Just prior to my Thursday 10 AM yoga class at NOLA’s, I always take a few moments for alternate nostril breath which balances the nervous system, pranayama mudras, and a little loving kindness meditation. It helps bring me to center and be the kind of yoga teacher I aspire to be. There are always “a-ha” moments during, or as a result of, meditation—especially if I’m pondering something.
Today as I finished my meditation I looked around the beautiful space where I’m honored to teach yoga in NOLA’S corporate event center. The owner, Kavita Mehta, has an eye for art. She has several paintings adorning the walls. Although my eyes have landed on these walls several times, today I noticed just how many of them contain birch trees.
I grew up with a birch tree outside my bedroom window. My dad loved trees, as I’ve written many times before. Because a birch tree was just outside my childhood window, I’ve always felt a connection to birch trees. How did I not notice the abundance of birch trees in my new yoga space?
I started to snap photos of them with my iPhone to capture their beauty, knowing all the while they would be the subject of this blog. Once an idea hits me, I can’t contain myself. These are only a few of the ones containing birch trees. It was hard to decide which to include here.
Birch has often been associated with renewal, awakening the energy of new beginnings and a cleansing of the past. The birch tree has been called the “White Lady of the Woods” owing to her beautiful white bark. The bark of the birch tree, hence the spirit of the birch tree, was often used to instill courage and protection. It is even suggested we meditate on birch for resilience during hard times.
We can also invoke the birch spirit energy for an auspicious start to new ventures (lucky me!). Birch brings the promise of what is to come, new dawns, hope and regeneration. Isn’t that also what yoga brings with its promise of mind/body connection? Bringing our bodies into the rest and relax/parasympathetic nervous system mode is the only time your body is able to regenerate and heal. This, too, is the promise, the gift of yoga. For me it is the promise of a “better day”. (Read about how I came up with the name of my business here.)
As a guardian, birch provides solace and safety from the madness of the world. Okay, full disclosure, the “madness” referred to in the folklore I was reading was referring to the tricks of the Faery. Don’t laugh, it won’t make the faeries happy! Faeries are part of folklore worldwide, by the way. I always say I judge by experience. If the whole world’s ancient stories include the wee folk, who am I to argue of their existence? And, for that matter, who are you to? And somehow labeling the “madness of the world” as faery/fairy trickery, makes this madness seem somehow lighter and more manageable for me. Yes, in case you’re wondering, I believe in faeries and all things magical. I’ve written about this many times, but this one is my favorite here.
Now, that we’ve got that out of the way….moving on.)
“If you do not believe in magic, your life will not be magical. Magic, like the power of Stonehenge, is part of the unknowable—that which you cannot describe, but which exists and makes your life extraordinary.” –The Power Deck, The Cards of Wisdom, by Lynn V. Andrews.
Like most women I know, birch appears fragile but is extremely strong. We’re all stronger than we think we are, aren’t we? What a beautiful message birch brings us: to appear how we may to the world but harbor our inner strength inside. The birch tree carries ancient wisdom and yet appears forever young. Yoga, too, carries ancient wisdom and will enable you to age gracefully, appearing younger than your years.
Some have used birch as a meditation tool, sitting with their back to the birch tree to calm down so they can channel their anxiety into “wise ways”. This is what meditation and yoga, which is a meditation in motion, does for me. There have been studies on the effects of meditation helping us to pause before we react so we react with wisdom and calmness. (See the Tibetan prayer flags in this painting? Prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. It is believed the prayers are blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion to all.)
Birch’s vibration is said to increase tolerance of ourselves and others. This speaks to me of patience. We can all be so hard on ourselves sometimes. Sometimes that short fuse gets taken out on others. Yoga is my solace and increases my patience level with each practice. My mat instills a deep breath every time I step upon it. It contains the energy of all my previous prayers and meditative moments. On the sacred space of my yoga mat I can start over each day—it’s my restart button, my “do over”. Here I am able to forget the past and be here now, “just for today.” Remember I opened with birch’s ability to cleanse the past. (I wrote at depth about my mat as sacred space here.)
“Now, with the essence of Birch, you come into the rhythm of life, the empowerment of dreams, and the ability to vision your possibilities.” ~ The Faces of Womanspirit; a Celtic oracle of Avalon (thegoddesstree.com)
It is said that a good beginning leads to a good conclusion. So as I ponder our new beginnings here at NOLA’S surrounded by the energy of the Birch tree’s wisdom permeating our yoga space, I am humbled by the symbolism of a fresh start, courage, determination and spiritual growth. And I am honored to be the conduit for those students joining me as we learn the lessons of the birch tree together—that hidden within there is often found great strength.
Won’t you join me?
For details on dates, rates, and specials, please click here. Thank you! Hope to see you soon!
I’ve shared before that a student of mine suddenly noticed in her down dog that her feet looked just like her mom’s. Ever since then, I’ve used that as a pondering question in class. Who’s feet do you have? Which ancestor has passed those traits on to you? Invite your ancestor into your class. Send a mental “hello” and “thank you” to them right now.
Since this is Halloween week, why not instill some thoughts in your yoga practice toward thinking of and perhaps connecting with someone special in your life who has passed on. Perhaps use this thought as your intention for your yoga practice that day.
I’ve heard that during this time of year it is easier to communicate with those who have passed since the “veil” between the living and those who have passed is “thinner”. It doesn’t have to scare you. Why not take advantage of it in the spirit of the season? You probably already send them “hellos” on any given day. Why not dwell on the possibility that this time of year it’s easier to visit?
Here’s a little history:
“October 31 was the last day of the ancient Celtic year and the Festival of Samhain, the Celtic god of the dead. As one year became another, the Celts believed, the spirits of the dead could return from the beyond to share joy and happiness with their living loved ones. Feasting, dancing, and singing celebrated this opportunity. Enormous bonfires lit the night sky, welcoming revelers and spirits alike.
But fearing that some of the returning spirits might have less than honorable intentions, people often donned masks and costumes to hide their true identities. The good spirits of departed friends and relatives of course knew those behind the masks and could make contact for a joyous reunion. The light of dawn, marking the start of the Celtic New Year, recalled the spirits to the spirit world.
In 835 Pope Gregory IV proclaimed that the last day in October was to be known within the Catholic Church as All Hallow’s Eve, or “All Holy Evening”. On this date, he decreed, Catholics everywhere were to gather and remember those who had given their lives in the name of their faith. The next day, November 1, became All Saint’s Day (also called All Soul’s Day), a time to remember all who passed on.
The Catholic Church views this ‘communion of spirits’ as a reminder that there is a continuous link between the souls of the living and the souls of the dead. Says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church’s official teachings, ‘Between them there is an abundant exchange of all good things.’ Various Protestant religions also observe these celebrations.” ~ The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Communicating with Spirits by Rita S. Berkowitz and Deborah S. Romaine.”
Personally, I’ve always thought that the more open you are to “hearing” the Universe’s messages, or a loved one who has passed on for that matter, the more likely it will happen—or at least the more likely you’ll notice. The Universe speaks in subtleties so unless you are tuned in, you could totally miss it. That’s where your yoga practice comes in!
As a yogi, you’re practice includes listening to the subtle messages your body is sending so it doesn’t have to send a loud scream. So you are, in effect, training yourself to notice subtleties. As a yogi, you begin to notice when your feelings change, when your physical sensations speak up and when your spiritual connection deepens.
Sending off mental invitations and silent hello’s to those who’ve passed isn’t hard. You’re probably already thinking of your special someone. You’re remembering them in their own special way, with their own special traits and characteristics. Knowing that you’re open to connecting and knowing that you share a special memory, or that a special something reminds you of them, creates the magical “stuff” your connection manifests from. My mother-in-law’s connection/communication with her late husband was so strong, it continued for twelve years after his death until her passing in 2015.
The Universe knows what you’re “up for” too. You may be open to subtle connection but an outright visit might scare the living daylights out of you! Me too! Keep surrounding your thoughts in love and light.
I read a book by local but internationally known author, Echo Bodine, called Relax, It’s Only a Ghost. In it, she reminds you to say loudly and firmly “Not welcome!” when you feel scared. Wish I knew that as a small child afraid in my bedroom after a nightmare.
On the nights my husband is out of town, I surround myself with guardian angels when I can’t sleep. One corner has the Archangel, St. Michael, in the image of John Travolta’s portrayal. It makes me smile. One is Clarence, from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life—my absolute favorite Christmas movie! One is Gideon, from the Christmas show One Magic Christmas. And the last one is the Archangel Raphael, the archangel of healing and protection who is associated with the color emerald green. (Recently I added Dudley from the The Bishop’s Wife” —another of my favorite Christmas movies!) By the time I’ve conjured up these images and colors at the four corners of my bed, I’m content and less on edge. This is what I mean by surrounding your thoughts with love and light.
Connections come in subtleties. It might be the shape of the clouds in the sky. It might be the cardinal that you suddenly see or hear. It might be that the rain stick near your fireplace drops a pebble out of the blue at just the right time. Both the cardinal and the rain stick are my dad’s form of communication with me. I don’t believe in coincidences. My dad’s been gone for over 15 years now. The rain stick became his mode of communication some time ago. He knows it. I know it. It’s an old friend by now. When I hear the pebble drop or see the inquisitive cardinal, I simply say “Hi dad. I love and miss you too.” Happy Halloween everyone! Create your own magic by inviting it in!
(This is an updated post from a previous post shared on a colleagues website that is no longer available.)
Midsummer, or Summer Solstice, is said to open the magical doorways of Nature. Ted Andrews said the physical and subtle bodies of humanity are aligned at this time and for those working with these energies, (like those of us who practice yoga), a new and more stable alignment can be established, bringing even greater growth the upcoming year. What a perfect day to ALSO be International Yoga Day!
This relationship between the physical and subtle bodies is what yoga IS to me. Working with the physical touches and works on the subtle, and vice versa. They are inextricably interwoven. Beautiful, isn’t it?
This is why emotions are stored within our body, sometimes waiting for us to be better able to handle them perhaps later, sometimes lodged so deep we don’t even know they’re there. Yoga enables them to find a peaceful untangling and release. At least that’s been my personal experience.
The longer I’ve practiced yoga (going on 30 years or more now), the more personal it becomes. I am in a continual conversation with the subtleties of my body’s language. Sensations become “familiar” like an old friend. They always have a message.
It’s taken me this long, with the additional help of my most recent Chronic Pain YogaFit two-day training, to gently remind the sensations of pain that I am safe, secure, centered, and at peace. Sometimes I even repeat the movement that just sent the pain/danger signal (because that’s what pain is—a signal of danger). And as I repeat that movement I am saying “See? —safe. I am safe. This is a safe move. See?” This one thing alone has been HUGE for me. I can literally feel the pain subside with each successive repeat of the movement. Try it! I’ve been working on many old injury muscle imbalances, scar tissue, etc that have found a home in my body from various injuries.
Creating a safe haven within your body—that’s what yoga means to me. Happy International Yoga Day!
What are your personal spiritual entry points? What practices do you use to come to center? How often do you participate in these practices and do you notice a difference when you do them regularly?
They say it takes anywhere from 21 days or more to create a habit. Depending on the goal of your practice, the degree of difficulty, your actual desire to incorporate it into your life, and the sense of peace or joy you attain, the time it takes will vary. But one thing is agreed upon—it does take time. Time is the magic ingredient. How dedicated are you to devoting this time?
Prayer, Mantra, Affirmation
Do you have a favorite prayer, mantra, or affirmation? Why is it your favorite? My anchor prayer is the “Hail Mary”. No, I’m not holier than thou. It’s a prayer that has been with me my whole life in times of stress, in times of contemplation, when I pray on my beads—be they rosary or mala—or when I give Reiki to a loved one. It’s the first prayer that comes to mind when I’m needing comfort, solace, or energy. It’s my “go-to” prayer because it’s always been there for me.
What’s more, my prayer beads actually appear different to me once I’ve said my first round of prayers on them. It’s like I’ve energized them with prayer. They are no longer inanimate beads but living, breathing energy. I like to repeat Wayne Dyer’s wise words: “If it’s placebo, I’ll take two.”
How about your favorite rituals? One of mine is lighting a candle and some incense in my daily yoga practice at home. I’ve read that the ancients believed the rising smoke is an analogy for the rising of our prayers and intentions to the heavens to be heard. My yoga practice isn’t quite complete without the candle and incense. It’s a noticeable loss of energy when I’m practicing in a hotel room on the road without the benefit of their presence. Of course, I still do my practice but it’s not quite the same. Rituals are our way of paying reverence to what we are doing. It’s a seal of sorts.
Do you have a Mudra practice—similar to reflexology/acupressure for your hands? “Mudra” in Sanskrit translates to “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”. Whether you call it one or not, I guarantee you have practiced Mudras because literally any position you put your body in will create a different energy loop. The one you’ve most likely held without thinking of it as a Mudra is prayer hands—or Anjali (meaning: “to offer”) Mudra. Bringing your hands together over your heart, connecting left hand to right hand, actually connects the left and right sides of the brain allowing you to communicate more effectively. Cool, huh? How appropriate.
Indu Arora’s book, Mudra The Sacred Secret, is by far my favorite book on Mudras. That’s probably because Indu is by far my favorite teacher! I’ve learned from her that it takes 30 seconds for the Mudra to form an electromagnetic circuit.
I’ve been practicing hand Mudras more “on purpose” ever since I used a Mudra for headaches listed in her book. This was shortly after her book was published in 2015 when I was lucky enough to be at her book launch. I normally don’t get headaches but I had a huge one that wouldn’t go away for hours and I started to get nauseous—a sign of a migraine. The headache Mudra worked so well for me, I had to sit up and take notice! I’ve been using it successfully ever since whenever even a subtle hint of a headache comes along.
With Mudras, your fingers are held in various positions forming an energetic loop. When I hold a Mudra hand position, I begin to feel an energy ball—a tingling sensation—in the palm of my hands. I’ve noticed that the Mudras I regularly practice holding develop this tingly “energy ball” sensation within a shorter and shorter timeframe.
I’ve had a daily yoga practice for many years now. It feeds me in ways I can’t describe. It’s not just physical, but of course that’s one of the many benefits. It’s like an ‘Etch a Sketch’ for what ails me—a magic eraser. You may come to yoga for the physical practice but it won’t be long before spirit joins you. I consider my yoga mat sacred ground. It’s as though all the good energy from my previous practices is held within my mat; and as soon as I set foot on my mat, I’m immersed in their vibes. It’s a gathering point of cumulative energy. Your mat never forgets your previous practices. Like an old friend, it holds the memory of sacred space ready to embrace you the moment you enter.
Asana practice, done with the right intention, allows you to become acquainted with your physical body, yes; but, more importantly, your subtle body. Your body’s only way of communication is through sensation. Once it knows you’re listening, there’s no stopping the messages! The more you listen, the more you’ll hear. It’s cumulative.
This is why a Hatha Yoga is a training ground for your intuition. Your inner knowing becomes your best friend. You learn to trust your gut instincts. Do you listen to your body’s subtle messages? Your gut instincts? There’s a saying in yogic wisdom that if you listen to your body whisper you won’t have to hear it scream.
My other spiritual entry points include a meditation shawl and mat. Wrapping a meditation shawl around my shoulders brings more comfort than simple warmth. It brings all the previous meditations to accompany my next meditation. It’s like planting seeds in fertilized soil. The prayers said that day more easily take root within and bring me back to center. If you doubt the truth to this, try taking a child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal away from them; or try substituting another blanket. Enough said.
Indu Arora says “When we meditate at a place over and over, that region becomes a magnetic field for the mind to enter the calm, clear state gracefully and effortlessly. Having a personal meditation mat helps give you a still anchor point as well as helps build a certain association to the practice.” She explains that it’s important for the passive energy that’s awakened through meditation to stay looped within the body and the meditation mat helps keep the energy contained within the body.
She further compares our body to a Yantra, or geometrical pattern of energy moving in a circle and triangle. Our body mimics the triangle in a meditation posture. Without a base, our Yantra is incomplete. A meditation mat is yet another tool for gathering and containing your energy.
The bottom line is this: Spiritual energy grows.
How do you enter your sacred ground? What do you surround yourself with to gather, contain and hold the energy of your spiritual practice? Once you start to pay attention to the subtleties of accumulating prayers and intentions, you’ll start to notice a distinct difference each time you enter your sacred space. You’ll start to notice your own spiritual vortex welcoming you home. Your sacred space is waiting….
This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation from “The Power of Shamanism” presented by Sounds True®. The speaker was Julie Kramer and her topic was “Sacred Stewardship: Tending to Your Home in Partnership with the Unseen World”. There were many points that made me smile about this presentation, not the least of which was one of her meditations focusing on the more subtle energies such as “sprites” or wee folk in or near your household. I had decided upon this webinar over a couple others presented for the day strictly because of the “unseen world” element (see my last post referencing my own fairy sighting some years ago involving a house fairy.)
During my Level 1 Yoga Nidra training with Indu Arora last month, I learned that “Yoga Nidra”, in addition to being the practice, is also a goddess represented by the night or lunar energy. Ancient texts used poetry to honor the beauty, strength and power of the nourishing, protecting Goddess that is Yoga Nidra. We literally complete the Yoga Nidra practice with a moon shower. We visualize the moon shining down over us, filling us so full that the moon energy shoots out of our fingers and our toes.
Yoga Nidra puts you in a highly regenerative meditative state. This state helps to support your immune system and increases your resilience and emotional balance. In Yoga Nidra we create a “sankalpa” or intention that is directly in line with what we would like to manifest over a lifetime.
In Julie’s “Sacred Stewardship” webinar, she led us through a visualization dropping down into the earth far enough to where no human being had been and then sensing how the energy of that depth and place felt. We were then to imagine infusing this earth energy into our being, sensing how it made us feel—how it affected our energy and well-being. We then visualized infusing this earth energy up into our home via a hose, filling up every nook and cranny of our home with this healing earth energy and noticing how this energy made us feel and made our house feel—how “animated” this energy made us feel.
The next meditation complimented the earth energy meditation and focused on the moon. We imagined pulling the energy of the moon down into our bodies, filling us up. Then we visualized infusing the moon energy into our homes as we did with the earth energy, filling every nook and cranny. Only this time the energy was meant to cleanse away the unnecessary energy not needed or wanted in the home. Again we were to notice how “animated” this energy wash made us feel—how alive.
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in using the moon shower in our Yoga Nidra practice to the Shaman practice. The ancients used the energy of the Universe in similar ways. There is only one moon—yet these two practices from different histories and philosophies chose to use a moon shower ritual.
I often use new moons to empower a time of growth in my chosen affirmations and intentions—as did our forefathers before. My in-laws used the new moon to plant potatoes. It is considered a time of new beginnings. The full moon is a time of completion and fulfillment. So I ask my yoga students, “What are you done with?” The moon affects the tides of the ocean. Why would it not affect the energy in our bodies which contain a large percentage of water? Why not use the energy of the moon to magnify your chosen purpose and resilience?
There are numerous spiritual beliefs and practices that use the moon. Many depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, show her standing on a crescent moon. Easter’s date is determined by the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. Noticing the similarities in the use of moon energy left me with a sense of connectedness to a spirituality with no labels, only the moon energy being used for our greater good.
“I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me.”
(Photo of the art on my pullover purchased over 20 years ago now at an art show in Wayzata, MN)
There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day that brings with it the magic of the leprechaun. I have had a love affair with the wee folk since I can remember. I truly believe in magic and I know that belief allows my life to BE magical. Why would the magic come visit someone who doesn’t believe? You’re only open to receiving what you believe in and by the belief, you invite the magic of it in. Energy goes where attention goes, right? If you’re not aware of the energy, it will go by unnoticed. (As an aside, when you listen to your body’s messages, during your yoga practice, by tuning into the subtle body, you are exercising the intuitive muscles that allow you to be receptive to subtle energy, a.k.a magical energies. Interesting, isn’t it?)
I recently brought up my affinity for elves, fairies, and all things magical with my hairdresser. I think we were talking about spirituality and beliefs at one point and then as she came back after whipping up my hair color, I shared my new Instagram artist find: @theworldofjamesbrowne. His art focuses on magical beings, elves, gnomes, the man in the moon, mermaids, tree spirits—you name it. His work melts my heart. Who knew I had a kindred soul in my hairdresser who also had an affection toward the wee folk? Come on, you know you want to believe. Just let it happen. It won’t hurt. There’s a huge market for adults who follow Harry Potter books, Avator movies and the like. So you’re not alone. Judging by James Browne’s 38.6k followers, I suspect there’s more than a few of us out there.
When my hairdresser and I got to talking about magical beings, I shared the joy of finding my old childhood Golden Book of “Fairies and Elves” online some years ago and how I was brought to immediate tears when I received it in the mail and opened it. There within the pages were all my old friends waiting to mesmerize me as they had in years past. I knew every centimeter of that book’s art as though I were still the same child engaged in a trance as I gazed upon its pages. It carried me right back to my childhood. My husband knew to leave me alone in my reverie and when he heard me whimpering a bit later, he asked from the other room if I was okay. I mumbled through tears, “I’m reading about the magic slippers.”
Well, I must have triggered my hairdresser’s inner child too because while my color was “setting”, she found the book on eBay and ordered it! The whimsical belief in all things magical is contagious! I dare you to look up James Browne’s art and not be drawn into his world of awe and wonder. The illustrator from my childhood book, Garth Williams passed away in 1996. I just read he was the Stuart Little illustrator—another beloved book. James Browne’s art leads me down the infamous rabbit hole in much the same way as Garth’s illustrations do; and for that, I am so very grateful. We all need to visit that world more often. I know I do. How about you?
Since I trust my hairdresser implicitly, I also shared my fairy-sighting story. I wrote about it here. That post goes over all of my favorite magical movies too. I hope they’ll instill some magical moments.
So as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, be open to believing. Let the whimsy take you back to a time in childhood when magical elves and fairies were your confidants, when the moon smiled back at you with a wink and a nod, and when anything was possible. Happy St. Patty’s Day!
I have the honor and privilege of participating at the Women Veteran’s Conference again this year! I will be teaching a yoga class vs. exhibiting this year!
Sat, May 26, 2018
7:30 AM – 5:00 PM CDT
Ramada Plymouth Hotel and Conference Center
2705 Annapolis Lane North
Plymouth, MN 55441
We are honored to host retired US Army Brigadier General Pat Foote as the keynote speaker. We will also offer a variety of informative breakout sessions including VA Healthcare/VA Benefits, yoga and holistic therapy. Breakfast and Lunch will also be available for free.
One of the projects featured is the ‘I’m Not Invisible” campaign, an awareness campaign designed to honor our women veterans and educate the public about some of the unique challenges women veterans face when they come back from their service. Now they are ready to unveil the campaign to the public, with a portrait exhibit featuring 33 of Minnesota’s women veterans and a multimedia PSA campaign.
Please join us, INVITE ANOTHER WOMAN VETERAN. Click here to register.
Thursday nights finds me at one of my in-home private residence yoga classes where a family meets weekly to practice yoga together. They were all newbies when I started working with them. Sister-in-laws commute along with their toddlers while the husband’s watch over them on the main level and we practice yoga on the bottom level. It’s a family affair. The owner and her 13-year-old daughter are part of this sweet group too. The mom thought it would be a good way for her daughter to learn relaxation skills as well as connect with family. How cool is that?
When you walk into their home, there’s a “sleeping baby monk on an elephant” statue to greet you. I fell in love with it on my first visit. Their décor is beautiful. It’s like walking into a sacred space.
I’d been coming to teach here for several weeks before I finally asked about what appeared to be a fine piece of Incan art prominently hung on their foyer wall next to the main entry doorway. Great Feng Shui! I’d been admiring it for weeks and just had to ask where they purchased it.
Imagine my surprise when the mom told me it was her 13-year-old’s school art project! It was only then that I noticed it was adhered to the wall via stick pins and was signed by her too! Beautiful! Knowing it was a teen’s art project didn’t make me love it any less! On the contrary, I adored it even more! Now I was in awe and admiration. In awe of this young girl’s talent and in admiration of the family’s pride in her work.
It is my absolute honor to connect with families such as this one and share the gifts of yoga, breathwork, meditation and relaxation. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had been given the opportunity to learn these skills when I was 13 surrounded by a loving, supportive family; and to have these life-enhancing tools in my back pocket when I faced the stressors every teen faces as they navigate life. Each generation wants to give their children a better life. And I’m oh so humbled to be a part of this young girl’s journey.
Do more yoga!
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I read an interesting article in the March Science of Mind: Healing our Lives, Overcoming our Fears: An Interview with Dr. Marc Schoen, by Diane Dreher. It talks about an “epidemic of fear” in our lives. Click here for his book on the subject.
Your sympathetic nervous system’s fight-flight response used to require danger along the lines of “a tiger attacking you in the forest” to set it off. Nowadays the level of when you consider something “uncomfortable” has been lowered significantly. Now all that’s required to set off your flight-fight / stress response is your latte taking a little too long to get done, traffic delaying you by a few minutes, or perhaps your computer stalling (let alone crashing). Fear used to set off your stress response—now fear has been downgraded to discomfort. You sense discomfort as danger. Nowadays you’re less tolerant of discomfort.
While you may not consider stress necessarily equivalent to fear, Dr. Shoen reminds that “the stress response really emanates from a fear response.” He also touches upon something I think we all instinctually know—as a society we are addicted to sensory stimulation. The more you increase the sensory stimulation, the more agitated you become. It only makes you crave more stimulation. Dr. Schoen refers to this as “agitance”. You’re so used to constant sensory stimulation from your devices, you’ve forgotten how to relax.
So when you’re asked if you’re under stress, you may be like my husband who likes to tell me he’s fine when I know better; or you may feel stressed but are unable to pin down exactly why. There are too many variables, too many things that bring you “discomfort”.
The solution? Generating positive change by combining positive thoughts with positive feelings of gratitude and love. I know, I know, you’ve heard this before…but perhaps this time you’ll listen?
So here’s where the magic of meditation comes in:
Do a gratitude meditation whenever you start to feel agitated, uncomfortable, or downright antsy. Focus with feeling on what you are grateful for, on what you love in your life. Connect to that for even a minute with eyes closed and perhaps a half-smile on your face and then continue on with your life. Do this as often as you remember to do it. It will become your natural state of being after awhile, and you’ll feel fantastic. Just try it! I know when I dwell on the absolute joy of being in this life with the greatest husband/ friend a gal could ever have, every moment becomes filled with joy.
What and or who do you love? How about those of us in the Northern Hemisphere about to recover from the worst winter in a looooong time and experience spring? Can you put a little emotion into that? Can you get excited about some green grass and walks in the forest OUTSIDE? When it’s spring, the world is your oyster! Go out and enjoy this great big beautiful world!
The list of things you can meditate on for a mere minute is endless—your hot cup of joe, your favorite song on the radio (or in your head as you sing along), your best friend meeting you for dinner, your team winning the game. You get the idea. Heck, you can meditate on being grateful for your ability to remember to take a moment for your mental health and the freedom to smile to yourself for a minute. The half-smile technique is a meditation in gratitude in and of itself. So when you’re fresh out of what to be grateful for, try it:
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests using a half-smile technique in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness. Half-smiling when you first awake along with three deep breaths, when you find yourself sitting or standing anywhere, while listening to music, and when irritated—all with three deep breaths. Trying it when I’m irritated works for me, calming my mind. It also surprises the person you’re irritated with!
“Our goal is to better manage discomfort and remember that too much discomfort leads to the fear reaction.” ~ Dr. Schoen.
When we “bring more of these positive emotions into our lives, we develop new neural connections, new synaptic pathways in our brains that counterbalance the old fear patterns. In this way, we can then use positive or corrective belief patterns in a much more powerful way.” He calls it “building up the discomfort muscle”. Building new synaptic pathways by bringing in the positive parts of our brain “makes it so much more possible to create substantive change to overcome these overreactive primitive fears.”
“When we learn to manage discomfort better, not to shut down, not to fear it, not to run away, we can realize our full potential.” ~ Dr. Marc Shoen
How easy is it to fit this into your schedule? Going barefoot outside has many benefits physically, mentally, and energetically, as Laura Cornell shared in her July 23rd email to me:
Yoga and Your Sole
In the warmth of summer, we can go barefoot outside for our Yoga practice and reap great benefits! Physically baring the feet to the Earth is one of the best ways to connect with the life force of the planet, which increases stability and peace and opens us to greater clarity and wisdom.
On an electro-chemical level, standing barefoot on the ground synchronizes our body with the Earth’s electrical potential — we literally become “grounded.” Moisture facilitates the flow of electrons, so finding dewy grass or moss to stand on is ideal. Think of the Chinese doing Tai Chi barefoot on wet grass in the morning! (The book Earthing describes in detail the pain reduction and multiple other benefits that come from balancing our bodies with the electrical potential of the Earth.)
Also, the soles of the feet, just like the palms of the hands, are densely packed with sensory receptors. They love to be touched and massaged, and the input of varying temperature, texture, and pressure on the soles enlivens the energy pathways (nadis) that run through them. So stand barefoot on the Earth, and feel the tingling effects up into the heart.
In India (and throughout Asia, for that matter), taking off shoes and socks is not only a matter of cleanliness in the home and temple, but a sign of entering sacred space. So as you do your Yoga postures outside in bare feet, remember that you are standing on Holy Ground!
1. What makes me feel grounded in my life?
2. How can I open fully to the life force of Mother Earth?
3. What Soul messages do I receive from the Earth when I am most centered?
Go ahead, kick off your shoes. New studies suggest walking sans shoes in dirt or sand can boost your health in surprising ways
Provocative new research suggests that a practice called earthing—walking around barefoot or putting any body part in direct contact with the ground—may decrease pain and improve heart health. “You’re absorbing the earth’s negatively charged electrons,” says Stephen Sinatra, MD, earthing researcher and cardiologist. “They act similarly to antioxidants, balancing out positive free radicals that contribute to inflammation.” Just 20 minutes of earthing eases pain and inflammation; 40 minutes begins to reduce blood viscosity—thick blood may lead to heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable people, suggests Dr. Sinatra’s research. To enjoy these benefits, go shoeless in your garden or wiggle your toes in the sand.
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation “how to” classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com, for details.
I’ve owned my “iPhone-esque” phone for a little over a year. Prior to that I had a “flip phone”—yes a flip phone. There was no internet service on the flip phone. Heck I was disappointed when I got the flip phone and it had voice-mail! I didn’t want to be bothered! Fast forward a year and a half later and I’ve acquired a new habit of looking up literally every question I have. Stop the madness!
The focus of meditation is to be still while letting your thoughts drift by your awareness like clouds drifting by in the sky. The point is not to become attached to the thought and to stay present. For those of you that have a regular meditation practice—be it 5 minutes or hours long—you know how easily your mind wanders, even for the experienced meditator.
Being able to continually bring your mind back to your mantra, your breath, your prayer, your focus—whatever you are using to “be here now”, is meditation. This practice increases your life skills to stay focused without getting your feathers ruffled when life throws you a curve ball, and it will! It will keep you calm when, in the past, you were quick tempered.
Recent research indicates mindfulness meditation is linked with positive brain changes, perhaps protecting you from mental illness, decreasing stress, slowed aging, increased alertness, lowered blood pressure, reduced pain perception and intensity—need I go on? The physical, mental, and spiritual benefits from a dedicated meditation practice are many, to say the least. One of my favorite sayings is “if it gives you only half of what it promises, it’s worth doing, right?”
It dawned on me that the urge to answer every question is similar to the tendency to attach to every thought during your meditation practice. This week I decided to use the weekend to begin NOT answering every question using Google—to allow for unanswered questions and be okay with that, like the “old days”.
How much time do you think you’ll gain by allowing unanswered questions to remain unanswered? Did someone connect with me on Facebook? How many hits did my recent post get? Where do I know that particular movie-star from? Who sang that song? Is that person still alive? How old is he or she? Where did that saying come from? How long ago did that show run? When will that show be back in season? What does this pain or symptom mean? How much does that type of product cost? When? What? How? Where? The list is endless. Yes—STOP THE MADNESS!
Leave some questions unanswered. I mean, you may want to know when the clocks “spring forward”, or when Easter is this year, or if the restaurant you are on the way to is open this early. Some questions are helpful and necessary. Many, and dare I say most, are not—at least in my humble opinion.
Think you don’t have time to meditate? Turn this practice of leaving questions unanswered into your daily meditation. Notice the urge to look something up and ask if you really need to know that right now. You may just open up enough time to start a more formal meditative practice, if that’s what your goal is; and I suspect if you’re reading this section of my newsletter, it just might be.
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation “how to” classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com, for details.
In the opening section, I used a quote from one of the Enrichuals© cards created by Suzanne Vadnais Monson’s. I was lucky enough to have found her “enchanted jewelry” card prior to finding the complete deck of cards. (Available for purchase at www.betterdayyoga.com.)
I used to make and sell beaded jewelry, so this particular card spoke to me. Knowing that you can energize your jewelry with intention may seem a bit whoo-whoo for you, but how is that any different than your sending a prayer to the Universe for good intentions to happen? It’s all energy.
Since the opening section referred to a piece of jewelry made with an intention built in, I’m using the meditation on this card to inspire you to create your own intention jewelry. If you create in other ways—such as paints, drawings, music, or any other creative endeavor, put your intention meditation into that creation!
Also, if you’re not the creative type, you could still use the meditation to hold an already completed bracelet, watch, or other object like a crystal stone, river rock, or lucky penny in your hands and empower it with your intention. You can then continue to meditate with your “piece” whenever you are inspired upon its completion. Her card has more suggestions. Again, it’s all energy, and we all have the magic inside! Set it free!
Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them ~ Josie Bissett
What do you want more of in your life? Create a piece of jewelry to symbolize your desire and focus your intention. As you think about this, let your intuition guide you to the perfect elements to include in your design. It can be anything that appeals to you.
Gather your elements in a place where you will be undisturbed for at least ten minutes. Hold the items you have selected in your hands and close your eyes. Take some deep breaths and relax your body and mind, breathing in fresh possibility and breathing out any garbage you may be carrying around. When you feel ready, visualize what it is you are hoping to accomplish. Take your time and really experience this possibility as if it is real. When you feel a strong “click” of connection with your new reality, imagine you are channeling this powerful energy into your elements.
(Perhaps add the affirmation from Coventry Creations’ prosperity candle—emphasis added: “I am filled with the unlimited abundance of the universe and manifest all that I need!” I say this several times and feel the excitement/energy build.)
Open your eyes and assemble your amulet, asking for intuition to guide your hands as you work to create a piece of personal magic. If making jewelry is new to you, look for some of the great books that show the variety of materials and techniques available, like The Best Little Beading Book.
Try some of these ideas: make a crystal dream catcher, a necklace or bracelet with semi-precious gemstones and charms, or how about a key chain composed of shells and wooden beads? Let your creation remind you of what you intend to attract whenever you see it.
On the reverse side of the card she has various fun quotes—
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation “how to” classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com, for details.
I quoted from this great article in the opening section. It’s from OMTimes Magazine, Beauty v. Holistic Beauty: 5 New Habits, by Akua Auset, September 2012.
The following questions are also from that article. Sometimes you need to ask questions as a form of meditation. We so rarely take time to ask ourselves some important questions and listen for the answers. Some people refer to prayer as the asking and meditation as the listening. Let’s do an exercise. Sit in quiet and answer the following questions:
1. Am I peaceful? What keeps me from experiencing peace? What gives me peace?
2. Do I have mental clarity? Am I able to focus on one thing at a time? How present can I be in every moment of the day?
3. Do I feel joy in my life? What gave me joy when I was a child? What gives me joy now?
4. What am I creating that excites me? Who do I connect with that inspires me? How do I contribute that fulfills me?
5. How do I care for myself? Am I consuming things that contribute to my radiant health?
Whenever I feel less than, I turn it over to God, the Universe, whatever aspect of higher power you believe in works here. When I’ve done my best, I am learning to let it go and offer it up for the highest good, allowing the Universe to wash away my perceived imperfections. “This or something better” is always my wish for my work. That simple statement can be your Meditation on the go—“This or something better” whenever you’ve completed a thought, project, conversation, etc. Here’s another simple meditation in the form of a prayer from Marianne Williamson’s book, Illuminata:
I dedicate this work to You.
Imprint Your mind upon it.
Fly with it unto the heavens.
Use it to shower Your love onto the world.
Thank you for Your faith in me that such a glorious mission has been placed in my hands.”
I surrender to You my striving.
I let go all need to effort or to struggle.
I relax deeply into things exactly as they are.
I accept life that it might move through me with grace.
And more—used in part or as a group— from Sonia Choquette’s book already referenced above, Your Heart’s Desire: Instructions for Creating the Life You Really Want:
Divine Spirit, use me. Take me to my purpose.
Divine Spirit, bring to my dream all necessary support.
Divine Spirit, release me from my fears and help me to remember who I am.
When I work with love, I draw others to me.
When I work with love, people feel it, are helped by it, and return to it.
Divine Father, Holy Mother, move me.
Take me this day to my highest good.
Make me aware of al that will guide me toward my heart’s desire. Amen
I offer my dreams as a source of love to the world.
In their fulfillment, I will bring a message of light to all that I touch.
My teaching has value and brings a positive experience to my students.
Strike a Match
The solar plexus chakra highlighted in this newsletter is associated with the element of fire. Flame meditations are good ways to start your practice at home. Always use caution when working with an open flame!
Using a match to start has the added benefit of limiting your practice time as a beginning student who might be overzealous in want to try it for too long a period to start.
Exercise: Strike a match* and hold it a foot away from you and look at the flame. Be aware of the flame. As with an eating meditation, focus your full attention on it. I’ve heard this type of focus being similar to immersing yourself into the flame as you would with your ears listening to a piece of music. With intent focus, experience the flame so deeply that you become one with it. That most likely won’t happen on the first try, but it is your goal.
You can do the same exercise, when you are ready for longer meditation time, with a candle. Place the candle on a table about two feet away from you at eye level. *Make sure you have a fire-proof place to drop your match quickly and make sure the surrounding area is fire-proof as well!
My June 2011 newsletter mentioned using fire as a way to initiate new changes or let go of what you no longer need. Write a list of things you’re afraid of or that you feel is holding you back. Then drown the fears and limitations by immersing the list in water, burning the list, or burying it into the earth. You can also tear the
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation “how to” classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com for details.
One of the many benefits of Yoga is reduced stress and a relaxed and clear mind. Read on as I highlight unique ways to use Yoga for stress relief and relaxation! The antidote to stress is relaxation. To relax is to rest deeply. This rest is different from sleep. Common to all stress reduction techniques is putting the body in a comfortable position, with gentle attention directed toward the breath. Relax and Renew, Judith Lasater, PhD, PT http://www.rodmellpress.com/relax.html. This is a wonderful book on restorative yoga. Lets take that a little deeper.
In both of my last two intensive four-day trainings with YogaFit® on Restorative Yoga and Yoga Therapy, Yoga Nidra was discussed and we were able to experience a couple of Yoga Nidra sessions. Richard Miller, PhD, aptly explains that reading about Yoga Nidra is a bit like reading a description of sugar before youve ever tasted such a treat. ~ Yoga Nidra, The Meditative Heart of Yoga, by Richard Miller, PhD. So if you like what youre reading here, youre going to love actually experiencing a Yoga Nidra!
Dr. Miller equates Yoga Nidra to that timeframe between sleep and awake where we wake up naturally in a state of profound relaxation. We can all access this deep state any time of day by taking the time for Yoga Nidra. It induces a profound relaxation in the body and mind, eliminates stress, overcomes insomnia, solves personal and interpersonal problems, resolves trauma and neutralizes and overcomes anxiety, fear, anger, and depression.
Yoga Nidra helps burn away negative patterns of conditioning. While experiencing a Yoga Nidra session, we are unaware of the stress, tension, and conflict that we experience during our waking state. We experience a profound sense of contentment and equanimity. The practice of Yoga Nidra teaches you how to consciously live in and as this Natural State of equanimity even as you go about daily life. Yoga Nidra, The Meditative Heart of Yoga, by Richard Miller. I want some of that dont you?!
While this is not hypnosis, it has similarities in that while you are in a profound state of receptive relaxation, you remain totally aware and alert throughout the process.
To experience a taste of Yoga Nidra, heres a couple of links:
The actual length of a Yoga Nidra can be longer than this onethe ones I experienced were 30-40 minutes of glorious relaxation. Yoga Nidra can be performed in a matter of seconds, a few minutes, or it can be an in-depth practice lasting an hour or more.
Try this one if you have more time:
Richard Miller is known as the granddaddy of Yoga Nidra and his wonderful Web-site is: http://www.irest.us/. To listen to a short excerpt from Richard Miller, heres a link:
Julie Lusk also has a wonderful newsletter with excellent ways to relax during your day as well as has her own Yoga Nidra CD, Real Relaxation, which I highlight in this newsletters featured CD: http://www.wholesomeresources.com/buy_shop_books_CD.htm.
I learned in both YogaFit® trainings that it takes the body a full eight minutes to even be ready to relax. Did you get that? Eight minutes for the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and start to do its healing work on the body. That was one of the key points in the Yoga Nidra training. How many of us take eight minutes to prepare to relax, let alone take eight minutes to relax? Even a typical final relaxation at the end of a Yoga class isnt that long. (See the Yoga Pose featured this month for more on final relaxation.)
Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra, and Hyp-Yoga during final relaxation (see the pose featured this month) provide wonderful ways to use the power of Yoga to enhance your well-being and promote relaxation and stress-relief. I plan to incorporate more of these practices into my yoga classes and offerings!
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation how to classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com, for details.
A HeartMath Tip: Take five minutes several times a day, whether or not you’re feeling especially stressed, to try these simple steps adapted from the HeartMath Attitude Breathing® tool.
• Focus on your heart as you breathe in.
• Concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude as you breathe out.
• Lock in this new feeling as you continue to breathe it in and out through your heart.
• As you become adept at using this HeartMath tool, select new feelings and to help you “de-stress” as needed.
In the opening section we talked about medicine wheels. “An odd variation sometimes found in medicine wheels is the presence of a passageway, or a doorway, in the circles. The outer ring of stones will be broken, and there will be a stone path leading up to the center of the wheel.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_wheel. And so we introduced the concept of a labyrinth! Walking a labyrinth, whether it is on foot or with a portable labyrinth using your finger or wooden tracer stick, is a meditative process inviting introspection. It is very relaxing.
“What is a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.
The Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth in this example shows that you enter a labyrinth through the mouth and then walk on the paths or circuits. The walls keep you on the path. The goal is in the center of the labyrinth. When you reach it, you have gone half the distance – you now need to turn around and walk back out.” http://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths. This site is also has a link to a world-wide labyrinth locator! How cool is that? Who knew Minnesota had so many labyrinths? http://labyrinthlocator.com/home. There is even a link to buying a portable labyrinth: http://www.tlslabyrinthmarket.co.uk/portable.html. All worth checking out!
Below is a mandala of a labyrinth for your meditation to go. Enjoy!
Using Mandalas as a meditative practice: Circular mandalas have been used as a meditative practice for centering the mind. This refers to the symbolic power of geometrical shapes as a point of meditative focus. You gaze first at the mandala, with eyes open for as long as is comfortable, imbedding the image into memory so you can then focus upon the intricacies as a mental image with eyes closed focusing inward.
David Fontana has two books that are great references for a meditation practice, and the second one specifically for using Mandalas as a form of meditation: The Meditator’s Handbook as well as Meditating with Mandalas—the example I use below. The latter book contains many beautiful geometric mandalas to use in your meditations if you find this type of meditation is something you’d like to look into further.
Also see: http://www.amazon.com/David-Fontana/e/B000AQ26QA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 .
“In meditation, yantras (another name for a type of mandala) also focus the meditator’s energies, not only by acting as a point of concentration but also by operating upon the unconscious through the symbolic meaning of the shapes they contain.” (The Meditator’s Handbook.)
The Pilgrim’s Maze
The Labyrinth was once a symbol of moral confusion, but in the middle ages Christians began to see it as the true way of belief. This mandala is based on the maze on the floor of Chartres Cathedral, France.
1. Follow the labyrinth from its entrance (at the bottom) all the way to the floral device at its center. You should not lose your way, because the labyrinth is unicursal—that is, it has no junctions. But if you forget where you are, go back to the start and try again.
2. As you get closer to the center, imagine travelling deeper into the self. The labyrinth is your physical incarnation, the life you lead on Earth; and, at the same time, it is the challenges that you face in following your spiritual destiny.
3. Once you reach the center, view it as a tunnel that leads down into the page. Step into this tunnel. For many, the labyrinth continues, but for you the path is now straight—as long as you keep the purity of heart that your pilgrimage has brought you.
Source: The Meditator’s Handbook as well as Meditating with Mandalas, by David Fontana.
About the author, David Fontana: “Dr. David G. J. Fontana, Ph.D, FBPS (1934 – 18 October 2010) was a British academic, psychologist and author. He was Professor of Psychology at the Cardiff University. He was also visiting professor at John Moores University and the University of the Algarve.
Born in Middlesex, Fontana was a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Psychologist and a Chartered Counseling Psychologist. He published more than 45 books, including popular treatments of dreams and symbols.
Fontana took an interest in paranormal research such as mediumship, poltergeist cases and Electronic voice phenomena, and was at one time president of the Society for Psychical Research, from 1995-98.
Fontana, together with Ingrid Slack and Martin Treacy in 1996, established a Transpersonal Psychology Section within the British Psychological Society, adding academic credibility to this school of thought at the fringe of academic psychology. Fontana attended the annual conferences of the Transpersonal Section of the British Psychological Society, which, for the first two years, were in Birmingham, and from 1999 onwards, generally took place at Cloughton, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire.
He served as the first president of the British Psychological Society’s Transpersonal Section, a post he held from 1996-2001. His primary academic affiliation was at Cardiff University, where he was Distinguished Visiting Fellow. He wrote on such topics as education, Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness, dreams, symbols, the psychology of religion, Christianity and survival.” http://www.amazon.com/David-Fontana/e/B000AQ26QA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation “how to” classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com for details.
This “meditation on the go” is similar to the “Hand Mudra” featured below for “empowering your voice” which I chose for its emphasis on “empowerment”—one of the themes from my opener. It is part of my meditation workshop. Enjoy!
Coupler Pull: This is a simple technique to bring your emotions, mind, and body into harmony. You can do it any time you feel out of balance or off center.
Source: The Natural Face-Lift, by Linda Burnham, N.D.
The following meditation on the go came to me via a wonderful new book in my life, Urban Mindfulness—cultivating peace, presence & purpose in the middle of it all, by Jonathan S. Kaplan, PhD. The preface to the meditation says that we’re more likely to perform an action if were rewarded afterward. They were initially referring to why video games were addictive. With that playful competitiveness in mind, enjoy the following mini-meditative moment practice:
This game obviously introduces some competing and striving, which isn’t really consistent with mindfulness. However, it reflects your underlying intention and encourages you to unplug your devices and focus on your breathing, which cultivates concentration and awareness. Playfully engaging in the present like this helps you find encouraging ways to cultivate and support your own practice, especially whenever your interest and commitment fade.”
Hari Bhajan Khalsa’s first published poem
I mentioned in the opening that I used to read poems for hours when I was young. They became a meditation for me before I knew what meditation was. Just dwelling on the last line of Hari Bhajan’s poem below and what “it’s about” makes my mind wonder. Who hasn’t wondered what it really is all about? Maybe it is the “red-veined stone at the river’s edge” as Hari Bhajan’s poem suggests.
One of my yoga teachers, TeriLeigh Schmidt, uses the healing powers of five elements in her teachings—fire, water, earth, mineral, and nature. “The mineral element includes stones. They are the wisdom keepers of the earth. They tell the stories. They tell the history.
River’s represent the water element—cleansing, purifying, direction-oriented. They will carve out their own path and their own purpose. They represent direction, and endurance. Rivers flow gracefully without bringing undue attention to itself. They show us how to shape-shift allowing different roles for different needs.” ~ TeriLeigh Schmidt.
One of my favorite authors, Ted Andrews, reminds us that the “river’s edge” is part of the “the ‘tween times/places’ —times or places that are not distinct or definable—they are in-between and are the best places to be open to the magic.”
Hari Bhajan echoed the words of her teacher, Yogi Bhajan when she suggested we find the truth for ourselves within ourselves. Below she suggests pondering “red-veined stone at the river’s edge” as a possibility for what it’s all about.
“Each human being is on his or her own path, each different from yours. Answers to your questions are rarely found in another human. Answer your own questions by reflecting on nature and conversing with your own sacred witness….The stone monuments represent the human in the passage of time and the universality of truth that is held within Mother Earth. It is important to learn to stand still, in silence, in the sacred witness within you. Meditate on stones and the great rock formations that have lived through the ages. Through the stillness you become aware of, you’ll begin to experience the sacred witness that lives inside of you.” The Power Deck, The Cards of Wisdom by Lynn V. Andrews.
There is a mutual respect in nature. The river rushing over the rock will wear down the solid mass, transforming it. Let the river’s edge wash over you, transforming what you believe to be unchangeable within yourself. Believe that you are the red-veined stone at the river’s edge. Keep the wisdom of your story, your history; and let the river’s flow wash away what is holding you back.
I offer three poems below which my interview with Hari Bhajan inspired me to share. I invite you to ponder them as your own meditation and to find your own meaning.
The “red-veined stone at the river’s edge” in Hari Bhajan’s first published poem has much to share with us. Be open to it as you contemplate:
PECOS, NEW MEXICO
Beyond the river
a fan of cottonwoods
bows to the dawn.
A million light years
prick my flesh.
Crying comes easily
in the middle of the day,
biting into an olive.
What if it’s not about
who I am,
but the red-veined stone
at the river’s edge?
(Appeared in Poesy, 2004— http://creekwalker.com/poetry/HariBhajanKhalsa.html)
To purchase Hari Bhajan’s poetry book, “Life in Two Parts”, please go to: http://www.mainstreetrag.com/HBKhalsa.html
As a testament to her love of poems and poetry, Hari Bhajan referenced that the following poem gave her solace when early on in the creation of Yogamint, she was faced with the decision to switch from using “Yoga Mint” (two words) to the now famous “YogaMint” (one word). At the time, it was hard to release from her love of “Yoga Mint”. In her frustration, she meditated upon a poem by Elizabeth Bishop on losing things. It’s a beautiful lesson.
by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
And finally, to emphasize her love of poetry and the life lessons she has gleaned from poems and poets, Hari Bhajan referred to the famous poet, Hafiz as a poignant example of the light-heartedness Yogamint embodies. Hari Bhajan shared that “The poet Hafiz wrote about incredible topics but made them fun and enjoyable.”
Hafiz was born sometime between the years 1310-1325 a.d. or 712-727 A.H. The most probable date is either 1320, or 1325 a.d. http://www.hafizonlove.com/divan/rubaiyat/2.htm.
Here are two poems of his I found that I’d like to share—one light-hearted, the other about living the dream of your life:
Every friend who talked of love, became a foe.
Every eagle shifted its shape to a crow.
They say the night is pregnant, and I say,
Who is the father? And how do you know?
Spend time with wine by a stream,
And let sorrows away stream.
My life, like a rose, is but few days;
Youthful and joyous live this dream.
The following meditation is from one of my favorite Websites, Compliments of YogaMint.com
Your Knowing Breath
Developing Your Intuition
My first yoga instructor taught me that you cant hold fear in your body and breathe long and deep at the same time. When someone asks me how to develop their intuition, I tell them to breathe. When your breath becomes shallow it is usually because you are afraid. This can show up as anxiety, worry, concern, stress, and any number of descriptors for the same thing: fear. When you are afraid you do not hear the voice of your intuition.
The breath controls the mind and the mind controls the body. Slowing the breath to 6-8 breaths per minute, the mind slows down and you start to relax. Through this state of relaxation your inner knowing can be heard. Its not always easy to do. When Im really in a state of anxiety I have to do some vigorous exercise to get my body and my mind to relax. I like to walk down by the river where I live. Water stills the mind and is a great conductor of intuitive energy. I can gaze out over the water and a natural stillness comes over me.
If you do not have easy access to a natural body of water try this meditation. Fill up your bathtub and place a few drops of lavender oil in the water. Light a candle. The warm water will relax your body and the lavender oil will relax your mind. Start breathing long and deep. You can close your eyes or look lightly at the burning candle. Gently bring forward a question into your conscious mind as you seek inner guidance. Imagine that you are watching the answer come to you on the movie screen of your mind. Relax and watch the movie.
If an answer does not come to you at this time, trust that guidance will come over the course of the next few days. Once you ask a question, the Universe will find the right time and place to show you what you need to know. The key is trusting. For now, just breathe your knowing breath and listen to your heart. http://yogamint.com/_webapp_3918677/Your_Knowing_Breath
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation how to classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com, for details.
Manifest Grace One Day at a Time:
At the place where you relate to your Creator in the morning, place a sign that reads, “This Day Will I Be Graceful?” That day you will be graceful because you have asked the question and the answer is, “You Will!” It should manifest in your way of speaking, eating, telephoning, behaving, taking a bath, dressing, driving a car, and so on. Your every action during that day must represent you as graceful. The most beautiful thing about it is that if you can do that for forty days, you will have achieved a state of mind in which little by little you can become totally perfect.
Source: Kundalini Yoga, The Flow of Eternal Power as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa
Since this month’s yoga quote suggested to “be with air” and air is associated with the heart chakra, I’ve chosen a loving kindness meditation.
Here is my own personal loving kindness meditation:
1) Close your eyes and start deep abdominal breathing for a few minutes to center and focus. Then check in with your own emotional state to see how you’re feeling. Notice, in particular, if you are feeling any negative emotions toward yourself. If you’re like me, there’s usually some negative self-talk going on. Connect with that self-talk and counter it with opposite sentiment. For example if you’re thinking, “I am so behind on that project” (insert your own here), say to yourself “I have plenty of time to complete my projects. I’m doing the best that I can.” Send loving thoughts to yourself perhaps using an affirmation for each chakra, from my past newsletters or your favorites, and working your way from the root chakra up to the crown. This takes several minutes.
You can even add the colors of the chakras as suggested in my own personal chakra color meditation from the March 2010 newsletter, cut and paste here for ease of reference:
Begin by grounding through your feet and sitting bones sending energy with the help of an exhalation breath down your legs imagining roots coming from your feet like a tree going down, down down into the earth. Even picture the dirt pushing away from the roots as the roots go further and further into the earth grounding you deeper and deeper.
Beginning with the root chakra color, red, and visualize a stream of red light showering down over you from above. Picture red energy circling the lower pelvic region and then send it down, down down into the earth. Say to yourself I am rooted and calm, I am well-grounded. I am safe, secure, centered, and at peace.
Going on up to the sacral chakra, visualize a stream of orange light showering down over you from above. Picture the color orange circulating like a spinning ball in the sacral area a couple of inches below the belly button and then send the orange energy down into the earth. Say to yourself, I love my creative source. I go with the flow. I am peaceful, poised, and harmonious. I am young, vivacious and sexy! I am filled with vim, vigor, and vitality!
Continuing on up to the solar plexus chakra around the belly button, visualize a stream of yellow light showering down over you from above. Picture a swirling yellow color filling your abdomen area and then send the yellow energy down your legs, down, down, down into the ground. Say to yourself, I can be what I will to be. I use the power of my will to create the results I want. I deserve to lead the life I choose to lead.
Going on up to the chest and the area of the heart center, visualize a stream of deep green light showering down over you from above. Picture a deep green color circulating there and then send it down your legs to the earth building upon the energy of the colors before. Say to yourself, I am loved, loveable and loving. I love and accept myself exactly as I am. I treat myself with unconditional love. Add the color pink, the color of love, circulating and following after.
Now moving up to the throat area, visualize a stream of bright sky blue light showering down over you from above. Picture a bright sky blue color swirling in your throat. Say to yourself, I speak my truth quietly and clearly with integrity and I am heard. Send the blue energy down your legs to the earth.
Now move to the third eye area—that area between the eyebrows. Visualize a stream of deep, dark blue light showering down over you from above. Picture a deep, dark blue energy pulsating like a swirling ball in your third eye area. As you send the blue energy down to the earth, say to yourself, I find my path following my inclinations. I am believing in myself and my gifts.
Finally, focus on the area at the crown of your head and visualize a violet shower of light streaming over you from above. Picture a violet spinning ball of energy there and send it down to the earth following the others. Say to yourself, I am healthy, happy, and radiant. Seal it off by visualizing a white light surrounding you with a white light shower from above and say to yourself, white light, white light, put me in the right spot. I will to will your will.
How did that feel? Were there any of the affirmations that resonated with you? I hope so.
Most days, when I have time, I’ll repeat the above but in the opposite direction, sending the energy up into the sky. It gives me a feeling of exhilaration! I tweak it a little on the upswing to include thoughts of my husband and me as a loving, family unit. So it becomes a personal “Metta”—or loving kindness—meditation for me. You can use the same or similar affirmations if you want to do the upswing, and simply use “we” in place of “I”.
2) Next focus on someone you love dearly and send loving thoughts their way. Visualize surrounding them in white light and ask the Universe to put them in the right spot. I then add, “Make them happy, healthy, safe, warm and out of pain”. And end with, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for ‘that person’ (insert your own here) in my life”.
3) Next I focus on those I will come into contact with or work with—it may be for that day, or it may be the “regulars”. We all have our regulars, don’t we? I focus on anyone I will speak to or communicate with. I ask the Universe to put them into the right spot and surround them in a white light. I add, “Make them happy, healthy, safe, warm and out of pain”. And end with “Thank you, thank you, thank you for everyone’s presence in my life”.
4) Next focus on someone you’ve had difficulty with. Perhaps this time it’s a co-worker you don’t get along with, or even a family member. As previously suggested, ask the Universe to put them in the right spot as you visualize surrounding them in white light. Add, “Make them happy, healthy, safe, warm and out of pain”. And with a succession of “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for ‘that person’ (insert your own here) in my life”.
5) I like to end with focusing on the world at-large and asking the Universe to put everyone everywhere in the right spot and surround the world in a white light. I then add “let everyone know that everyone else really is thinking about them. I add, “Make them happy, healthy, safe, warm, and out of pain”. And end with “Thank you, thank you, thank you for everyone’s presence in my life”.
6) I end this meditation with the following to seal my thoughts of gratitude and thanks: “Thank you for this day. Thank you for the absolute stunning, magnificent, glorious beauty of this day. Thank you for being with me and my dear, sweet (person you thought of earlier that you love dearly) today. I ask this prayer with all my heart in Jesus’ name in love and light, in love and light, in love and light.” You can insert your own deity here or just end with “in love and light”.
7) You can end with step # 6. I like to add more family focus to my meditation than the traditional Loving Kindness Meditation and I insert them right after step #2. So I add a special element for my parents. I focus on my mom and dad, and then my husband’s mom and dad. I add my step-mom. I do the same visualization and the same prayer for them as above.
8) Then I also add a general family element. (Parents deserve a category all their own, don’t they?) I focus on each and every member of my family and do the same visualization and the same prayer as above.
This is a powerful, cleansing meditation that rids you of negative or destructive thoughts and thought patterns. It also allows you to connect with the divine. Do this meditation in your personalized sacred space, or use this version as a final relaxation meditation at the end of your yoga practice.
Begin by focusing on your breath. Take a long, deep breath in, feeling the life-giving oxygen flood your body and then leave it, taking away the waste that your body does not need. Repeat this three times.
Breathe normally and on every out-breath, visualize all of the negativity in your life—harmful and painful emotions, poor self-esteem, the mistakes you have made—leave your body along with your breath. Visualize your out-breath evaporating as it leaves your body. Feel yourself free of all the negativity that you have been clinging too.
As you breathe in, feel the pure energy of positive thoughts—all the things you are grateful for—fill you with light. Maybe it’s your family and friends, maybe it’s some positive goals you have, or a vacation you’ll be going on. Maybe it’s your yoga practice. Let these thoughts flow with the oxygen into your lungs, through your bloodstream and into every cell of your body. This energy brings clarity, wisdom and bliss. Focus on your light-filled mind and body. If any thoughts or feelings come to distract you, don’t follow them. They are simply random thoughts. Breath them out. Enjoy this blissful feeling.
All of the negative feelings and thoughts that previously held you back have left you. Stay focused on your breath for a few minutes. Take this renewed positive energy with you as you go back to your normal day.
Source: Adapted from the Crown Chakra Meditation in The Chakra Energy Plan by Anna Selby.
Surround it in light:
“As spring rolls in, we are surrounded by more light from the sun, and it feels good. Light travels faster than most anything. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by anything, just picture the situation surrounded in light. The act of just focusing in light makes our consciousness clearer. Much the same way it is difficult to see in the dark, it is hard for us to “see” spiritually when we are not in the light.” (From Gary & Andrea Smith’s Weekly Enlighten Up message: http://www.andreasmithgallery.com/).
The purpose of self-inquiry is to experience the revelation of the true Self, not to probe mentally or seek a definitive answer. The practice is simple but not easy, and requires commitment and consistent practice to reap the incomparable bliss it bestows.
Essentially, this is a practice of simply and repeatedly asking yourself the question, “Who am I?” and holding this thought alone, with a mind that is completely open and receptive to any responses or sensations that may arise.
In the beginning, practice this for twenty minutes. As you progress in this practice, you can extend the time to thirty to sixty minutes or longer. (This is the author’s suggestion. Remember to do what you can with what you have where you are at. Even five minutes is beneficial. It’s far more important to be consistent and to meditate at the same time every day. Your body will recognize the time as a time to relax and it will get easier! Promise! Be gentle with yourself.)
Adopt your preferred meditation posture. Ensure your spine is straight, with your head and neck in alignment. Once you are comfortable, keep your body still for the duration of the practice. Close your eyes and practice a few minutes of simple relaxation breathing:
Breathing naturally, inhale to the count of four or five and exhale to the count of four or five. Consciously relax the body on the out breath. Scan your body and note any tension areas. Breathe into those areas on the in breaths and relax them on the out breaths. Continue for a few minutes until the body feels relaxed.
Focus your attention in the middle of your chest in the spiritual Heart center. Inwardly and quietly and with an open mind and heart, ask yourself “Who am I?” without demanding or expecting a response. Maintain your focus of attention on the Heart center and breathe naturally. When thoughts arise, do not pursue theme or be captivated by them, but simply inquire of each thought, “To whom has this thought arisen?” If the answer comes “To me”, then repeat the question “Who am I?” From time to time, repeat the question in a relaxed way, without any expectation of an answer.
Source: The Chakra Workbook by Anna Voigt