"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."
Happy Weekend one and all! Join Sophie and me for my public class through Prairie Yoga on Tuesdays at 5 pm CST or reach out to set up your own privates. Curious about yoga or want to do a deep dive on certain aspects of yoga? We can make the practice whatever you like. Hope to see you next week.
The ancient language of Sanskrit is based on the vibration created by combining various sounds for a desired effect. When we chant “Om” or Aum” during yoga or meditation, Indian wisdom describes it as the sound that most mimics the original vibration of the universe. So when we chant, or speak, we are connecting to our universe and pushing that vibration out into our world. However, that comes with a responsibility.
I think we have lost sight of that responsibility, and the weight that our words carry. We are too quick to go negative. Too quick to use words like hate, sucks, crazy, weird, ugly, dumb, stupid, moron, not to mention the more colorful words that I won’t print here. Granted, we have a lot to be upset about these days. But when we react to negativity with more negativity it feels like our vibration as a whole spirals downward.
When our kids were little, I recall my father-in-law disparaging our use of a pacifier beyond the first few months of their lives. He was concerned that it would stifle their ability to express themselves. I think that we continue to stifle ourselves by using the lowest denominator of words. Word choice matters. Before speaking, consider using these well known filters of speech: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? It is the right time?
And what about what Grandma said? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s ok to say nothing sometimes, especially if it protects you from going down to someone else’s level.
To produce a more positive vibration, consider your words before they leave your mouth. Do they sound pleasing? Do they get your point across with ease? Can you soften the harsh edges to create a greater cadence to the sound of your voice? Let’s change the sound of our universe right now.
“If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.” David Carradine
I am excited to announce that I will be teaching a weekly LiveStream class through Prairie Yoga! Prairie Yoga is where I received my 500 level teacher training and was my yoga home before leaving Illinois last year. Thank you, Lori Gaspar, for this opportunity.
My Gentle yoga class will be held Tuesdays at 5:00pm Central time, and will cost $18 for a virtual drop-in or $99 a month for unlimited LiveStream classes. Go to http://www.prairieyoga.org to sign up.
I have also now upgraded my Zoom capabilities, so I can teach online to more than one household at a time. That means you can get together with your friends and family across the country, and we can all do yoga together.
Online yoga sessions are $40 per person for an hour, $35 with a subscription to my blog, http://www.the-yoga-goat.com. A block of 4 privates will be $150 per person, and $130 with a subscription. You can reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, comment to this blog or DM me.
"We are of the Earth, and belong to You.
Every step that we take upon You
should be done in a sacred manner,
each step should be as a prayer."
Black Elk, Native American spiritual leader
A dear, thoughtful friend has gifted me yoga classes with one of our favorite teachers, Tias Little. Many of his classes begin by lying on the mat in Savasana, which for non-yogis means lying supine on the mat. Beginning this way resonates with me because, with everything that is swirling around us right now, it feels nice to be grounded and connected to the earth. When I give up fighting gravity and let go into earth’s pull, I feel a sense of comfort. The earth is always here underneath us, gently spinning on its axis, and yet we are rarely still enough to try to sense it. Being on the earth can be a healing salve.
How do you know if you need to take Savasana? Here are some symptoms that might be telling: feeling ungrounded; overstimulated by events around you; spacey; trouble making decisions; restless; trouble sleeping; anxious and stressed. Feeling just one of these symptoms qualifies you for a 10 to 20 minute time-out in Savasana. Rest on the earth and do nothing. When I had a yard, I loved lying on the grass and looking up at the sky. If it’s hard to lie down, take your shoes off and feel the earth under your feet. Give yourself rest in any comfortable position that works for you. Rest from the media, rest from technology, or just rest from those around you. Allow yourself to feel the nourishment of your bones sinking down into the earth.
In “Peace is Every Step,” a wonderful book by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, he says to focus on mindful breathing. “While we practice conscious breathing, our thinking will slow down, and we can give ourselves a real rest. Most of the time, we think too much, and mindful breathing helps us to be calm, relaxed, and peaceful. It helps us stop thinking so much and stop being possessed by sorrows of the past and worries about the future. It enables us to be in touch with life, which is wonderful in the present moment.”
When I come out of Savasana, having rested on the earth, I often have a new perspective and attitude. Those few minutes I give to myself helps me face the rest of the day with a sense of ease and well-being.
During the Quarantine there seems to be lots of time spent on our devices, seated on soft furniture and of course watching tv. This tends to create a ‘folding forward’ action in the body. It’s a real challenge to move and be like we were prior to this time. Yogis often speak of a counterpose to any given pose. So, in this case, back bending would be called for to counter the forward folding we have consciously or more likely unconsciously been doing. Now, I am not talking about some giant 4 limbed wheel pose. I am suggesting several back bending ideas to bring more space and lightness to the center of the chest which yogis refer to as the ‘heart center.’ Yes, back bends open up the heart. When we open up the heart we allow more room for joy to come in! Most of us feel heavy hearted right now so this can be a mood lifter as well.
My first suggestion is the classic pose is called Setu Bandha Sarvangasana in Sanskrit. Setu means bridge, Bandha means to construct, and Sarvangasana means to use all the limbs. We are constructing a bridge using all of our limbs. For our version we will use a block under the sacral plate. If you don’t have a yoga block at home with you, feel free to use a stack of books, a firm folded blanket or pillow. Anything that will provide solid support that you can trust to really rest on.
Come to the floor or your mat and recline
Bend both knees and keep them hip distance apart as you lift pelvis onto your support
Adjust so that it feels comfortable on your low back, sacral area. (Please do not attempt if you have any low back issues!)
Visualize that your heels are under your knees.
Roll your arms so that your palms face upward, see if you can tuck your shoulders in towards each other and downward, then rest arms beside you
Soften face and throat and allow chin to move slightly downward to chest
Now that you are set up, feel the movement of your breath.
Breathe into the soft expanded belly, breathe into the wide open heart/lung center
Allow yourself time to rest and breathe fully into the front body
Stay awhile, breathing and resting into this shape
When you feel ready to come out, remove your support and slowly lower the spine to the floor. This is one of my favorite moments in yoga, when my spine meets the mat it feels as if I have created more space between my vertebrae.
Keep a bend to the knees and allow them to drop side to side a few times as if they were windshield wipers
As you come up from the mat notice how you feel.
My second suggestion is, when you step away from the computer, interlace fingers behind your back and reach your hands down, palms facing up and away from you. Feel the width of your collarbones across the front body. Take some deep breaths and lift, widen and open the heart center.
And lastly, anytime during the day, close the eyes and connect to the breath. With each inhale feel as if you are lifting up the heart center. On the exhale, keep the lift of the chest as the breath sofly leaves the body. Allow yourself several rounds visualizing a bright light shining right from your heart.