Notes From the Mat

Please come see me at BadlandsYoga.com, where I feature free audio, special events, class information and where I blog at Notes from the Mat! Ask your yoga questions and get answers, support and inspiration. New posts weekly! Thanks for reading! Christine

Cool Media to Inspire Your Practice & Your Life

Yogis need yoga, teachers need teachers and bloggers… need bloggers!

Here’s one I discovered today & I just love Davidya’s title “In2Deep“. “Basic Skills” is an extended reflection on attention & intention, but what grabbed me was the opening. She spoke to me where I am, reminding her readers that when our influences feel unsupportive, our attention can change our influences and that support is a breath away.  Speaking of a seemingly unsupportive “culture,” she says “it’s more a boogy than a monster.” Indeed, our focused awareness contributes to our culture and our support.

This next one is my current obssession: The Zen Brain Lecture Series. Time to get your geek on, and I mean seriously. If you’re not scientifically minded or not in a space where you can concentrate, pick something else. These are some smart people – neuroscientists, pathologists, researchers, journalists – reviewing recent research and making hypothesis and reporting on results of experiments with meditation. It’s about way more than Zen, or Buddhism. It’s about being a human being. This gathering in January was influenced by the gatherings initiated by the current Dalai Lama, during which leading lights come together to discuss the intersection of science and mindfulness. Goldmine for inspiration as well as confirmation that your yoga mat & yoga butt are “worth it” as well as some ideas to expand your notions of “mind” & “body.”

And finally, this on HumanKind this morning over our local public radio station, KANW: An interview with Bernard Lown, a Nobel Prize winning doctor speaking out for healing as part of the medical “model”.  His voice, stories and wisdom regarding the role of compassion in well-being are deep and touching.

YogaCowGirl Guest Blog: Abhyasa & Vairagya, the Yoga of Tending the Land

Welcome to a new monthly feature, the guest blog.  Craving community , practicing letting go and so continually amazed and inspired by the creative beauty of fellow bloggers and yogis, I’ve invited some of these artists of life to share their work here. I hope you find them as igniting as I do. Stay tuned for installments from Hillary, Amy & Elsie… and more to come!

YogaCowGirl shares her eclectic and grounded mix of yoga, music, chanting, farming and husbandry through her artistic wordsmithing on her blog and on her CDs. Just witnessing her productivity and clarity will help you find your own. Here’s her reflection on effort and stillness as the yoga of husbandry. Enjoy!

 

For me, yoga practice has been a quest to pay attention.  Yoga meditation helps me pay more attention to my relationships with others, to slow down and breathe rather than have knee jerk reactions to the words and actions of others.  Hatha yoga helps me pay more attention to the body, to which muscles need loosening or strengthening, to where tension is creeping in, to the effects of food on my well-being.  The study of yoga philosophy helps me learn more about the world around me and how science, philosophy and practice can improve life for me and others who connect with me.
 
As the owner of a 40 acre property, I pay attention to the land and its cycles as well.  From year to year, we see the effects of global warming as trees bloom earlier every year, as wet summers beset our typically Mediterranean (dry summer) climate, and as winter storms grow increasingly violent.  Paying attention to all these macro environmental changes, in fact, provides this yogi’s call to action to steward the land.  If I care deeply for the land, then I must do the most I can possibly do to stop aggravating global climate change.
 
Sometimes stewardship means just leaving the land alone.  Last year, we put a conservation easement (http://www.trlc.org) on 19 acres of forest to ensure that future generations would leave the land, its trees, and the stream running through it — alone.  Our job now is to simply pay attention to the forest, assist in a few ways (like removing invasive weeds), and allow it to thrive.
 
Sometimes stewardship needs to get more active.  In order to be as responsible a world citizen as possible, I decided to go completely organic on the entire property, including the remaining farm acreage.  We passed our third organic certification inspection (http://www.tilth.org) this year, and happily added every flower, shrub and tree growing here to our certification list of plants that we are allowed to label “organic” when we sell them.
 
Being organic means I have to pay much more attention to my crops and plants than the typical farmer does.  I cannot pre-spray for anticipated pests or weeds, like big agricultural operations do. I must hand pull every weed and use non-toxic soap on pest infected plants.  I also use predatory insects that eat pests and then leave the site to integrate into the land.  Predators can only be applied at the moment a pest is attacking a plant or they won’t have anything to eat. I rotate crops to “fool” pests into thinking their food source has left the area and to distribute the feeding needs of various crops.
 
This attention paid to plants develops my love for them and for witnessing their life cycle.  Keeping the property free of harmful chemicals has invigorated our bird, bee, and insect population.  We feel that the property is becoming an oasis for life through our actions of stewardship and attention.
 
Isn’t that what every yogi wants, to be an oasis of life, of calm, of peace on this planet so that we may help bring others to drink from our waters of self and be calmed and invigorated?

Take my Survey! Please!

As a yogini, I’m motivated, at least in part, by the Delphic dictum to “Know Thyself.”

As a teacher I’m equally interested in you and your practice. So I’ve put together this survey.

I’ve been priviledged to get to know some of you through email and your comments. Here’s your opportunity to let me get to know about your practice and your preferences. I’ll be honored by every one of your responses and the information you provide me will assist me with my writing and teaching.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this blog, for your responses and support and for your time attention to this survey. Stay tuned to hear all about the trends!

link url: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/survey-intro.zgi?p=WEB22834EKM6NT

Love, Bodies, and Demons

I’ve been listening to Iyengar’s Light on Life, read by Patricia Walden (yes, I’m inseperable from my iPod). I’m not an Iyengar practitioner and have always been disturbed by the stories of striking students and denigration of the body. All third (or twenty-seventh) hand, mind you, but repetitive none-the-less. His dualistic perspective seems to me evident from Light on Yoga, and is not one towards which I gravitate.

But I was listening to Lara’s last YogaPeeps show (yay Lara! see my blogroll for a link…) Light on Life was one of the books highlighted at the end. And it was one of those turns of phrase that tells you, “hey, that’s something to check out.”

So here I am, listening to a book I’ve passed over many times before. And I am not only impressed, but awash in his wisdom. These are not, to my ear, the words of a body denigrating yogi. In fact, the bath of tears I find myslef taking when Walden reads his words about loving every cell of your body, putting love into every cell of your body, tells me the shoe may have been on the wrong foot.

I’ve been engaged in a practice aimed at dissolving obstacles recently. I began with exterior obstacles. I quit smoking. I’ve created healthier routines. I’m rearranging my work life to align with my creativity. All well and good. And then I became aware of some stirrings of internal obstacles, stirrings of bonds being shaken. Old bonds. Strong bonds. And then there was fear protecting those bonds. And I was able to dissolve some of that. All the while, mind you, I’m still not sure what the bonds hold, only that it’s part of me and that the binding is keeping it hidden. Also, this is taking weeks. Slow, wordless, sometimes dubious process.  I plod on.

And slowly I am aware of a subtle rumbling, an undercurrent of unhappiness. Not with this or that. In fact this and that all are well. Slowly I find it’s with myself. It’s a secret, long hidden but ever-active seemingly endless cavern of self loathing. That’s right. Self-loathing yoga teacher. if you want to put a label on it.

And actually this is where labels are helpful. Because when I’m teaching I feel the farthest thing from self loathing. I feel transparent and powerful and awed by my students’ power all at the same time. I feel beautiful.

But when I look at myself or find myself wearing the role of yoga teacher (as in “what does your wife do for a living? Oh, how interesting! kind of role) deep feelings emerge that don’t fit with my pictures. Unsettling feelings, feelings familiar from long ago, from things and times I thought I’d processed and released. The ugly little girl (not the truth, but my picture of myself). The chubby girl. The athletic girl (not used as a compliment). They’re all here with me once more.

And Iyengar’s wisdom in Walden’s voice is helping me to care for them, to love every cell of them. To enjoy all my steps, to realize my samskara, meet it with tapas, svadyaya, surrender and find samtosha. My bonds are little by little being released, and the prisoners are escaping. They didn’t need to be locked up. Only to be acknowledged and loved.