Getting an "A" in yoga.
Sounds silly, right? The idea of getting a grade or receiving some kind of external reward for performance in yoga so obviously goes against our most basic reasons for doing the practice.
Seth Godin in his book What to do When It’s Your Turn, writes:
"… The prevailing system of the educational-industrial complex puts the fear of a ‘C’ in us. The entire point of twelve (or sixteen) years of our lives isn’t to learn anything, it’s to get an ‘A’…What if instead, we decided to opt in to a different path, the path of always learning?"
Because yoga is, or can be, all about continuous learning on so many different levels, it is a perfect example of “the path of always learning.“
In the alignment-based yoga practice, learning is progressive. It happens in stages.
First is the form of the pose. It’s about learning how to get the body in and out of...
Use your own light and return to the source of light. This is called practicing eternity.
One of the more interesting gifts I’ve received as a teacher was a bright-yellow Brazilian Melon. A student in a retreat gave it to me a few years ago as a symbol of the lightness she felt in the days following our time together. For me, it was a sweet reminder of the inner sun that yoga reveals within us.
This is the Prana Shakti. Like a sun inside ourselves, prana is the source energy that animates our bodies, enlivens our senses and powers our minds.
I spent a luxurious amount of time this weekend watching the sun illumine the fields and mountains around my home, everything bathed in its bright, golden light. It struck me that the practices of yoga illuminate our inner being in much the same way.
Within the body-mind, we might experience the expansion of Prana as it brightens our interior being with greater vitality and magnifies our...
Today feels like the right day to revisit the story of Tikkun Olam as told by Rachel Naomi Remen:
In the beginning, there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand, thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light.
And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand, thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.
Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and...
“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...
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