Gratitude

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Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.
~Rumi

I like Rumi’s ancient wisdom. Because for me, Thanksgiving feels much different this year. It’s harder to find things to be grateful for, and might take more of a conscious effort. It may take looking around and noticing even the most basic of things to begin to cultivate that appreciation. Or it might require wrapping yourself in a favorite blanket, holding a favorite mug, or cuddling with a beloved pet to connect to the idea of comfort. Comfort can often become the gateway to the feeling of gratitude.

So, here are some things I am able to feel grateful for once I have donned my gratitude cloak. My family, which has increased by one this year with a new son-in-law. Friends nearby, and those far away that we are connected to via Zoom. My health and the health of those mentioned above. This blog which has been a wonderful outlet for my thoughts throughout this time. My followers and students whose support nourishes me more than they can possibly know.

I hope whatever your circumstances are this Thanksgiving that you can wrap up in your gratitude cloak and be conscious of some of the treasures that surround you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."  
~Thornton Wilder

Let’s Widen Our Circle

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“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

This quote is from “Words to Live By, Short Readings of Daily Wisdom” by Eknath Easwaran. The quote feels perfect for the time we find ourselves in. After so much divisiveness in our country, it’s my hope that there can now be healing and understanding. If we can get out of the “optical delusion” of social media maybe we can start dialogues that can widen our circle of compassion.

Stand in your truth

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I had the good fortune recently to spend time with my beloved mother-in-law, Libby. Time with her feeds my soul in a very special way, and she is the impetus for this blog. She said, “Amy, we need people to stand in their truth right now.”

I began reflecting on this after I left her. After arriving home I came across some notes from an online seminar with Judith Lasater and her daughter Lizzie called “Taking Refuge- Finding Peace in the Time of the Virus.” During this talk, the word “overwhelmed” was discussed. We all know the meaning of the word and many of us are feeling that way right now. Judith describes it as being pulled in many directions at once. But, says Judith, it also means disconnecting from ones true self.

My “self” is my highest form of refuge. In this context, refuge is not a location but a connection to your essence, your higher power, or however you define your “inner most knowing.” Refuge is not moving away from what’s happening around you, rather it is running towards what is happening with your own sense of truth. When in doubt, be in your truth and tell the truth as you know it.

What if you aren’t sure what your “truth” is? I suggest taking time for self reflection. Move away from outside stimulus and be quiet. Meditate even if only for 5-10 minutes Take time to not only observe your mind, but love your mind. A dear student sent me this reading recently that speaks to this beautifully:

As She Is
"In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that...
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there's something stronger - something better, pushing right back. 
 ~Albert Camus

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.