"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
Happy Fourth of July from the Yoga Goat! As my teacher, Tias Little, said yesterday at the end of class…Happy Interdependence Day! We are all dependent on each other for our well being. While this holiday looks different for most of us this year, let’s not forget the connections of family and friends that support and lift us up.
Back in March I was fortunate to enjoy a free webinar from one of my favorite teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater, and her daughter Lizzie Lasater entitled “Love in the time of the Virus.” It was a great experience and, as expected, I was able to pull several nourishing nuggets from the session.
One that has really stuck with me is a visualization technique to help quiet what Buddhists refer to as the “Monkey Mind.” Monkey Mind is a state of being where your thoughts are swirling and rapid, so much so that they become your focal point. These intruding thoughts could be fear or stressed based, oriented in the past or future, and can make you feel consumed and agitated.
The technique starts with simply taking a moment to see that you are breathing diaphragmatically, which is taking slow, deep breaths that allow the belly to expand with the inhale and release with the exhale. Do this a few times and slowly shift your focus and awareness to your skull. Notice the front and back of the skull. Then notice both sides of the skull. Then shift your focus to the center of the brain, and rest there. Deep in the center of the brain is the basal ganglia. They are neurons responsible for movement, emotion, learning and complex motor activity. With your awareness here, relax and try to feel as if you are uniting and quieting all of these activities.
When I practice this, I feel an almost instant quieting of these swirling thoughts. Try this technique as part of a meditation practice or when you just need that moment of zen during the day. Maybe it’s while you are making dinner, or standing in line at Trader Joe’s. Shift the focus back to yourself, find the center of your brain, and bring some calm into your world.
“Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will,” sings iconic musician James Taylor.
My husband and I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary, and spent part of the evening listening to James. His songs remind us of the wonderful times we spent listening to him while we were dating, and are a nostalgic balm.
Earlier we had received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my in-laws. My mother-in-law, Libby, makes the effort to send us calla lilies each year in remembrance of the flowers I carried on my wedding day. She is someone who knows how to shower the people she loves with love. She has the ability to raise other people’s positive vibrations just by her presence. It starts with her southern charm, and is then fueled by her generous heart. She has the gift of truly listening, understanding what someone is needing, and finding a way to give it to them. To say that I scored big in the mother-in-law department is an understatement.
Now more than ever it seems like the time for us all to try to lift each other up and provide positive vibrations. And not just friends and family, but everyone we encounter. We are all feeling pain. It started with the coronavirus, then the layoffs and closings, and has deepened with the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Like others, I have seen normal encounters become angry exchanges much too quickly these last weeks. Now is the time to not only shower the people we love with love, but to shower ALL people with love. It’s time to take a deep breath and try to feel compassion for the person in front of you before acting or speaking. You don’t know what pain they might be feeling. With each interaction you have think to yourself: how can I leave this person better than I found them? Give a kind word or bigger smile to those we encounter. Leave them better than you found them with the kindness that lives in all of our hearts.
Things are gonna be much better if you only will.
After much consideration, I have decided to offer private yoga classes online to those that are interested. I have been enjoying the yoga classes I have been taking online during the pandemic. I feel it is now the way of the future. I also am concerned about keeping students safe. I feel private, one- on-one, or a household of family members and friends, is the way to go for me. I specialize in gentle/restorative yoga and yoga for cancer survivors, however I also teach Hatha alignment based yoga. We can practice with vigor, ease or both.
Of course, I will tailor the practice to you! We will have a brief conversation at the beginning of our time together and I will choose the poses to practice based on what’s going on with you that day. I am excited to share my love of Yoga! I will be giving discounts for joining my email list (subscribing) The-Yoga-Goat.com and for buying a block of four classes. Privates will be $40 for the hour, $35 with a subscription. A block of 4 privates will be $150, and $130 with a subscription. Please reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can comment to this blog or DM me!
It’s an interesting exercise to consider how much time you spend with thoughts about the future. Most of us like to do a little planning, and even wishful thinking, about what’s coming up next. But at a time like this it’s hard to say what will be going on next year, next month, or even next week.
For us, future thoughts are mostly about our daughter’s wedding in October. Planning that kind of event truly requires future thinking. Other than that we have no plans. We have things we would like to do, like trips to see friends and family. But it feels premature to make concrete plans that aren’t absolutely necessary.
The future has never been a guarantee, yet we have taken it as if it is. This pandemic has really brought home the idea of uncertainty. But what if it has also provided us a gift? What if we all took this opportunity to focus on the present, instead of the uncertainty of the future? A reboot of the brain to stay closer to the now. Concentrating on the day we are in, and trying not to stray too far from the moment The present is the gift. The gift is the present.
Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten
and so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness – one of the doors into the temple.
There is a lot of frequent hand washing these days. I think it is a practice that will be done more often even after the threat of the pandemic eases. The idea of time spent washing hands has made me think of Thich Nhat Hanh. In his book “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” he talks about making even the most benign tasks a meditative moment and a moment to be in gratitude. His suggestion for washing hands is:
Water flows over these hands,
May I use them skillfully
To preserve our precious planet
He also suggests that each time we turn on the facet to have a moment of gratitude for fresh water flowing out of the facet. It is a gift that is often taken for granted and it is life sustaining.
Another idea that he presents in his book “Peace is Every Step” is to really look at your hands and see your ancestors. He tells the story of a friend who was parting from his mother. She held his hand and told him: “Whenever you miss me, look into your hand, and you will see me immediately.” Washing hands could be that moment of contemplation. Do you have hands like your mother or more like your father? Think of all of your ancestors who have come before you to create the hands you have in front of you.
It could also be a moment of gratitude for all that we can do because we have these hands. The hands are truly one of the most amazing tools in the universe. I hope these ideas give you something new to think about the next (more frequent) time you wash your hands.
To discover more about Thich Nhat Hanh go to http://www.plumvillage.org
I have a delightful page-a-day calendar called Buddha Doodles. On some days, it’s that very quick zen reminder on a busy day. A little pearl of wisdom to carry with me. They are often a simple sentence or two, or a quote accompanied by a cute buddist cartoon. On a recent day it was: Listen with Love. At first, I brushed over the idea. Of course, “Listen with Love” I thought. Got it. Except do I? How often do I actually listen with true love in my heart. As someone speaks, do I drop all other thoughts and truly look the speaker in the face and open my heart and listen? As I gaze at that person, do I actually remind myself what caused me to love that person? Do I listen with not only my ears, but with all of my senses? Truly listening is a skill that we don’t actually practice very often. We live in a world of distraction. We may be raising a generation of distracted people. I owe it to my loved ones and those I come in contact with to truly listen. I invite you to join me in raising our listening skills.