Friday, December 5, 2014

Coming into Balance

As February (2015) draws near, I'm getting more and more excited about a balancing workshop that I'm offering In Northhampton. It's incredibly fun for me, because balancing poses are challenging, both in the way that they are taught as well as for the practitioner, for the student. These challenges are both physical as well as psychological.

In a physical sense, it's often hard to find balance because we are either too cautious or not cautious enough. We are too risky, or maybe afraid of taking a risk. It's strange, because this is often tied to the make up of what we believe and what we believe we are. We train our minds with our experience, creating patterns of practice to become pathways in our brains and our lives.

Because of these patterns, stepping outside of our comfort zone and into balance is scary, creating a fight or flight response, or fear. Fear of death or dying, Patanjali says, even affects the wise. Testing our boundaries and becoming fearful or scared. It is then no surprise that we cannot find balance in our own lives, or in the physical postures we attempt on our mat.

I make no secret that I consider our asana practice to be training for life. Just as we need to learn the opposite of our habits, risking, or protecting, we need to apply the same tools to our lives. This is something that I've begun to work more and more with as I balance my work life and my passion. It's a struggle I think most of us are trying to overcome. Finding work-life-balance, spending more time with our loved ones, or taking the opportunity to just enjoy our lives is often pushed to the back burner because were too afraid we won't make enough money, will disappoint others, or maybe disappoint ourselves. 

These fears become one more block to finding a true selves, and realizing our life's potential. In the spirit of self-study, I encourage you to look deeply into your own habits and see if there's a point to balance in your own life. Take the step and enjoy the risk or the safeguard, even if it is scary.

For more information on my workshop, you can visit the Karuna Center for Yoga and Healing Arts website at


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bringing Us Together

I recently watched a video of the amazing Mary Dunn teaching Pranayama. On the video she did the legendary thing that I have heard about her - she waited until everyone did exactly what she said before moving on - for Sukasana! She was the queen of sticklers. I have to admit that I was rooting for her. Every once in a while I have a student that does not sit exactly the way I ask, or do something the way I ask and I always question myself. How do I handle it?

The beauty of this exercise was how she handled it. She said that "these directions are what bring us together." How gorgeous is that! I always try to plan my instruction based on my experience. For this reason, I want others to share my experience. Why wouldn't I insist on everyone doing the same thing(safely)? Why shouldn't I be a stickler? Anyone who is teaching yoga from their experience has the right to share their experience. And every student should be open to sharing that experience. After all, they paid for that class, they chose that teacher. So, why not try to achieve the experience they are creating.

Moving forward, as a student, I will take a vow of compliance. I will do my best to share in the experience of the instructor(safely). And as a teacher I will trust in the validity of my experiences. These promises to ourselves and to our teachers will do exactly what Mary suggested - bring us all together. Feel the same experience (or at least try). Be open to the vulnerability of a new experience. Trust in each other in the safe zone of our communities.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yes, I am okay

I would like to thank everybody for reading my blog. I know a few of you have mentioned to me that with the posts I've been sharing, it may seem that I am in a bad place. I want you to know, that I am fine. I'm delving really deep into the idea of contentment. While I do this, I am trying to share as openly and honestly as I can. Who knows? Maybe this isn't the right forum for it, but I'm not one to stop something once I've started.

Part of yoga is delving deeply into oneself. I know this often is not related in a yoga class, but is a deeper part of the practice if you're willing to try. That is merely what I am attempting to do. I'm trying to dive a little deeper into the ethical principles and observances of yoga. I am generally a very contented person, but everyone has bad days or times of transition. Your concern moves me and I appreciate it very much. 

Thank you again for thinking of me, and for reading my blog. See you soon.

Interesting day

As I continue on my journey with Santosa, every day brings something new. Some days are great, some days are not. Part of me wonders if my magnifying glass on contentment makes things that way. Yesterday I found myself completely wrapped up in the negative. I let the things around me that were bothering me completely take over. All in all, a bad day.

So this morning I went right back to my current favorite book, the Yamas and Niyamas. I find that on my journey with contentment, it has been such a great tool. When I find myself really struggling with the idea of contentment it has some wonderful words of wisdom. Today I flipped right to the Santosha chapter and found some advice.

One section of the book talks about emotional disturbances. Basically this section discusses how we should not let out emotional disturbances take over our lives. For example, what other people say, how other people offend us, or how other things or situations offend us.

I found myself yesterday being bothered by the silliest things. Anything from a past conversation to the noise in my own home. It's so funny, once we find ourselves taken over by one emotional disturbance, they all come to the forefront. 

What really stuck out to me from the book was a Japanese proverb the author shared. "The noise does not disturb you, you disturb the noise." The way I took this is, when we fight against what life gives us, when we battle with what is, we are the ones disturbing life. What an interesting idea.

This is not to say that there are things in life we should avoid. This is also not to say that there are bad things in life we should just accept. This is saying that our emotional disturbances themselves are the brains reaction to what is going on. Sometimes we need to listen to that, and make the correct changes. Other times, we need to evaluate what the brain is actually making us feel. We waste too much time being upset, we waste too much time being offended by our situation. Sometimes we just need to move forward.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mornings have Broken

So, I have tried to focus my efforts in beginning my day on a positive note. I have to say that it has created a marked visible change. I feel much more positive during the day. 

Here were my big morning issues:

1. I was waking up every morning later than my original intent. I wanted to get up earlier and practice, but I just could not commit myself to it. This left me feeling guilty and frustrated. My solution: make time to practice later in the day. My day is already long, making it longer was making me tired and groggy. Now I wake up without guilt, without being upset.

2. I was prepping myself for a bad day. The stuff that makes me upset during the day does not need to take over my morning. My morning is valuable me time, why not keep it that way. 

The change in morning attitude has been wonderful - now onto tackling the rest of the day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Waking up to Contentment

For some reason, one of the hardest things to do is wake up contented. How is this? The day is just beginning. The rising sun is a metaphor for newness - everything starts again. But so many of my mornings are spent in full-on grump. What's the deal?

After a few days (or more) of waking up to discontentment, I have decided to wake up tomorrow excited. We shall see how it goes. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Today's Journey to Contentment

This morning I have been honing my focus to my current situation. While there are things in my life that I am trying to overcome, that does not mean that I have to loathe those parts of my life. As a person (like everyone else), I want to do what I like and prefer not to do the things that I dislike. Life, however, deals is additional cards. The game does not always  close in our favor. We win some, we lose some, and every now and again we tie - landing midway toward our goal. 

But here is the struggle - we aren't losing when we have to do the things we dislike, those things are just part of life. Some of our dislikes can be removed from our lives, stepped away from, or abandoned. Others cannot. If we are in unhealthy relationships or if we dislike our jobs, we can get out. We cannot, however, stop taking out the trash - no matter how much we dislike it. 

For me, in a time of transition, my work is to find contentment in the things that no longer serve me - for now, while they are still part of my life. I cannot allow myself to spend those moments wishing or comparing. Each moment is as it is - it cannot be something else. There is no other moment but this moment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Duty with Pure Joy

I have been working hard to maintain my contentment practice in the past few days. I have to admit, it is easier with snow days :-). 

I read a new definition of Santosha (contentment) today - performing duty with pure joy. What a challenge. I can see in my nature that I prefer to do what I enjoy over the duty that I have at hand. It is easier to want something new or something more exciting than the duties as they are laid out in front of me. The word duty suggests that we are obligated or expected to perform that action. Taking the trash out - or shoveling snow is a duty - joy in cleaning the toilet is something I have not felt. 

This is my day's mission for tomorrow - performing my duties with complete joy. I am starting easy, as I have a half day at work. We will see how it goes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha

So everything has been going very well regarding my Santosha (contentment) practice. Everything was feeling light and easy. I have felt very present and am giving myself time for myself, which I have not done for a long time. 

There was, however, one thing that I could not be content with - that I know I need to face regularly. This one thing happens to be a MAJOR part of my life. (Pardon my vagueness, I am trying to share without giving away too much). I have been telling myself for a long time that something needs to change regarding this part of my life, but I feel very stuck. So, I decided to do something about it. I decided to take on a 40 days of chanting. Like many spiritual practices, that you may see in the bible or other spiritual books, some if the deepest practices take a commitment. Chanting for a result is one of them. 

So I chose a chant to Ganesh, which I am particularly fond of (Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha). This chant is known as the most effective at removing obstacles of all kinds. Since I feel so held back by this particular part of my life, I would like to do my best to remove any obstacles and either accept it as it is or move on.

After one day of chanting, I feel a new purpose. I have already begun taking new steps to move on, and this rather heavy piece of my life has become more acceptable to deal with. 

Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha!

One more step toward Santosha.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nothing exists but this moment

There is a saying that nothing exists but this moment. While this may be true, my mind thinks differently. I learned from my experience the other day at the fireplace that I no longer have to react negatively to this truth. 

When I sat to meditate today, I decided to think of the situation as funny: every time my brain jumps to something in the future, I decide to take it lightly. I typically get upset when I watch my mind do this. I have decided to change my reaction to that of old friends who love eachother for their flaws.  I am trying to be content with things that bring me discontent. I will try to disconnect myself from that feeling of frustration - so I feel the best thing I can do is the opposite, love my mind for what it is. I do feel like my mind is trying to do good, it just doesn't know how to stop and stay present. 

Om gam Ganapatayei Namaha!


I was blessed today to have a day by myself - completely alone in quiet. It is the perfect day - there is snow falling outside and I am bundled up by the fire in my little house. I decided to give myself the joy of doing all of the stuff that I always want more time for. Some of those things include meditation, sitting in front of the fire, reading, and enjoying my own asana practice.

I decided to read more about contentment (as I am working with contentment in my life). I read about pain and pleasure and how we naturally hold onto our need for pleasure instead of just enjoying it. This need to grasp (and I am not sure if it comes from fear or our mind's natural aptitude for creating miserable self-fulfilling prophesies) makes it even harder for us to enjoy our lives.

I was so intrigued by this that I decided to test this idea. I sit down in front of the fire to meditate for a short time. I close my eyes and I automatically start to get restless. I start to think, "the fire is so beautiful, what if I miss it?"  Instead of enjoying the fire with my eyes closed, feeling the warmth and listening to the soothing crackling sound, I start to grip onto the idea of the fire. For some reason I could not let myself enjoy it, perhaps because it will eventually be gone or I will be away from home soon. Regardless of the reason, I was so shocked that I could not stop gripping at the idea of enjoyment - I was gripping so much I could not even allow myself to enjoy it. 

Then it happened. I started laughing. How absurd! I wanted nothing more to sit and enjoy - but I could not let go. My laughter slowly helped to release something - and I began to just listen to the crackling and absorb the warmth. 

How often do we deny ourselves? How much of our lives are spent holding on for dear life? How much time do we waste by worrying and clinging?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 1 - Santosha

So I have been giving Santosha a chance. Here was the task - note any instance of thinking g about the next thing or look for happiness outside of myself. I stopped writing them all down because there have been so many. 

I am not going to make a laundry list, but I will say that there is some work to be done. Especially looking for happiness outside of myself - I do this chronically. I look for happiness in my job, I look for happiness from friends, my partner, and more. 

I tried spending this evening looking at my life as it is and be grateful for it. I have been trying to enjoy, take in, and be a part of every moment. I need to do this more often!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ok, I'm Back (Or Hope to Be) - Revisiting Santosha

Ok, I know. I have not written a blog post in forever - seriously, forever. For some time I have been kicking myself for not writing. The longer I put it off, the harder it became to start again.

  • My new mission - trying to write every day. 
  • What will likely happen - trying to write once a week

I am just coming off of the most amazing weekend. This past weekend was my last 500 hour advanced teacher training weekend. I feel so blessed to have worked, studied, shared, and created with a small group of profoundly wonderful people. This inspiration has pushed me to bring a new fervor to my practice, including working more deeply with my blog. For those of you reading this from Facebook - I swear, I will not post every post, just the ones I REALLY like. :)

I shared with the group on Saturday that I have been struggling with a severely negative attitude lately. I may not have been showing it (I try to keep it to myself), but it has been influencing me very deeply. I feel that it has influenced both my work and home life and it is about time I do something about it. 

So here is my remedy - Santosha (Contentment). Santosha is one of yoga's Niyamas (rules, observances, restrictions). For the next month I will try my best to live the Niyama of Contentment. So here we go. 

I am arming myself with a few tools. My main tool is a book that I have fallen in love with recently - The Yamas& Niyamas by Deborah Adele. If you have not picked this one up - do it! she says that Contentment is falling in love with your life - exactly what I need. 

In her book, Adele gives a month's plan for developing Santosha:

  • Week 1: Journal when you find yourself getting ready for the next thing or look for contentment outside of yourself.
  • Week 2: Notice how much energy you expend moving towards what you enjoy and avoiding what you dislike.
  • Week 3: Take responsibility for emotional disturbances. Trace every annoyance back to yourself.
  • Week 4: Practice gratitude and non seeking. Be content with each moment as it is.

This will be a challenge. I know that it takes 30 days of consistent work to create new habits/break old habits, so I am glad that she has created these tools the way she did. I will let you know how it goes.