Speed

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My dear friend Jen sent me the perfect text the other day. “This has been the weirdest longest shortest year ever.” It’s hard to believe it’s now December, nine months since everything came to a grinding halt. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we were trying to figure out what this virus would mean to all of us. And in other ways, it feels like years ago. Time has actually gone by just as it always has, but it has felt different this year.

Prior to the pandemic we were a society moving at breakneck speed. Our devices are made to work quickly and efficiently so that information, goods and services, and communications are all at our fingertips. That in turn helps our lives do the same. Then we were forced to slow down. For many of us that has been a difficult thing. Moving quickly can be a way of not allowing ourselves time to dig too deep into what is going on around us.

Being forced to slow down can actually be a great gift. I found a quote relating to this by Pico Iyer in Tias Little’s book “The Practice is the Path,” and I think it resonates with that idea.

“In an age of speed…nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

Tias’ book has a whole chapter devoted to how speed gets trapped in the body. Our bodies have become addicted to the adrenaline rush of speed. According to Tias, “Speed gets trapped in the diaphragm, fascia, gut, arteries, and nerves.” This speed trap results in exhaustion, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, restlessness and lack of awareness. Tias says: “How do we take our foot off the accelerator? It begins in the body by slowing the heart rate, reducing the sympathetic drive (responsible for the flight-or-flight response), slowing the breath, lowering blood pressure, and sleeping longer and deeper. On the mat, we learn to break out of the “habit body” that is compelled by urgency and motivated by acquisition. We must learn the art of being through ease, stillness, and silence. In yoga this is called satchitananda – the joy of just being.”

It is my hope that, as the winter Solstice approaches and the days slowly become longer, we learn from slowing down. That we notice the passing of an hour, a day, or a week. And feel satchitananda.

Gifts

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‘Tis the season to be thinking of gifts for those we love. And along with everything else this year, Christmas has a different vibe and we may not get to be with those we love. I have been struggling myself with the idea of meaningful gifts for those I love and ways to spark some holiday cheer. Here are a couple of ideas I came up with:

The gift of a meaningful compliment Do you recall how it feels when someone gives you a compliment that really hits home in your heart? It’s one of the best feelings there is. For many years, I struggled to really hear and take in what people were saying when they paid me a compliment. I did not have the self worth to acknowledge my gifts. Now, I take them in and really feel them. I was given one this week by a dear friend and it brought me to tears at how heartfelt it was. Sincere compliments are the best free gifts there are!

The unexpected gift Is there someone you know that is typically not on your gift list? Why not surprise them with an unexpected gift. My neighbor just recently surprised us with a beautiful cheese board in the shape of a lotus flower. She saw it, thought of me, and it made my day. It’s amazing how it great it feels to receive an unexpected gift.

The pay it forward gift I love the surprise on people’s faces when their coffee or groceries get paid for by the person ahead of them in line. I just saw this week that the longest “pay it forward” chain started on Dec. 3 at a Dairy Queen in Brainerd, MN and lasted 3 full days. The 900 vehicle chain resulted in $10,000 in sales. I sure wouldn’t want to be the person that broke that chain! While we may not be out in public as often these days, the need is real out there. And what a great way to spread some holiday cheer.

Desmond Tutu puts is beautifully in The Book of Joy. “So… our book says that it is in the giving that we receive. So I would hope that people would recognize in themselves that it is when we are closed in on ourselves that we tend to be miserable. It is when we grow in a self-forgetfulness-in a remarkable way I mean we discover that we are filled with joy. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more and more joyful.”

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