I mowed the lawn a couple of days ago; it was long...really long. It was the kind of long that sends sweat dripping down your face as you struggle to push through each row. It was the kind of long that gave frogs the false illusion they were safe until they heard me coming and scampered out of my way. It was the kind of long that made me empty the lawn mower bag a total of fifteen times!
I tried to remember why we hadn't mowed the previous weekend. All I could think of was that life had moved so quickly and the grass had simply kept pace with life.
I could not expect just because my life was busy that the grass would slow down its growth saying, "No problem, I will wait for you." The grass could not do that as it would be contrary to its nature, but it was so long I had to use an ice scraper to clear the blades at one point.
It kept occurring to me that had we just mowed last weekend, today's job would be so much easier. When we let things build up, they become harder to deal with. We become stressed, unbearable to be around; everyone scatters like the frog in my path.
And, when we hold stuff inside, out throat chakra becomes unbalanced.
"The latest research shows that those who bottle up their feelings are at least a third more likely to die young than people who regularly express what they are thinking...
Researchers studied 796 men and women, with an average age of 44, who signed up to a health survey in 1996. The survey was repeated 12 years later, during which time 111 subjects had died – mostly from heart disease or cancer. When researchers analyzed the emotion scores, they found that death rates were highest among those most likely to bottle up their anger rather than let people know what they were thinking."
Our throat chakra, visshuda, allows us to creative and expressive, manifesting our desires when it is balanced. When too open, we may come across as over-opinionated. When too closed, we feel misunderstood. This makes sense because we are holding "stuff" in and failing to communicate who we truly are.
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ― Sigmund Freud
Remember you cannot see the grass growing but there is evidence at the end of each week that it has. Likewise, you cannot see your emotions building up, but, when constricted, they do and they will resurface.
As my daughter drives off with my son for high school, I know that whatever happens in their day does not have much of anything to do with me. What I mean by that is I have no control over their individual days, their teachers, the kids they meet, their moods, etc. And I am reminded of the thought that most of what we think we have control over, anyway, is illusion (maya). How much easier would life be to let go of the "need " for control, which really isn't need but habit? How much calmer would we be? A yogi friend sent me the following poem this morning:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Homage to B.K.S. Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar was born in 1918 and recently moved on August 20, 2014. He is considered to be the father of western yoga as he made yoga accessible to everyone. Since yoga is a journey of finding your inner self, how could it not be for everyone? His creative use of blankets, bolsters, straps and blocks help make each pose more accessible to each yoga body.
Iyengar was born into a very poor rural family in the village of Bellur. He was the 11th of 13 children; three of them died at young ages. Iyengar, himself, was a very ill child; he fought tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid and influenza and was told he wouldn't live past the age of 20. But in 1936, Iyengar found his life’s passion and the answer to his physical ailments when he found yoga. He studied under his brother-in-law Krishnamacharya until Iyengar was ready to teach on his own.
As a yoga instructor, the money was very sparce; he sometimes ate a plate of rice every few days. But his path changed when he met violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin, who had been experiencing muscle pain. Iyengar's ability to help his ailments through asana led him to traveling with the maestro and subsequently meeting his wealthy friends.
It is said that Iyengar practiced yoga for 2-3 hours each day and could still stay in headstand for a half hour in his mid- 90's.
In a letter he wrote to Aadil Palkhivala a short while ago:
"....my health is slowly fading due to a continuous virus infection which is affecting me very fast. I do not know when God is going to call me.
I wish you a happy life in case God calls me.
BKS Iyengar "
Patanjali writes one of our greatest fears as humans is death. Are you as comfortable with your passing as to wish those around you happy lives like Iyengar did?
What follows are a plethora of Iyengar quotes. They are all fabulous but maybe one speaks to you more poignantly than the others...
“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”
“True concentration is an unbroken thread of awareness.”
“The physical body is not only a temple for our soul, but the means by which we embark on the inward journey toward the core.”
“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others. When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake. This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement. Do not look at others' bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others. Each one's capacities are a function of his or her internal strength. Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.”
“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”
“Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement. What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action.”
“The hardness of a diamond is part of its usefulness, but its true value is in the light that shines through it.”
“One's spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one's fellow beings.”
“Spirituality is not some external goal that one must seek, but a part of the divine core of each of us, which we must reveal.”
“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.”
“You exist without the feeling of existence.”
“Breath is the king of mind.”
“We must create a marriage between the awareness of the body and that of the mind. When two parties do not cooperate, there is unhappiness on both sides.”
“There is only one reality, but there are many ways that reality can be interpreted.”
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”
“As animals, we walk the earth. As bearers of divine essence, we are among the stars. As human beings, we are caught in the middle, seeking to reconcile the paradox of how to make our way upon earth while striving for something more permanent and more profound.”
Inner peace is a state of being that is always with you. It is the "stuff" that goes on around us in our external world that causes us to forget the peace is still there. Releasing the external helps us refocus on the internal. If you are caught up in a lot of earthly turmoil (whether physical or mental), this may be hard to believe. But all things "human" are temporary; your inner peace is connected to your Spirit and is permanent.
"Your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your battery, remove tension and anxiety, and feel closer to all of humanity. Going into the quiet and listening will heal and inspire you." Wayne Dyer
Our yoga studio shares a wall with a training facility where people are often dropping weights loudly; it is hard not to allow the disturbances seem like a rude invasion of our peaceful practice. But, today, it occurred to me that these interruptions were the perfect analogy to my theme. Being in the yoga studio represents our inner peace. We know that despite whatever mood we carried in with us, by the time we get to svasana, we will have found our sanctuary of stillness. The weights crashing and people yelling on the other side represent the family members that cause us angst and the traffic jams we get stuck in and all the other "intrusions" that life throws at us. These things pile up in layers until we forget our peace still lays inside. Today, we practiced gratitude that we were within the confines of the studio, ie: inner peace, and not on the other side of the wall. We worked on not allowing the loud noises to interrupt our peace.
Use this mantra for today..."I am peaceful. I am peace."
You Can Be A Pendulum
I received an interesting email from Daily Om with the subject line "Using Yourself as a Pendulum." I teach how to use pendulums in Reiki 2 certifications but hadn't thought of teaching how to use the body as a pendulum in yoga until I read that line, but it totally makes sense!
The definition of a pendulum is anything that hangs from something like a chain or string so that it has the ability to freely move. The weight can be anything. You can make a pendulum if you want to. Typically, I think most people are drawn to crystal pendulums because of their colors and healing properties. As long as something slightly heavy is hanging from something else, you have yourself a pendulum. The weight's movement in one direction will cause the weight to move back in the opposite direction due to inertia. But what causes it to move in the first place?
There is always the lore that spirits make a pendulum move, but that is not truly accurate. In fact, although you hold the pendulum as still as you can, it is you who makes it move. The pendulum responds to the nerve impulses in your fingers that connect to your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind knows the answers and your nerves respond in kind. You simply have to program your pendulum first so you understand what the answers are!
Madisyn Taylor writes, "Using your body as a pendulum is another tool you can use to access your higher wisdom."
We can do the same with our bodies. The handheld pendulum is simply a visual showing you the answers to your questions. But, if the answer comes from your unconscious, don't you already have the answer within you? It makes sense that the body should be able to offer you the same answers.
We took some time in class moving through asanas (poses) to help displace the mind's thoughts; we strove to move deeper into ourselves to better connect with our inner voice. We practiced focusing in on different feelings and experiences within our bodies. Finally, we stood in mountain pose and closed our eyes. The questions one asks of pendulums need to be yes/no questions. We asked a really obvious yes answer question and then leaned slightly forward and said to our bodies this means yes. We did it again. Then we asked an obvious no answered question and leaned back and taught our bodies that this meant no. We then each asked in our own mind's the questions we sought answers to.
"The simple act of letting our physical being lead us in a certain direction can offer us extremely deep insights and help us find the answers we seek...Since we are always present in our bodies, understanding how we can use our bodies as pendulums is a tool we can use at any given moment in our lives. Letting our bodies tell us what is happening inside of us will in turn help to guide us through not just daily but also major life decisions. The more we allow our bodies to open up and share with us the connection it has with our deeper self, the better able we will be to truly access the knowledge we hold so deeply within." Madisyn Taylor
It's About Love
I received an email blog recently about a woman whose eight tear old had a complete temper tantrum meltdown. And, instead of reacting with an escalated energy matching the child's, she approached the situation with love. She sat down near the child and kept saying, I love you and you are so loved. She wrote that the meltdown was over in minutes.
Today, in class, my playlist is about love and I had everyone write down a yoga pose they love so our practice can mirror love on our mats. And if someone else in the class picked a pose you didn't love, embrace it anyway just knowing that they love it.
I was hoping to find an amazing poem about love for life but everything I came across was love for my girlfriend, love for my boyfriend, my true love, my romantic love, etc. I was SO disappointed! Love for our path in life and love for the breath of freezing air or sultry air, and love for the mountains or the oceans...love for our life is so much more important and meaningful. When you love your life, the romantic love will fall into place.
I did find the following quote that left me a little melancholy. Mother Theresa says,
"There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them."
Just minutes before finding this quot, I had been finding things to put in a backpack in case I chance upon someone homeless in Chicago tonight. But Mother Theresa is saying look even closer. The poor, those lacking in love, one of the most important if not the most important aspect of our lives, could be in your very own family. In your very own home.
Lisa Ling had a show on about a woman who had been a prostitute and was abducted and chained up with other women for a very long time. When stolen, she weighed 120lbs. When rescued, I believe she said she weighed 46lbs. But one of her major struggles, she said, was not coming home to any support or love. In fact, the town ousted her.
Love is hope. Without hope, life is hard to love.
I gave everyone in a class a piece of paper and asked them to write down the poses they loved and then I created the sequence from those poses. Here's the list in case you want to try these poses yourself!
Downward Facing Dog
"Every pose I've tried so far."
That pretty much says it all.