware of myself – my feelings, my fears, my reactions, my ego – on my mat, I became more tuned into what was behind my feelings off my mat.  This awareness also resulted in a heightened sensitivity to the feelings and needs of the people in my life.   My regular (now daily) practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming my relationships – with myself, with my family and with my friends.

 

With time, discipline and dedication, my practice continued to deepen.  My times on my mat became more inwardly focused.  As I became stronger and more flexible, I began to be able to relax into the postures.  The more comfortable I was in the asanas, the less mental energy was required of me to stay in them.  I could now sink below thoughts of alignment and balance into the quiet of moving meditation.  As my physical practice matured, I began to work more diligently with my breath.  Ashtanga’s ujjayi breathing became a point of meditation for me, taking me even deeper into a meditative state.  And, as meditation became more natural for me, my rests in savasana at the end of my practices became richer and more rewarding.  Day after day while I practiced, I drew closer to the divine spark of life and love that is at my core.  Day after day, I recognized that same spark in the people I met after I rolled up my mat and moved on into my day.  My daily practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming and expanding my spirituality.

 

Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  Like with Rocky Road ice cream, I can’t think of a single reason not to!  Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  Like Rocky Road ice cream, I choose it because I like it!  Why do I choose ashtanga yoga?  As I said before, I shudder to imagine my life without it.  Physically, mentally and spiritually, the practice is transformative — and as wholly satisfying as a scoop of ice cream.  Just as Rocky Road ice cream is the perfect flavor for me, ashtanga yoga is the perfect yoga for me.  What about you?  What do you choose?

Practice for the life you want

Practice for the life you want.

 
I think a lot about what makes yoga different from other forms of physical fitness. My gym routines, daily dog walks and hiking also incorporate mind, body & breath and have tremendous benefits to my overall life & health. A well-timed walk can change my whole perspective.
 
So how is yoga different?  Yoga is a practice. And it’s not practicing for more yoga. Today’s yoga practice isn’t about tomorrow’s time on the mat. It’s about everything I do, because more than whether I bring my nose to my shins any time soon, more than whether I can clasp my hands behind my back, my time on the mat is about the present moment.
 
And that’s why yoga is different: while I can be present-moment in any or all of my activities, every part of yoga has as its aim this paradoxical state of being, which is itself beyond means & end thinking. The present moment is both every moment – and so different across time and people – and it is one moment, so it is the stable core of our being to which we can always return.
 
This is the paradox of eternity & the infinite: it is not a moment repeated forever, or a series of discrete moments following one another without end. It is a way of being from which we can see time. It is the way of being which allows us to take us a stand, or remain above the fray. And while walking and lifting and hiking bring me joy, connect me to my breath and occasionally bring me into the flow, Yoga is all about this. Yoga is preparation for meditation, which is to say it is a meditation on meditation from a beginners point of view – the very point of view to which most meditators are trying to return.
 
Yoga is a practice, and as such has profound consequences off the mat – not just on my ability to sustain a heart rate or walk a set of stairs, or even let a feeling go. My time on the mat is where I explore and create the structure of my life.  I investigate my mind while I hold poses, feel emotions, strive for goals. The poses, emotions and goals are but tools for the point of the practice which supercedes them all.
 
So what are you building and cultivating with your time on the mat? Where do you practice? Do you practice in a place & manner that reflects the life you are crafting? Are you fitting practice in or intentionally carving out the minutes for your mat time? 5 minutes on purpose without stealing from your other priorities is better than an hour and a half stolen from your sleep or other needs.
 
Knowing which is which takes a great deal of compassion and care in watching your own mind. Your mind is not only your thoughts but your emotions and what you might call your “almost thoughts”… the ones that flit beneath the radar. And of course this takes – you guessed it – practice: mat time.
 
So consider where & how you practice and the kind of relation with your mind that it cultivates. Plant the seeds of your best life on your mat, nurture them with your presence and a little bit of sweat and maybe even tears. And watch your mat – and your practice – grow into your best life.