Yoga, I love you

I may have mentioned this before, but I am in love.

Since leaving my day job, I have spent more time with yoga, and this love I have for it – it is the real thing.

I was briefly introduced to yoga five years ago at a gym I belonged to. I thought it was pretty great, but didn’t have much time for it. Two years ago, we were reacquainted during my trip to the Chopra Center. The best thing I learned there is that I can have a relationship with yoga even if I can’t sit in lotus or do certain asanas (postures).

Shortly after that I discovered the yoga studio less than two miles from where I live, and began to go weekly, for a while. Then I began studying ayurveda, and since I still worked full time, it was a challenge to get to class, so I stopped going regularly. In the meantime, I began to learn more about what yoga actually is.

The word yoga means union, and is a means to bring your entire being into balance and union with the greater consciousness many people call God. A common perception of yoga is that it is about moving your body into different positions to increase physical fitness, but there is so much more to it than that.

There are eight limbs of yoga:

  • Yama – this is about our behavior, principles, and how we conduct ourselves in life
  • Niyama – has to do with self- discipline and spiritual practices and routines
  • Asana – the postures practiced in yoga, through which we develop habits of discipline
  • Pranayama – this is about the breath
  • Pratyahara – withdrawing from sensory stimulation and looking inside
  • Dharana – concentration, dealing with the distractions of the mind
  • Dhyana – meditation or contemplation
  • Samadhi – transcendence, connection with the Divine, interconnectedness with all living beings

There are quite a few flavors of yoga, and this Mind Body Green piece explains the most common. I personally prefer a very slow flow, with stretching and holding poses for longer periods, a combination of hatha, sivananda, and yin. A have a friend who is dedicated to kundalini. Others love the more workout like flow of vinyasa or the heat of Bikram. There is something for everyone.

I am so happy to have found yoga. Or, as the owner of The Yoga Institute in Clear Lake, Rae Lynn Rath says “You don’t find yoga. Yoga finds you.”

I am elated that I have the time to pursue this practice. Yoga and ayurveda are sister sciences, so it makes sense to me to be able to teach this to those who are following this path of seeking better health through greater awareness.

And so, I have enrolled in a yoga teacher training course! Namaste. ūüôā

 

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A ghost town, sapphires, and drumming

After a leisurely early morning enjoying coffee and steel cut oats with hand-picked huckleberries (thank you Marcia) and visiting with Hank a bit, the two of us set off for the next adventure.  We took her jeep this time, and after stopping to get water at the local spring, we headed up narrow unpaved road to see the remains of a once thriving mining town high up on the mountain.

The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm, and being up that high on the mountain and looking at the crumbling mine buildings, I imagined the work that went on there and the hardships faced. Some of the stone and brick buildings remain standing, a tribute to the amazing courage and skill of the pioneers of our nation.

We went to Phillipsburg for lunch, and had a delicious lunch at Sunshine Station.
241d2-20150608_152000-animationThen we went to Gem Mountain and spent an interesting couple of hours digging through a bucket of dirt looking for sapphires, and found quite a few.sapphires I decided to spend a little money to have the best ones heat treated. I can expect to get them in 3 to 6 months.
¬†In the evening we went to the drumming circle. Marcia has connected with an amazing group of women. She had tried to convey to me what this is about, but there is nothing like the experience. We went outside the town to Barbara’s house, where she and her husband¬†live in a beautiful house “off the grid” – sustained with solar and wind power, and delicious well water. Their two friendly dogs greeted us and their horses grazed nearby.
I was warmly welcomed by Barbara, who makes drums and has a connection to the earth and to the animals whose skins are used. She told me to choose a drum and I was immediately drawn to one which was made from buffalo skin. She has a brochure which told me that:
The buffalo, Tatanka, is a symbol of abundeance and manifestation. The massive head implies a need to combine our efforts with the divine Creator, and is a symbol of the heavens and the divine. The messge of the buffalo is that both the mundane and the spiritual are necessary for manifesting what we are seeking. Tantaka usually follow the easiest path. When we joint the right action with the right prayers, the path opens and flows easily. The buffalo energy may indicate opportunities to manifest or for you to manifest abundance in some area of your life. Buffalo energy implies that the law of synchronicity is operating in your universe. 
 We did four rounds of drumming, and during the last one I felt very connected to the other people in the room and to the earth. I heard, very faintly, Native American chanting in the distance. It was an energizing spiritual experience. Afterwards, we stayed around and talked for a while, and a lady named Marlene, obviously intuitive, told me that amazing things were happening in my life. This is an affirmation for me.
And she gave me a tourmaline stone, said “It wants to go with you.” She said it will dispel negative energy around me, that she had been wearing it in a medicine bag.
It was an amazing end to another wonder full day in Montana.

Thoughts on Meditation

As I continue my meditation practice, and especially while traveling, more insights came to me about what meditation is and is not. It can be a bit challenging to keep up a regular practice while traveling, and a key concept is to not judge yourself. Travel is glorious and disruptive at the same time, so the idea is to do the best you can to stay “grounded”, and meditation can help in this area.

I recently had a conversation with someone who said she hadn’t been able to commit to meditation, even though she thinks it’s probably pretty great, because she doubts if she can clear her mind of thoughts. ¬†I think that’s a ¬†common misconception. Maybe advanced meditators can do that, but that is definitely not my experience! Someone else I talked to said “I’ve just got to keep doing it until my mind goes!” She seemed to be trying too hard. It’s not about the mind going somewhere else, or having no thoughts at all.

Back when I was a conservative fundamentalist Christian I had a long list of things that were bad, or even evil. Meditation was one of them, because the belief was that you make your mind blank and as a result you open yourself up to evil spirits who can come in and possess you. I really believed that, which now amazes me. Back then, I embraced dogmatism rather than allow uncertainty into my life. I am happy to report that I was wrong, and if I can meditate, anyone can.

One way to experience meditation is to realize that it is basically sitting with yourself. There are different techniques, and although it is helpful to have a teacher, it is not absolutely necessary. I use¬†a mantra based on when and where I was born. The mantra is an anchor, or you can use your breath. I focus on it, but inevitably my mind drifts to — you got it, thoughts! Then after a bit I realize I’m thinking, so back to the mantra. There’s no striving, just gentle drifting back and forth. Definitely not blankness, but occasionally there is an awareness of being somewhere else, so to speak. It’s difficult for me to describe. And I must admit that I sometimes¬†relax so much that I nod off to sleep!

It is worth it to make a commitment, to take the time, to¬†truly sit with yourself¬†and to allow whatever is inside you to surface. Then you get up and go about your business. Over time, you will see a difference in your responses to life’s frustrations, and people will say, what have you done with yourself? Because you will develop a different countenance and demeanor. This huffington post article about the benefits of meditation is fascinating, and has before and after pictures.

As you practice sitting in meditation letting whatever happens inside happen, without judgment, you will gradually find yourself letting go of old mental and emotional patterns. You will find freedom from that which doesn’t serve you well, and you will find new ways of peacefully embracing life as it unfolds.

Following my passion

¬†“Let the beauty you love be what you do.” ¬† -Rumi

For about three years I have been on a journey of the soul, seeking what is next for me, in how I live my life, and how I will spend the majority of my hours. For the last year, as part of my meditation practice, I have been asking myself three questions: Who am I? What do I really, really want? What is my dharma, my purpose?

I have made conscious life changes during this time, the only constant being that I go to my job consistently. And this has been, and is, a good thing. Besides being my bread and butter, I made some very good friends. I plan to continue going to this job for at least another year, in spite of major workplace changes, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.

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I am very happy to announce that I have enrolled in a course of study to become an ayurvedic practioner.¬†I have looked into life and health coaching programs, but nothing spoke to my soul until I came across this program. I believe in looking for signs, synchronicity, clues from the universe that some might call coincidence. I “met” Melissa, whose blog is¬†Sattvic Life, after I posted about my experience with the Hot Belly Diet. She blogs about her journey learning ayurveda and her joy in life. She has been an inspiration to me.

My entire adult life I have embraced various schools of thought regarding what is healthy, from studying medical nutrition in nursing school to growing my own food and making everything from scratch, and quite a lot in between. I realized that my passion is in promoting wellness, and what I know already about ayurveda is that its focus is on balancing that which is out of balance – mind, body, and spirit, as opposed to western medicine’s focus of focusing on only the physical and providing a pill for every ailment without addressing the root cause.

My dream is that in pursuing this course of study I will learn more about how to promote good health, using what I already know as a Registered Nurse, and integrating the new knowledge I will acquire. I want to have the abilities and credentials to establish a business in which I can help those who seek perfect health.

So here I go, continuing the journey. I am quite excited!

Freedom from fear

Recovering a Sense of Identity – Part Two

Everything has a purpose. Even if you have spent part of your life dealing with a Crazymaker. Take it from me!

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. — Elisabeth Kubler Ross

This¬†post¬†is a continuation of¬†commentary springing from my reading of the second chapter of¬†The Artist’s Way. If any of this is resonating with you, I highly recommend that you get this book. Even though it is supposed to be a 12 week course, life happens and if it takes 12 years that is ok.

In addition to really emphasizing the need to get away from toxic people, the author reminds us that there is a higher guidance available to us in moving through our fear and accessing our creativity. We tend to think that it is arrogant to speak of ourselves as creative artists, but the truth is that it is arrogance to refuse to acknowledge it. Whew!

To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive. — Robert Louis Stevenson

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Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness. –Shakti Gawain

It is one thing to point the finger at others as the barrier to our recovery, but an even greater enemy comes from within, Ms Cameron goes on to say, and that enemy is skepticism! ¬†It doesn’t matter what our belief system is — we have this tendency to doubt the idea of creator and creativity. But, I am learning, ¬†the thing to do is just keep letting it flow in spite of doubt. The author¬†recommends morning pages – freely writing¬†about 3 pages, longhand, every morning. I have been doing this fairly consistently, and I think it is making a difference, somehow, even in the midst of a very busy life.. The “artist’s date” has been a little more elusive – it is doing something by myself, with “my artist.” So far, I’ve taken myself shopping a couple of times and spent a little time painting, but haven’t really dedicated myself to doing anything, although I think I’m getting better at just being with myself, getting in touch with the silence within, primarily through meditation. But I digress.

We need to look for unexpected opportunities, or coincidences, or as Deepak Chopra says, synchronicity. We need to set aside our skepticism, take risks, and nudge open that door through which we can see dazzling light. In that light are lots of ideas that seem impossible, so we stick with the comfortableness of the dark room we are in. It takes recognizing that wall of fear and continuing to push the door open and walk into the light of creativity.

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music –the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures,beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. — Henry Miller

Long ago, before the internet and email and social media, people stayed in touch by writing letters about their lives and sending them to each other. Often those letters were about small details of their day, or observations about¬†what flowers were blooming or the change in the weather. This paying attention to detail about the now is a way to connect to the universe and expand happiness and creativity. The reward for attention is always healing. I have journaled on and off through the years, and much of what I have written about is pain. The author of Artists Way also notes that she has written about pain, and that is what it took to get her to pay attention to the present moment. Think about it. The past may be too painful to want to remember, and the future could be too terrifying to contemplate, so focusing on the right now is the safe place to be. Right now, I’m breathing, and in the exact now, I am always all right.

What is blocking you? and what are you going to do about it?