“The wound is the place where the light enters you” – Rumi
I learned recently that Rumi’s poem preceded this phrase that Leonard Cohen made famous. While I’ve contemplated this on my own internal level many times, it feels that now the collective wound is open. The wound of our society’s prejudice and injustice. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. It’s deeply unsettling.
And yet, necessary.
Necessary for the light to make its way in, for the reckoning to begin. For healing to become possible.
We have our work cut out for us. It starts with being willing to fully feel the pain of the wound itself, to take an unflinching look at what is being laid bare. It continues with being willing to let the light to come in.
For me, this light is shining on the wound and illuminating it with my most fundamental value. The one that launched me on the path of yoga when I read the words (I’m paraphrasing here): “If you truly...
My word today is hope. There are many issues that need my hope today, many things that have me concerned, worried, even up in arms.
Those feelings are all there. And, yet, what I keep coming back to is that I can choose to cultivate how I wish to respond. I can choose the colour with which I want to paint the landscape of my mind.
Choosing hope doesn’t replace the need for concrete action, of course. Rather, I experience it as the fuel for conscious and purposeful action. It recharges me and allows me to move forward with vision, intentionality, and integrity.
One of the greatest boons of our practices is that we gain freedom beyond the ups and downs of our minds. It's work though, it doesn't just happen, we have to make it happen.
Optimism, trust, hope, positivity - these are all choices we make, but let's not forget that they also have to be back up by effort.
Where are you directing your efforts today?
How are you colouring the landscape of your mind?
On days when fear or anxiety creep in, I often remember the words of a wise teacher who taught: There are only two things that cause fear:
1- You've forgotten the place of fearlessness inside you.
2- You aren't aware of God's help.
(you can replace God with the Universal Self, Spirit, Source or whatever other term you feel comfortable with.)
For me, it's usually a combination of both.
So, one approach to overcoming fear that I find helpful is simply to focus on inspiring fearlessness by remembering these two things. Some ways you might do this are:
Remember instances where the universe completely supported you, and you knew it.
Connect kinesthetically to the feeling of fearlessness inside you, locating it in your body, breathing into it, visualizing it, embodying the posture of fearlessness. (asana is a perfect practice for this.)
Recall your capacity for strength, courage, resilience in the face of fear by thinking of examples from your life.
Formulate a prayer to release whatever is...
As luck would have it, it’s a good day for me to write about the quality of vitality.
Why? Not to make anyone jealous, but I slept about 10 hours last night. There’s nothing like a good night’s rest to help us feel re-vitalized. Believe me, I’m grateful for it. A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by these days. I wonder why?
The quality of vitality – vibrancy, liveliness, and exuberance – is a support, almost a prerequisite, to all the other virtues.
When I feel tired, lazy, and drained it’s harder to be kind, generous, patient, and compassionate. Without vitality, all the other virtues feel like more of an effort.
Conversely, when I’m rested and my energy is restored, all the other qualities seem to come much more naturally.
Plain and simple, vitality makes life better. It allows me to do my best to make others’ lives better as well.
But it’s definitely...
In her book, The Optimism Bias, psychologist Tali Sharot writes about the disconnect between the things we think will bring us happiness and the things that actually contribute to our experience of lived happiness moment to moment.
It turns out that the big life goals we expect will lead to our happiness, things like career, marriage, and children, do not necessarily bring us very much actual lived happiness. Turns out, raising children doesn’t correlate highly to moment-to-moment satisfaction. (Wink, wink to all the parents reading this.)
Sure, our life goals are worthwhile, our dharma is important, but what her research showed is that lived experiences of happiness come largely from simple things such as expressing kindness to another person, doing an activity you enjoy, giving and receiving love. And, of course, the way we spend our moments become the way we spend our days. And our days eventually add up to, well, our lives.
This feels like good news to me....
Have you heard about doctors now actually needing to remind patients to put on pants when they show up for their virtual visits?
Oy. In times like this, it’s easy to let things go. Simple politeness and niceness included. At this point, we might all be feeling a little raw and rough around the edges. But let’s not forget the simple power of just being a nice person.
I remember once sitting next to the actor Danny Glover on a plane. I was surprised at how genuinely nice he was. Kind, respectful, human.
I’ve always been most impressed when those in the public eye, with power to be less than nice, are just really nice.
Niceness feels good. It conveys respect and consideration. While it might seem superficial, consider how niceness, politeness, and friendliness express the fundamental yogic value that every human is inherently worthy of love and respect.
And right now, with so many people on edge, just being nice...
First world hair problems aside, much more than our grey is being revealed right now.
In this time of all being laid bare, one thing that becomes clear for all of us I think, is:
Where we turn for inspiration when life feels hard and scary.
Where we look for guidance, comfort, and meaning when we’re unclear and uncertain.
Where we find stability when the ground beneath us feels shaky.
For yogis, I’m not sure we really need to look anywhere new or different. In fact, we already have a foundation of understanding that’s tailor made to help us make sense of uncertainty, to hold us steady in adversity, to anchor us in an unchanging, underlying ground of our own being.
To say this time has felt heavy, dark, scary, and unknown is not an understatement. Yes, it has and it does.
The yoga tradition is there for us. The efforts we’ve made and the fruits of those efforts are there for us.
This is a time for us to get...
A few days ago, I was listening to a story on NPR about a group of community organizers in Vermont who were putting new systems into place to coordinate their efforts. One of the organizers said something like, “This isn’t the time for thinking about things, it’s a time for taking action, there’s no time for philosophy, things have to get done.”
“No time for philosophy.” That phrase stuck with me. I suspect many of us might be feeling that way just about now. And when it comes to organizing food deliveries for homebound seniors I get it. But for the yogi, I’m not so sure.
I understand how in some ways yoga philosophy might not seem very useful or applicable right now. At a time when so many of us are dealing with very practical and serious challenges, we might feel like there’s no place in our current reality for the teachings of yoga. It might feel like it’s a privilege even to have the luxury of time...
Don’t get me wrong, current circumstances aside I really love (and teach, and practice) online yoga. You get the benefit of a virtual teacher while continuing your commitment to your yoga practice, and people are really enjoying the support and connection it affords, especially during this time of social isolation.
Yet, even with the plethora of online offerings, and maybe especially because of them, I find myself craving the intimacy of my independent practice these days more than ever.
By independent practice I mean what I do on my mat without anyone else telling me what to do, how long to do it for, and what to do next.
As a teacher and teacher trainer, I’ve long been a proponent of independent practice. And not just for teachers either, although I’m convinced it is the single most important perquisite to powerful and impactful teaching. I believe independent practice is essential for anyone who wishes to use yoga as more...
The other day, I stood on a small bridge focusing on the sound and energy of the stream flowing beneath me.
I experienced it differently than at other times.
Instead of my usual feeling of moving head-on into the flow, I felt the stream supporting me from behind.
It was incredibly comforting, the feeling of letting go and being gently propelled into the flow, imagining myself like that stream moving forward with such grace and sweetness.
It was a clear lesson in the value of periodically releasing everything: my fear, worries, anxieties, and also my ideas, plans, to-do items. In that release there’s trust. Trust that I’m supported, like all of us, as we’re thrust forward into these uncertain times.
Trust in a bigger flow, a larger movement that I am a part of.
Trust that when I can move in harmony with that flow life feels more manageable.
Since that experience, my breath has served the same function: To support...
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