Big Love

Can we do this? Can we see each other as we are? Can we drop all the pretenses of that which separates us and give each other the care we need to survive life together? Can we stop seeing differences and start seeing a human family?

The intellect – that which we strive to improve – those arguments – pushes us further away from each other. The adolescent neuroses – those tantrums – the me me me – drives us even harder away. And even the thought of an innocent heart – childlike wonder – can save us, is a fallacy.

This is a very small world where nothing is gained and everything is lost. Arguments need sides. A this or that. When you start separating each other out, the heart loses and the adolescent neuroses of jealousy, envy, fear of vulnerability, fear of not being special, fear of being left behind, the mental reactions in a mind that manufactures a reality from feeling alone take over.

Everyone is told that they are special. In fact, if you don’t believe in your own specialness, the thought is that there must be something wrong with you. That again – begins the separation. If I’m special, then no one else can be – because special is well, special. This specialness also is what makes people not consider others. Specialness brings with it an air of superiority which again separates us. This superiority is seen in attitudes that “you just have to want it more” or “you can manifest it if you try” – which always has an air of Well you must not be as special. That somehow your lack of success is tied to and therefore someone else’s success is tied to Specialness.

So what makes me special? And can I keep this up every single day? The answer is NO. My humanness makes me a part of you, and we are absolutely and deliciously normal. We falter, we ache, we strive, we are committed, we grow, we rejoice, we are grateful, we express an individuality that is uniquely our own, but it is no better or worse than anyone else’s.

Our way of dealing with success, loss, and forces that are beyond our control is what makes us who we are – but, we all go through this. Each of us. To ignore the ebbs and flows of our life, is not the answer. Be Present. A lot of people think that going back to childlike wonder is the way to express carefree happiness in the world. But you are not a child. Children have yet to experience and understand the world beyond their expectations of parental love. There is no way that a child can respond and survive shocks to their emotional makeup when love is withdrawn, or love is expressed inappropriately or even appropriately. Children will begin naturally, unconsciously, to develop mechanisms to shut out or gather things from a place of reaction. To be a mature adult, we really need to stay present with the world. To unravel our reactionary feelings from what is appropriate to the moment. It’s like when someone is immersed in something on their phone while driving which causes them to make unpredictable traffic errors, and reacts angrily when people start honking at them. Childlike wonder is not being present to what your life is in that moment. If you are not present to your life, how can you respond well enough to it? And express it to your full potential?

This is no way to live.

To live constantly in the shadow of specialness is exhausting. WE ALL are not special. None of us. WE ALL are not anything but normal. The most beautiful part of the human heart is to recognize this in each other. WE ALL live and strive to be the best we can be – yes. We have uniqueness in as much as each of us is an individual. But to hang our hat on Special? That, there, is a neurosis.

Social media has made our lives a lie to the world. We only show what’s good, and lovely in our lives. Is it because there’s the prevailing admonishment of anyone who says they’re struggling is just trying to get attention? Is it not true the other way around? How relieved we are to hear from people who have felt or are feeling the same way. Our struggles are universal and we are calmed to hear – I feel that, too. Celebration of victory comes from sharing in the struggle. If the heroine didn’t almost give up, then we would not feel the elation of victory.

Grow up into a mature heart that knows that life can be rough. That the fear we feel is mostly manufactured. In our heads. Maybe the answer to seeing each other as humans that are fallible, are not perfect, who hurt and cry, who sing and dance is to be like guardians, treat each other as a precious gift to watch over and watch grow. Love that is Big can weather any perceived differences the intellect throws up. The Big Heart is courageous. The Big Love is sweet.

Love like that.

#love #earth #human #freedom 

** Anyone who knows the person whose photo this is, please let me know – I’d like to give them credit. Thanks.

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The Continuing Saga of My Relationship with My Computer

Last night, I left my computer in the living room in the cubby hole space I have to do my practice in – I need it there to play music. I didn’t leave it there on purpose – I just left it there.

After my practice, I sat at my desk for about an hour without my computer in front of me. I had a feeling I had not felt in a long long time at my desk – breath, air, space. There was a feeling of such relaxed contentment that I could actually think! My thoughts were my own. I felt creative!

I was not deterred or distracted from just staring out the window or looking down at the empty page in my book. I was really there observing. Not partaking in anything that constantly needed my attention because there was nothing to do but to be in my space. It felt good – really good.

I think I’m going to do that every day for an hour – take my computer off my desk and sit there with my own thoughts. ahhhhhh.

Wisdom

Old Woman

Photo Credit: Old Lady by Kevin Demers, Ecuador; cropped

Wisdom can come at any age. Aging just reminds us of it in the nick of time… You don’t have to wait for it to come upon you. The Life Within is constant but unseen to most like the water that flows under the crust of the earth. Dig deep and you will find it and be refreshed!

Link to article: http://www.ramdass.org/the-life-within/

 

 

Conversations between two Yoginis…

Yogini:

How can I simultaneously be overwhelmed with teacher training and wanting to add more workouts?

I’ve been taking around 5-6 yoga classes a week, including Mysore, and I’m starting to miss a more well-rounded routine with a bit of running and strength training thrown in (also, I’d love to look really, really good for Mexico).

But at the same time, I have very little time, feel constantly tired, and I’m very stressed with work. Not sure how to work this all out in my head.

My response:

“The distance between what you desire and what your reality is, is in exact proportion to how much pain you’re in.” – Wayne Liquorman said something like this…

Meaning that your desire for what is not yet reality (that’s your belief): “to look really, really good for Mexico” or to have the time to have a “well-rounded” training, is getting in the way of you being fully and completely in the present moment. When we’re not fully in the present moment, meaning appreciating – those who are with us, or the task at hand, then our lives feel empty and we believe we are lacking.

As far as I can see, there are two things going on for you: 1. you are not appreciating (but trying to) your effort and work in your yoga training because you think – one, that you should be doing more, and two, that there is some goal you’re not reaching if you don’t run or strength train…, and 2. you are not aware of the work that is actually happening. You may be “constantly” tired because you worry about not doing enough and can’t see that you might be pushing you too much – perhaps.

Go deeper.

I used to think like you. I did yoga. I worked out. etc. But when I finally relaxed into the practice and did nothing else I found that yoga gave me my body back! I wasn’t looking like every one out there because I am not every one out there. I came to appreciate my body more and stopped fighting against it.

Really what I have to say, or anyone else, will not do anything for you until you (your organism – not your head) are ready for a change.

All you need to know – truly – is that: you are in the place you need to be right now at this moment. This is your moment – the confusion, the dichotomy – it’s not a bad place to be. Listen to it. Be aware of how it rises and falls this feeling of being not “good enough” yet… Be aware and give yourself permission to feel this way. Identify the feeling. Where is it? Then just sit with it.

Immerse yourself in the present moment. When thoughts arise about the future, let them go as quickly as possible and say these things: I am here right now. I feel my… (hand on my lap – insert what is appropriate), I see… (insert what is appropriate), I smell… (insert what is appropriate). Repeat this over again, siting different things. Relax into the not knowing of where you’ll end up.

Learn to trust the universe!

Good luck!

Peace!

Christine

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Learning from Ourselves… Injury in Yoga

This blog post is in response to this article which was making the rounds on Tumblr. It’s about avoiding injury in yoga. yada yada yada. Yes. I have a fair amount of dismissiveness toward those who insist that we be careful all the time – what are you my mom!? Sure go easy when you’ve never done something before and so on that’s just common sense (as someone said in response to this article on Tumblr).

But I say that sometimes (when it comes to yoga especially), it’s a good thing…

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What follows is the conversation.

me: If you look at the Pema quote …

“We regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors – people who have a certain hunger to know what is true – feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back.”
– Pema

… you would understand that injury (pain) is sometimes a big part of the whole practice (not just asana but includes it). Sometimes the body needs it. Sometimes the mind needs it… if you’d like to know more, ask me a question! 🙂 Peace! #1barefootgirl

#playitbackward: Injury is not the same as pain, but I would like to know more!

Me: Yes. True the kind of injury I’m talking about is not just pain. What I’ve found in my years of practice of asana that an injury can be one of two things (but is not exclusive to these two):

1. when I say injury is for the mind what I mean by that is it reflects outwardly what we are manifesting psychically. The mind has its own agenda and sometimes the body can’t keep up. We are told to push, to not give up, etc. (not in yoga necessarily – but there are some…) in our lives and unconsciously we bring this to our practice. A lot of people think that they can overcome their “egos” easily by just practicing asana or sitting in meditation but sometimes these are exactly the places where the ego will assert itself. Strongly sometimes. You can not eradicate the ego entirely and it’s very good at playing tricks. Injury is a sign that there is something you’re doing in your body that needs to be listened to (body/mind) that the ego is refusing to acknowledge. For example: I was teaching this woman for the longest time – good student and very flexible (naturally). She complained about lower back problems all the time that were so specific that it could only be coming from the way she did forward bends. I adjusted, I explained, I pleaded with her but to no avail. Every time she would go into the forward bend, she would over extend herself (I can explain how some other time).

What it would take for her to be deeply in her forward bend without creating “injury” are two things:

one – She had to change her mind/ego about what sensation in her body is telling her that it feels good. Her “feel good” sensation in her forward bend was telling her that she was deep in her bend but was neglecting or overriding the feeling of pain in her low back. So every time she came out of it she was reminded of the pain.

Two: If then she changed her approach to the posture and were to pull back and start to work into the posture enhancing protective measures for her back which are basically muscle engagement issues (she had weak abs and so on) and pivoting issues, she would have slowly worked the bend by letting the posture unfold from the very top of the posture. She would have enlisted her body/mind consciousness better and she would work into the bend more along the lines of her body’s reality rather than what her mind was used to which was her “chronic” body and therefore into the injury.

So here I’m talking about the mind latching onto a sensation that is only part of the story. But the ego is satisfied because on the outside it looks like (and feels like) a very deep forward bend. What I always tell my students is to look for the depth of the posture not just the surface sensations and then I try to teach that through meditation and deep asana work. In other words, work on the body/mind connection deeply.

We throw around the phrase body/mind a lot but most do not know what it is because the work is not forthcoming. It takes a great deal of sincerity and surrender. IMHO.

2. When I say the injury is good for the body I mean that the body has chronic holds and old injuries that sometimes can only be dealt with by breaking it apart first. Sometimes the injury is in a place in your body where there was deep scarring, early (sometimes in vitro) injury which needs release which manifests in “injury”. We talk about injury in negative terms always and never really talk in terms of the body actually healing itself by readjusting itself or releasing itself and so we call these “injuries”. Perhaps the word is inaccurate for these types of “body manifestations”.

Let me give you an example: I had been practicing and teaching asana for years. My body is such that it takes a long time to unravel into a posture any of them no matter what. So I work diligently day and night to unlock the mystery of my body. Because of my body’s reluctance to open up without creating a lot of pain for me (at night I would wake with excruciating pain in my hips and legs), I would be very clear (cultivated slowly through my own practice) as to how I was moving and not to move anything that didn’t need to move. One day I was working on Upavistha Konasana – simple right. But I ripped the tendons and leg out of the hip socket. I don’t think I’m strong enough especially in a seated posture to pull anything out so securely in place, but it came out. And the reason, I think, was because the femur head was in the wrong place in the first place. Forever I had pain in that leg and the knee. I didn’t run because of it. My lotus sucked because of it. I had trouble in most postures because of it. After the “injury”, it took 3 years to recover (I lost all the forward bend capability in my body) but as I taught and practiced I was very aware of the injury and moved in a very methodical exacting way. For the three years, I became acutely aware of how I moved my body especially in forward bends but also in other postures. After healing, I got the worst hamstring pulls, still do every once in a while, and my body still took time to move and advance in postures. But, there was a huge change in the sensation in my hip socket and leg. It felt looser and there was actual sensation deep in the tissues so I could finally develop more body/mind. What I learned was that the injury actually readjusted my leg in my hip socket. So my forward bends became deeper, and especially my body/mind deepened. I move my leg from a different place in my body now because of the injury – in a good way.

I am not saying we should all go out and injury ourselves for the sake of self-discovery. But there are times of injury that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided just because that’s the place where the real learning is…

(…and that’s why you can’t separate asana practice from the rest of its counterparts… without the spiritual aspect yes then injury is just about being an idiot…)

Hope this helps… 🙂 Peace! 1barefootgirl.

Reflection: Looking in the mirror…

Reflection: Looking in the mirror...

What if the only mirror you had was sitting right in front of you.

Answers To Some Questions Someone Asked Me…

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Someone asked me about my practice. It is hard to articulate and I don’t think I’ve expressed it as well as I can. It’s hard for me to express something that I do so intuitively. But here goes – I hope you find this informative and inspiring! 🙂 Peace!

What brought you to devote your energies to yoga?

It wasn’t really my decision. I think all my life had been directing me that way. Since I was a child, I had this feeling that I was to heed the call of the universe but obligations in regular life kept me from seeing my path clearly. It took me years to follow the calling. And when I did, it threw my life into a tailspin. I lost friends and my family because they could not understand the direction my life was taking. I sacrificed a lot but gained so much. I attained a disposition that is contentment itself. I could not have experienced this without the pain and sacrifice, without the missteps. I devote my energies to yoga, because all there is – is Yoga. Everything else is Maya; superficial; unreal.

How does it “in-form” [sic] the person that you are?

If Yoga speaks through me then there is a truth that is in my eyes. I cannot hide or “get rid of” the organism I am; the human I am. I cannot ignore that I am a very sensitive human being. Not only in emotions – because I’m not as sensitive that way as others – but my organism is sensitive. I taste more, I smell more, I feel more, I vibe more. This, when attached with an ego, can get very irritating and precarious and at the same time, can make me acutely aware of my surroundings and the other humans near me. Yoga takes my hand and leads me through the jungle, swamp as my teacher likes to call it. So yoga doesn’t take away the uncomfortable moments as it doesn’t take away the blissful moments. Yoga doesn’t distinguish one from the other. It is all experience. It is all about being human. Being a restless spirit. Yoga informs my organism by allowing my humanness to express itself without judgment. I feel the embrace of god no matter what I do these days. Yoga – as I become transparent – accepts the incarnation of whatever happens through my ego.

How does it relate to seeing in terms of sacred and profane and to your quest to integrate these poles?

Yoga then is ultimately a heart path. It is not just an intellectual path. It is not just a physical path. It is not just a mindful path. Once the ego has been exposed to the Yogic path; after all the fighting and resisting, the heart opens up to all possibilities of expression; that there is no right way or wrong way to attain Yoga. The heart, in the ego’s evolution to spirit, casts a wide net and sees which way to turn next. All movements toward deepening are accepted and in line with the dharma – whether it is sitting in meditation or learning a (big or small) lesson from a decision made. The stronger the heart path the more sincerity, with sincerity there’s honesty and humility, with honesty and humility comes equanimity. With equanimity, there is acceptance of all. Integrating the sacred and the profane in one place, one organism, is to practice non-dualism or advaita and that is what I think is the truth of the universe. The restless spirit goes through stages of evolution and revolution to reach Yoga and anything can get you there if you are listening and done with sincerity.

 How is your practice related to architecture?

When I was practicing architecture, I was concerned with how the ‘spirit’ was expressed through building. I turned to a lot of the modern architecture of Europe but also and more importantly of Japan.

Japanese architecture always fascinated me – at least when the architectural space expressed the concepts of opposites and their juxtapositions through materials, expression of space and how they use it. The Zen garden was a part of that as well as placing cool water in relationship with warm wood, or stone floor as transition between garden and tatami mat. And so on. To me, this created an experience of balance between sensations of the senses. A yin yang of living if you will. It reminds me of Hatha yoga – balancing energies through the physical manifestation of opposites.

As well, I studied a lot of medieval architecture and urban landscapes because they showed how humans met their needs in built form and at that time it was unstructured (to a certain extent), unhindered by intellectual notions of design and unself-conscious. Take gothic cathedrals for instance – they were built simply to express their devotion to the Divine. And like gothic architecture, the spiritual path takes time, patience, devotion (to the work as well as god), vision, concentration, and contentment (because you might not see your efforts come to fruition in this lifetime).

And finally, Sacred Geometry and Alchemy. My studies informed me that there are unseen forces which can be expressed through certain parameters – that the Divine is revealed through them. In built form, sacred geometry harnesses the energies from the universe – the sun and stars. The architecture then becomes the energy field. It is then interesting to compare the practice of yoga asana with this harnessing of energy of the universe. Sacred geometry is expressed through form and mathematics. I suppose you could say that asana can be and, in theory, is that precise and practical. Sacred geometry and its expressions need to be precise in order to harness these energies. Hatha yoga need not be – precise – in form. Every body is different and can not express postures in the same way. Then what is it? It needs to be precise in ‘energy’. Energy to me equals mindfulness (or right-mindedness) plus perseverance (dedication) plus forcefulness (effort) with breath. Enacting Hatha yoga postures in this way is the harnessing of divine energy from within – not without. Where sacred architecture draws from outside and then contains the energies within, a human being creates the energy within and contains it. This is known as Prana, created through breath and enacting the postures with force (Hatha yoga – the ‘forceful’ practice). Both the architectural space and the individual contain the energy within.

Is yoga as you practice it a kind of embodied, spiritual architecture?

I suppose if I read this like: that the practices of yoga and meditation are a kind of architecture which endeavors to express the restless spirit – so in a way, to find new form by building or by practicing; by sensing the changes that are needed and making adjustments; by recognizing the potential and limitations of what you have to work with; by harnessing and containing these energies (prana) within, and finally, by knowing that this kind of embodiment is much bigger than you. To that, then yes, I’d say so.

How do your Buddhist meditative practices relate to or complement your yoga practices?

Buddhist meditation practices complement my yoga practice because of its simplicity. I practice Zazen, which really means to “just sit”. I take that into my asana practice and although I’m very aware of structure, my meditation practice helps me to “just practice” and breathe. We sometimes like to put values or qualifications on our practice – do this and you will be healthy or fit or whatever; do meditation and you will be calm or mindful and so on. Really there’s no guarantee that any of that will happen for you. We say, build your core and you can do handstand easily or this or that arm balance. But in truth there’s a lot more going on in an asana, which does not relate at all to how strong your core muscles are that would hold you back from realizing that goal. So then, in the “just sitting” or the practice of Ashtanga (in my view) is the means to the end. The practice or rather to practice is the goal. And you do the best you possibly can in your body, your organism with sincerity.

How do you see the evolution of your path?

Really to just keep doing. Keep making myself available to my own practice, to the universe, to others. Making myself available to others also drives me down my path. Making myself available to the universe means to cultivate intuition, heart and mind. So on that note – thank you for asking these questions because it has helped me to articulate these things that I do intuitively.

I hope I’ve answered your questions for you. Please feel free to ask me to clarify anything that you are unsure about.

Peace!

Christine