We find ourselves on the dawn of a new year and everyone asks, What's your New Year's Resolution, right? I, myself, am not a fan of setting resolutions, because they set you up for failure. Most websites that offer a definition of the word "resolution" seem to get their definition from Wikipedia, which is:
"A New Year's resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to a project or the reforming of a habit, often a lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous. The name comes from the fact that these commitments normally go into effect on New Year's Day and remain until fulfilled or abandoned. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually"
That is depressing! nd, I don't think the intention of resolutions is to start the year off with a depressing thought but there it is. Resolutions "remain until fulfilled or abandoned."
According to staticticbrain.com citing from the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, 12.13.2013, "Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution is 8%."
And then the last part of the definition, " to reflect upon self-improvement annually." Isn't that flawed from its very definition? Why are we only reflecting on self-improvements once a year? What a waste of 364 other days!
Check out the following quotes; it is not a surprise to anyone that resolutions fail.
" A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other." ~Author Unknown
"The end of 2010 is drawing near A new year will arrive/Time to work on resolutions I made back in 2005."
"May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions.”
So why do we set resolutions? I think it is so people have an answer when someone else asks them what their resolution is! Let's be honest... if you are setting a resolution to lose weight starting (arbitrarily)January 1st because you are so concerned about your weight, why wouldn't you start being healthier the second you thought of the idea for your resolution? You had to know on December 28 you want to be healthier. You probably knew it after gorging on Thanksgiving Day and maybe you even had that thought on November 1st. So, what makes people wait and put themselves further down their own to- do list? Nothing magical happens on January 1st. In fact, the New Year has not always started on January 1; and it only begins on that date for cultures that have a 365-day solar calendar.
Let's look at the definition of "intention": In magic and affirmation, the focus of the mind, the sense of purpose that leads to action. An end or goal that is aimed at. An anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions.
Ellen Goodman wrote, "We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential. "
I am thinking she might be on to something. When most people write their resolution, it is negatively stated..."I want to lose weight," "I will stop drinking," "I will stop smoking." The reflection of those statements shows us our flaws, for surely those comments reversed must mean, I am overweight, I drink too much alcohol, and I have bad unhealthy habits.
In a blog written by Leo Widrich posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 (look, it didn't even take him a week after last New Year's to write this), he states:
"50% of all Americans, for example, set themselves a new year’s resolution .
... according to the researcher Richard Wiseman, 88% of all those set resolutions from half of America and probably lots of other people in the world, fail. That’s 156 million failed resolutions and disappointed minds each and every year."
But, he actually goes on to explain why and here is where I believe our yoga practice comes in..." the key is to make any goal a habit first." He offers the following examples:
•Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Only stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast
•Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana
•Resolution: Lose Weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
•Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up."
Notice how the resolutions are negative and VAGUE. In other classes, when referring to guides and spirits, I always remind students to ask specific questions. If I ask my guides or the Universe, what should I get done today? I will probably not come up with anything. I will keep wondering if what I see and hear are signs answering my question but I won't know which way to turn. Before Christmas, I misplaced a gift card I had bought for someone. Instead of vaguely asking the Universe where I had put it, I literally stood at the base of my stairs and asked if I should go up or down. (I did listen to my intuition, and found the card I had been searching for in a matter of minutes.) I think the suggestions leading to habit are so much wiser than blanket statements. If I say, I want to eat healthier, I may not have the knowledge to implement and I will grow frustrated and quit. If I say, I will replace one bagel with fruit once a week, then it becomes manageable.
"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." ~Hal Borland
Our task and our goal then must be to get clear with our intention, and we do this by centering, listening deeply, and becoming one with it." Larry Smith
See, in your mind's eye, everything and anything you would like to envision for 2014. ... possibilities being endless. And set your clear intention to turn possibilities into opportunities, one habit at a time.
When you feel down or sad or troubled or alone, check out this website: thequietplaceproject.com and go to the Dawn room.
The site asks you to imagine the person you love most up in the sky, their face peering down at you. They are asking you for your help. What would you tell them? What is the best thing you can come up with to say to them? "The most cheering piece of comfort."
It then sends your comforting words out to millions who need to hear some comforting words. The site reminds you that you are not alone and millions of souls have some kind words they would like to share with you. Talk about making the Universe a smaller place! This is a fabulous reminder that we are all loved and we all go through rough patches but we can all get through them, too.
Some people wrote:
I love you, what can I do?
If today was horrible, tomorrow will be awesome.
I am here for you.
Know that I am always with you.
It's always good in the end. If it's not good now, it's not the end.
You are beautiful.
These are some of the nicest reminders of encouragement and they are all there for you. And in the background, daylight dawns and a flower grows and it feels awesome.
Take in all the love and comfort and then go to the 90 Seconds page. Soothing music will embrace your heart and the words will guide you to peace.
The mind in its natural state can be compared to the sky, covered by layers of cloud which hide its true nature. – Kalu Rinpoche
"I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD" I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
William Wordsworth, 1804.
My daughter asked me if I had ever stumbled across a website called The Quiet Place Project, to which I said no. It is a very interesting site with an even more interesting premise...quiet.
You "communicate" with the website via the spacebar. In choosing the "thoughts" page, the site asks you to turn off cell phones, etc. and finally says, so you chose quiet. (You all know I love the word "chose"!)
As it asks you if your thoughts are overloading your brain, the word "overloading" falls gently off its sentence and drifts down off the page; as it it no longer existed.
The site then offers a thought box for you to type your thoughts into.
It offers you the opportunity to pour out burdens of the heart, promising that no one can see what you type.
The background is the black sky of the massive universe and there is a crescent moon and stars. As you type, your words gently fall away as if to show you, in the big scheme of the Universe, they are temporary and small.
The first thing I typed I found so fascinating. I wrote, I need to stay away from sugar. I watched the words fall away and it was no longer a burdensome thought that led to how will I do that, can I do that, there are hundreds of desserts in the kitchen...I just felt calm.
I typed something else- I can't even remember what it was because the words fell away gently and respectfully as soon as I wrote them and, when I hit enter, they turned into new stars on the Universe background. I use the word respectfully because the slowness of the words drifting away is almost saying I respect you feel this way, but...
Then I thought how would it feel if I typed something positive...I wrote, I see the sun rise. And the words fell away again reminding me that all emotions and sights are temporary; happiness is as temporary as sadness. Leaving me with what? Me. Simply me. I found it simplistic, yet amazing and calming and, well, cool.
And, if you feel you are going to pass out from having been kept away from Facebook too long, the site calmly tells you that you won't miss anything by shutting down for a few. That all you are "missing" is your friends posting something about something they did or saw. "Meaningless.little.things."
"There is nothing that cannot wait."
Check it out when you are willing to choose quiet. http://thequietplaceproject.com/thethoughtsroom/
Silence is not just Being Quiet
So many people have got to tell you something,
eagerly spilling out their religion,
their stories, experiences, favorites and finds.
They must forward their ideas.
They scream their biographies
in classrooms, websites, coffee shops and in lines.
Alone, only, are we safe from
the eternal noise of us,
our thousand discussions that fill the atmosphere
and says nothing at all.
However, after a blessed and unconscious silence
We walk out of our beds and into our televisions;
its noise and all that blue chatter
makes us feel at home.
Silence is to stop communicating, affirming;
insisting that we're correct is insisting that we matter.
by Delilah Miller
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear. ”
― Baba Ram Das
"The basic root of happiness lies in our minds; outer circumstances are nothing more than adverse or favourable." – Matthieu Ricard
A Yogic Adaptation of A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Sandra Coyner
'Twas the morn before Christmas, we all came to class
Peace of mind for us yogi's and to thin down our--- (mass!)
We rolled out our mats on the wood floor with care,
All in the back away from the yoga teacher's stare;
Then pretending to sit still staring down at our toe;
So she wouldn't make us move up into the front row;
Hands at our heart, intentions were set,
That next year's expectations, all would be met,
When from the outside the studio there arose such a clatter,
I sprang past Nataraja to see what was the matter.
The candles all flickered in the wake of my breeze,
And the draft of the incense made some start to sneeze.
I left the class waiting to know the next asana,
While I peered at the glistening snow covering the "grass-ana",
When what to my wondering eyes did I see,
But a reindeer and Santa shouting out "Shanti!",
He came into class, minus yoga apparel
Not resembling the Santa in Elf with Will Ferrell.
A yogi at heart, the poses he voiced,
But practicing ahimsa he gave us a choice:
"Now, Down Dog! now, Cobra! now Puppy and Malasana!
On, Rabbit! on, Warrior! on, Headstand and Balasana!
He did the poses as well transitioning with a hop
Oh, the balance he had from climbing on each rooftop!
He offered us gifts, the non-attachable kinds,
Because he knew material belongings would just mess with our minds;
His prana so magical, a legendary mentor
He offered to balance each chakra energy center—
A strong sense of grounding when balancing our Root
So we focused our drishti on Santa's red suit.
In his pockets, carrots, a great reindeer snack,
And to balance our Sacral we focused on that.
Yellow, Solar Plexus and green for the heart,
No stranger to yoga he ignored someone's fart;
Without pause he held up an ornament blue,
And our throat chakras balanced all the way through!
Our third eye's saw indigo, we all looked within
and saw the bright light underneath our own skin!
A violet light glowed as he balanced our Crown,
and healing enveloped us much like a gown.
He gave us great tips, like naked yoga shouldn't be,
never hang onto a yogi who is wobbly in Tree;
snoring, he said, in svasana's okay
because maybe it means you simply had a tough day.
And don't forward fold if your pants tend to slip low,
And non-judgementally laugh if you fall out of Crow;
Your practice is yours, he said so wisely
It will reveal a path on an amazing journey.
And don't hold your breath, you will simply turn blue
And your teacher does not want to CPR you!
That was it; with a mudra he went right out the door
As we sat in Sukasana on the hard floor;
To his team he gave a whistle as he sprang to his sleigh,
And we all bowed our heads and said Namaste.
But we heard him exclaim, as we all left for home—
“Merry Christmas to all" then a fabulous "Om".
Shanti means peace in Sanskrit. When one chants "shanti", it is repeated three times so as to bring peace to the three sources of obstacles as depicted in Hindu scriptures. Those three broad categories of obstacles are:
Portia Nelson's fabulous poem about our bad habits and how we can evolve...
“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.
walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.”
― Portia Nelson, There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery
Today I Come to the Mat- Temple Symonds
Today I come to the mat
Seeking answers from my spirit
My breath is present
I rest upon ujjayi
Feeling the inhalation fill my body
Listening to the exhalation
As my hips settle in surrender and
My heart opens
Bruised and broken
The scars that I have tried to hide from view
Are now fully visible
Gratitude fills me
As I prepare to accept all outcomes
Today I come to the mat
Seeking freedom from suffering
With compassion for my wounded heart
And in honor of my divine spark.
I was also asked to post today's play list:
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti by Vyanah
Peaceful Reiki Rain Storm by Reiki Tribe
Moonlight by Yiruma
Imagine by Avril Lavigne
Om Hari Om/ Sharanam Ganesha by Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band
Om Prana by Rara Avis
Shanti Mantra by Uma Mohan
Chant by Adam Hurst
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti (repeated)
La Buddha by Thomas Barquee
10 Minutes Golden Light from Yoga Sunset Chill Vol. V.
There has been a lot of talk on the news lately about multi-million dollar lotteries. Don't fall into the "belief" that once you have your million dollars you will finally be happy or accomplished or...whatever. This mindset is backwards. Use positive affirmations to declare you are already these things and the Universe will ensure you have what you need.
But, what do you really need? What is it you think you want? Most people cannot answer this specifically. Ralph Marston wrote:
"If you really want it, you will have it. If it means enough to you, it will happen.
For if you really want it, you will find a way. You'll stop making excuses and start making it real.
The obstacles you encounter are not there to prevent you from reaching your goal.
The obstacles are there to make sure you really want it.
When you really want it, you'll find a way around, under, above or through each one of those obstacles.
And as you do, you'll be literally creating the value of what you intend to achieve.
When you really want it enough, it is in many ways already yours.
Full and complete attainment then becomes a matter of going through the motions and following a path that leads surely there.
Decide what you really want, and be careful what you decide upon. For when you truly want it, you will make it so."
I love the lines that state obstacles aren't there to stop you from reaching your goals, rather, they exist to make sure you really want your goals.
The upcoming holidays are a good time to practice positive affirmations. If you find yourself getting crazy and stressed, and you really want peace, claim it in an intention! State, "I am peaceful." "I intend to have a peaceful day."
If you feel like you are running out of time, state, "I have all the time I need to get done what needs to be done." Keep in mind, the Universe might not feel that everything on your list needs to be done. The food needs to be prepared; the Martha Stewart centerpiece does not need to be done.
Alan Cohen writes, "To succeed in life, you must embody a sort of "reverse paranoia." Paranoia traditionally means that you believe that life is out to hurt you. Reverse paranoia means that life is out to help you."
So, reverse your mindset. "I have what I need." "I am happy, peaceful, calm, love, etc." "This will be a great day." State what you want and need as if it is already yours. The Universe will do the rest.
I hugged a stranger in a store today. And, you know what? She doesn't feel like a stranger to me anymore. I somehow feel a connection with this woman whose tears welled up, this spiritual sister soul that simply needed a human hug.
In class tonight, I am taking you out of your comfort zone. I am asking each of you to get up off your mat and go hug someone. It's fine if the first person you hug is someone you know and feel comfortable with but the second and third hugs have to be new to you. And, to emit another groan out of everyone, you cannot walk up and do a quick pat on the shoulder hug. Look in the person's eyes, introduce yourselves so you can later associate a name with this person, and give them a hug from the yogi depths of your being that say to you, think isn't awkward; this is a fellow spirit on a path that crossed mine in a yoga studio tonight and we share the same light.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer
The reason we are starting off with the awkward hugs, which shouldn't be awkward, is so you can't all run for the door (!) but mainly so it is not a sense of focus during the class. My yoga teacher, Silvia, always says, we hug in yoga.
Marcus Felicetti writes there are "10 Reasons Why We Need at Least 8 Hugs a Day". (I have edited them but you can google this article for full depiction) They are:
1. Hugs build trust and a sense of safety.
2. Instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.
3. Holding a hug lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
4. Hugs strengthen the immune system by activating the Solar Plexus Chakra (3rd chakra).
5. Hugging boosts self-esteem.
6. Hugging relaxes muscles.
7. Hugs balance out the nervous system.
8. Hugs teach us how to give and receive.
9. (I did not edit this one because many aspects of yoga lay in this point!) Hugs are so much like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs get you out of your circular thinking patterns and connect you with your heart and your feelings and your breath.
10. The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding."
When you get together this holiday season with friends and family, alike, and you open your arms to offer a hug, pause for a moment and offer the hug consciously, not as force of societal habit. Look into your recipient's eyes and see what lies beyond.
A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too.
with our arms around each other.
Suddenly a hug comes over me and I’m
giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light
off to make itself comfortable, then
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding
you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn’t
come out of nowhere, but if he could, he
would have. He looks homeless because of how
he needs. “Can I have one of those?” he asks you,
and I feel you nod. I’m surprised,
surprised you don’t tell him how
it is – that I’m yours, only
yours, etc., exclusive as a nose to
its face. Love – that’s what we’re talking about, love
that nabs you with “for me
only” and holds on.
So I walk over to him and put my
arms around him and try to
hug him like I mean it. He’s got an overcoat on
so thick I can’t feel
him past it. I’m starting the hug
and thinking, “How big a hug is this supposed to be?
How long shall I hold this hug?” Already
we could be eternal, his arms falling over my
shoulders, my hands not
meeting behind his back, he is so big!
I put my head into his chest and snuggle
in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes
into him. He stands for it. This is his
and he’s starting to give it back so well I know he’s
getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly
we stop having arms and I don’t know if
my lover has walked away or what, or
whether the woman is still reading the poem…
Clearly, a little permission is a dangerous thing.
But when you hug someone you want it
to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button
on his coat will leave the imprint of
a planet in my cheek
when I walk away. When I try to find some place
to go back to.
This is a head's up that something is coming....well, actually two things! The first, you may think is already here and the second, we can only surmise...
Saturday, December 21, is the winter solstice, the first day of winter. You probably already thought winter was here with all the snow we have already!
The second thing coming has to do with what occurred last night on Tuesday, December 17...a full moon.
The full moon represents the coming of whatever seeds you planted on the new moon. I cannot begin to guess what that might be for you but can offer you the following insights.
"[The full moon will] shed light into the darkest shadows of secrets and the unknown, bringing that which is hidden to the forefront. During the Full Moon, something is revealed to us, while illuminating a very much needed truth from the intentions that were placed on the New Moon. We are emotionally vulnerable at front stage, standing in the spotlight for all to see."
This full moon is about communication..throat chakra energy. Find the balance between expressing what you need to and realizing emotions are not always rational so tread a little more slowly.
"Don’t let the darkness of this time of year get you down. Instead, let the darkest day of the year become one of the brightest by letting go of the past, celebrating the rebirth of this season, and opening up your heart to the abundance of light, love, and peace to come." dailydownwarddog.com
Imagine you are looking up at the full moon. Pema Chodron writes, "You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather." In other words, you are that amazing vastness. Everything else, is temporary.
The following are some good quotes about this time of year that I used in class:
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” - Anne Bradstreet
“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” – Robert H Schuller
“I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino
Yoga and Your Winter Health
It is ridiculously cold outside. Someone told me it is supposed to be -25 degrees wind chill factor tonight. So, do we forego the yoga class and stay home bundled up in a blanket? No. Go to your yoga class and bundle up in the blanket afterwards! Here's why...
Between the asanas (poses), the pranayama (breath work) and dhyana (meditation), you will be strengthening your immune system to help you stay healthy.
Yoga Journal's article, "Strike a Heart-Opening Pose", explains why the heart opening poses are so beneficial. Before I give you the quote, let me explain what a heart opening pose is. Your heart chakra is located in the center of your breastbone. Any pose that would have you moving the heart center forward would be considered heart-opening: cobra, fish, wheel (or it's more compassionate counter-part, bridge), reverse warrior, camel, to name a few.
Dr. Hema Sundaram says, "Heart openers stimulate blood flow to the thymus, an organ nestled behind the breastbone that is instrumental in the growth of T-cells, the immune system's frontline."
Forward bends and inversions "relax the nervous system through the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, relax, digest) and boost the body’s innate ability to heal itself through the immune response", according to Australia's Natural Health Magazine (ANH).
And, almost all poses massage the spleen in some way, whose job it is to fight infection, but twists and side bends are especially effective at targeting this organ.
As for your breath, if you already are a "yoga breather", you are used to breathing in and out though your nose.
ANH: "...the lungs constrict when the air coming into the body is cool, and inhaling through the nose warms the air before it enters the lungs..."
Your pranayama practice also encourages your use of the full lung, not just the upper region (sorry, chest-breathers!), so the lungs are stronger. But, it is never too late to start learning how to breathe with both the lower and upper lungs. Try googling 3 Part Breathing to start with. In class tonight, we focused on Right Nostril Breathing to help stimulate the Pingala nadi, which is warm and stimulating as it is the solar line of energy.
To keep the mind and spirit healthy, try a short meditation. You can meditate in silence or try out the guided meditation on my website's home page; it's only about 9 minutes long!
Settle in the Here and Now by Danna Faulds
in the here and now
reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink in this holy peace
feel relief flood into every cell
nothing to do
nothing to be
but what you are already
nothing to receive
but what flows effortlessly from the mystery into form.
nothing to run from
or run toward
just this breath
awareness knowing itself as embodiment
just this breath
awareness waking up to truth