Fear

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We are living in fear filled days. Fires, riots, violence, sickness and death seem to dominate our news and our conversations. And even if we try and filter our news and conversations, fear finds other ways to manifest itself. Fear can come from the being separated from something or someone that we think we need in order to feel secure or happy. Fear can come from being threatened by others. Fear can come from ignorance or self grasping. Fear can come from a past traumatic event that leaves a lasting influence. And, of course, fear of death can also have a very powerful effect.

When we let our fear or anger based emotions take up residence, it gives those emotions more power than they deserve. In yoga, we call these impressions Samaskaras. They are often compared to grooves in the road that get driven over again and again. Over time, these imprints begin to contribute to behavior patterns that can then lead to the forming of habits. Then that fear takes hold and feeds upon itself. One way to combat this negative cycle is to acknowledge the source of the fear and ask yourself why you feel this way.

  1. Do you have a fear of losing someone or something?
  2. Do you have a fear based on a threat from an outside force?
  3. Do you have a fear based on grasping or ignorance?
  4. Do you have a fear based on a traumatic event in the past?
  5. Do you have a fear of death?

Once you ask yourself these questions and acknowledge their presence, say to yourself “I am feeling this way because of my fear of ______ and I am not going to allow these feelings to create a Samaskara.”

Let that fearful thought move through you and don’t allow it to stick or create a rut or groove. It’s as if your mind/body is a filter and you let the worst of it pass through, not allowing it to take up residence. Then see if there is something positive or loving to focus on in its place.

In the wisdom of Buddha:

The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love.
Born out of concern for all beings..

As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.

Buddha

Just Three Things

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"I have just three things to teach:
Simplicity
Compassion
Patience
These three are your greatest treasures."

Lao Tzu


 

Lao Tzu, whose name is loosely translated as “old master,” is thought to have lived in 6th century BC and was a contemporary of Cunfusious. There is actually some mystery about whether Lao Tzu actually existed or is a compilation of thoughts that form the Taoist philosophy. Regardless of that, this ancient idea of teaching Simplicity, Compassion and Patience rings true today, especially during this pandemic. Sometimes it even feels like the pandemic came along to remind of us of these three very things.

Simplicity – What have you let go of during this time? I’m certainly buying fewer things like clothing right now. I am reminded of what is truly important and it’s not things…it’s people and relationships.

Compassion – There is suffering all around us. I love the thought, “be kind because you will never know how much the person beside you is suffering.” Can we find more ways to show love to our fellow man?

Patience – I keep hearing people say that they are “just over this Covid thing.” Now is the time when we need to be the most patient and continue to do the things we know will help us stay healthy.

Which of these three is your greatest treasure? Which do you need more of? As I move through these difficult days, I feel like I am asked to deepen my capacity for each.

Happy Monday

I’m heading into Monday feeling tall and strong. Let’s practice yoga together. Join me for my public zoom class through Prairie Yoga at 5:00pm CST on Tuesdays. Or reach out to me to set up your own private zoom class. Who do you wish you could practice with? I teach moms and daughters and lifelong friends from all around the country. We can set up your own yoga party! My email is amyluwho2@att.net or https://prairieyoga.org

Wait for the mud to settle

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"Do you have the patience to wait
until your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
until the right action arises by itself?"     Lao Tzu



I like the concept in meditation that when we first sit to meditate our minds are like a jar, filled with water and mud, that has been shaken. As we settle in and become quiet, the sediment starts to sink to the bottom of the jar and the water becomes clear. The constant stream of thoughts that normally bombard us begin to slow their assault, and there begins to be a bit of space between those thoughts. Yoking the mind to focus on breath or mantra allows even more sediment to settle.  

Right now it feels as if the cosmic jar has been shaken, and there is significant mud to wade through. Each day it feels like there is another tragedy or event to try to take in and understand. Lao Tau's suggests that in times like these, we do our best to remain patient. Take in the events and feel all that is going on around us, but then wait before reacting. Step away from all media.  Go outside, unplug and be in nature. Sit and just be, and wait for your own mud to settle.  Start with trying this for just five minutes. Let your mind's eye watch the movement of your breath and be still. See if the thoughts begin to slow down.

 I believe the world would be a kinder, more thoughtful place if everyone would spend a few moments a day in meditation.  The mud is always going to be there.  It's up to us how we choose to react to it. 
 
In the words of one of my favorite teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater: 
"May you be like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters."

No, Yes and Wow

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I subscribed to a blog for years called Peaceful Daily by Sandy Corso. I have kept one of her posts called “No, Yes and Wow” as a reminder not only for myself, but also for my yoga students. It’s based on the book by Nischala Joy Devi’s called “The Secret Power of Yoga.” The concept is very simple yet powerful, and I think it hits home even more during this pandemic.

“No” is a powerful word. We are saying “No” to a lot right now; to social gatherings, to vacations, and especially to dining out. Saying “No” gives the illusion that one has control over their life. Sometimes “No” is the knee jerk reaction to the unknown. Saying “No” too much can make one fearful and rigid. It can create a heaviness in the heart as well.

“Yes” on the other hand brings a sense of possibilities, adventure and joy. Saying “Yes” opens us up to letting go of control and embracing the unknown. While saying “Yes” and doing it safely is a not as easy, we should all try to say a small “Yes” every day. It can be as simple as trying a new recipe or a new workout routine. While these adventures may be smaller, they can still help lift the heart.

Now to the “Wow.” Saying “Wow” as often and as enthusiastically as possible instills joy and gratitude. This is not the kind of “Wow” that comes easily off the tongue, such as when you have an immediate negative reaction to something. It’s a “Wow”of simple wonder that is almost childlike. It could be something seen in nature or the kind action of a friend. Life is still amazing and we need to keep noticing the wonders around us.

It’s an interesting exercise to notice on any given day how often you find yourself saying “No,” “Yes” and “Wow”. We should notice what too much “No” feels like. Too much “Yes” can be unhealthy as well. And it’s definitely ok to have lots of “Wow.” The trick is finding the balance of the three. It is my hope that you can find a combination that feels right to you.

Written with thanks to Kerry Wekelo who wrote the original blog back in 2012.

Summer Morning

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Heart,
I implore you,
it's time to come back
from the dark,

it's morning,
the hills are pink
and the roses
whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses,
their leaves

are shining.
Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this
a thousand times,

which isn't half enough.
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is

with mystery
and pain~
graced as it is
with the ordinary. 

By Mary Oliver

Covid observations

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I like to ride my bike.
I like to cook at home.
I love time with my hubby.
I miss hugs.
I love the library.
Trader Joe's is the best.
I still feel connected to others in zoom yoga class.
Sunlight brightens my mood.
So does being in nature.
Naps, oh yes.
The air fryer is a game changer.
Good neighbors mean even more right now.
It's hard to stay off the phone.
There is a a lot of suffering around us.
Time passes quickly even when you don't know what day it is.
I've forgotten what my clothes are like.
Staying home and wearing a mask cuts down on need for lipstick/lipgloss.
Why can't I remember to not bother putting on aforementioned lipgloss when I know I'll be wearing a mask?
Zoom happy hours are more fun than I thought they would be.
I don't remember living with this much uncertainty ever before.
I feel the love of family and friends more acutely. 





Good Trouble

"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."   John Lewis

Where the Light Enters

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The wound is where the light enters 
Rumi

This quote by Rumi resonates with me right now. The COVID pandemic has changed our world as we know it. Many of us have experienced loss, pain and unwanted change. The choice for those of us that have been wounded is to either transform, or remain in that place of pain. As my future son-in-law, Jordan, counsels his clients; “Can you make the pivot?” Perhaps that means finding a new way to be, learning new ways to adapt, or just let go of what no longer serves you. I think once we emerge from this unusual place, we will not be the same as a society or as individuals. How we choose to move forward will help to define who we are, and how we live in our new world.

Perhaps we can learn from the Japanese tradition of repairing broken objects, called Kintsugi. In this technique, the damaged portion is not something to be disguised or hidden. Instead, those portions are repaired with adhesive mixed with gold, so the repaired parts are easily seen. This philosophy treats the breakage and the repair as a part of the object’s history, and the object actually becomes more revered because of its flaws and imperfections.

It is my hope that we all emerge from this time mended by gold, and become stronger, kinder and even more beautiful.