Ageless In the New Year

The above photo is of Tao Porchon-Lynch when she was 97 years old. She was 101 at the time of her death this past February, taught classes into her 100s, and held the Guinness world record as the world’s oldest yoga teacher.

She loved ballroom dancing, wine and high heels, saying the high heels brought her to nature’s most elevated places like Machu Picchu. She is an inspiration even if you don’t have a yoga practice, because her zest for life never wavered.

My birthday is here and I love that it coincides with the new year, a time when new intentions are often set. “Be like Tao” might be my mantra for the next year. I have never been a numbers person and once I hit my 50’s I began to lose track of how old I actually am. You could blame it on forgetfulness, but I prefer to think that I have stopped attaching a number to my chronological age. In my opinion, numbers set limits. Why do I now have to be defined by my age?

Part of this thought transformation started a few years ago after reading “Goddesses Never Age” by Christiane Northrup, M.D. She coined the phrase “Ageless Goddess” and her book is full of ideas of how to more fully embrace wherever you are in your stage of life. She asks the question, “Who would you be if age weren’t a factor? Support your well-being through habits that nourish and delight you instead of habits rooted in old defense mechanisms or shame. Addictions, avoidance behaviors, and people pleasing are common behaviors that become habit for too many women who are afraid of or uncomfortable with the regular expression of difficult emotions. We can push feelings like grief, resentment, shame, and rage back so far into our subconscious that we have no idea what we are holding on to. And these emotions secrete inflammatory chemicals into our bloodstream day in and day out, which causes aging. For a goddess to enjoy vibrant health, she has to learn how to grieve and rage without apology and then commit to experiencing more exalted emotions and experiences. That’s how these old, stale, and destructive energies can be released. And that is how we remain ageless, which is our birthright,”says Northrup.

In yoga there is a term called Prana, which represents your life force energy. Healthy eating habits, yoga, exercise, positive thinking, pranayama (yogic breath practices), sleep and meditation all stoke the fires of Prana. This life force energy then becomes a type of shield to help you deal with whatever comes in a healthy way.. “Whatever you put in your mind materializes. Within yourself, there’s an energy, but unless you use it, it dissipates. And that’s when you get old,” says Porchon-Lynch.

So as I reflect on 2020, and look forward to 2021, I set my intentions with these ideas in mind. This past year has taught us all so much. For me, I learned what I truly need to be happy. The desire for material items has been released. I now know that my joy comes from my family, my friends and life’s simple pleasures. In the new year, I want to be fully aware and embrace each moment. I want to remain open to what comes my way and feel that I can say yes to new adventures. I plan to use my full yoga tool box to stoke the fires of Prana to help me live life to its fullest.

“I don’t believe in age,” says Portion-Lynch. “When people ask me about age, I tell them to look at all the trees around them. They’re hundreds of years old. They may look as if they’re dying at the moment, but they’re not; They’re recycling themselves. And in a couple of months, they’re going to be reborn again.”

Auspicious New Year to each of you. Thank you for the support of this blog and my zoom classes through this past year. I am truly grateful that you supported this step out of my comfort zone. It is my hope that 2021 feels lighter and happier for all of us.

"And now let us believe in
a long year that is given to us,
new, untouched, full
of things that have never been."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

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.”

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.

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."

TGIF

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.

amyluwho2@att.net

https://prairieyoga.org

The Weight of Words

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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