Elevators Have What To Do With Yoga?!
Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
Marc Chernoff poses this questions in his article "50 questions that will free your mind".
Well??? Do you?!
I read this question and laughed out loud! Who hasn't sat in front of an elevator pushing and pushing the "come get me now" button?! It is rather stupid, now that I read the question as posed, but we do many things in life that don't make a lot of sense.
As I write this, the Christmas season is upon us and store windows are decorated just to show you all the fabulous things you need to have or need to buy for someone else to have. Many people like to window shop, but what does that truly mean? I suppose it's the act of gazing into a world you think you would like to covet. Sonia Choquette would tell you that you can have everything you want in this world...by merely "shopping" within. She writes, "When it comes to living an authentically guided and satisfying life, we're like window shoppers on Madison Avenue, gazing longingly at the incredible possibilities dangling before our eyes, yet not stepping in and claiming them as our own. (from her book tune in)
So, back to the elevator. I got off on a holiday tangent because, in both scenarios, everything is hurried. Why are we in such a hurry to get to the upper level or the lower level? Why are we in such a hurry to get to the food court to inhale the quality food that will give us a stomachache later? Why are we in such a hurry to shop through our holiday list? Why are the stores in such a hurry to set up Christmas stuff in October?!
The funny thing is, why are we in such a hurry that we wait for an elevator rather than walk up or down a flight of steps? One of my friends from high school used to ask me why people at the mall wait to get the closest parking space they can so they don't have to walk far when they plan to go into the mall and walk, anyway?
"If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button." Sam Levenson
Remember the song, Feeling Groovy? The lyrics lamented, "Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the moment last, Just kickin' down the cobble-stones, lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy..."
I think we don't look for fun anymore because we are too busy getting from point A to point B. Who has time to look?!
The next line, "Hello lamp-post, what cha knowing, I've come to watch your flowers growin'..." We're lucky if we even notice the flowers let alone sit and watch them grow!
So, I am guessing in the next few weeks, not many of us will be excused from a trip to mall (unless you managed to do all your shopping online). Or, maybe you are at an appointment or a hotel...wherever you are that you encounter an elevator! The next time you are standing in front of an elevator and your finger makes contact with the coolness of the metal or plastic up or down button, refrain from pushing it twice! Instead, think 'yoga off the mat, yoga off the mat' and b.r.e.a.t.h.e. Slow... way... down. Focus on the present moment, not the future moment of getting where you think you need to go.
"When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you're waiting for the elevator - instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence." Eckhart Tolle
The Joy of Snow?
I opened up my monthly Chopra Center email to find an article called Infinite Delight and Bliss. Next to the title was a picture of a branch covered with snow. I thought, immediately, I wouldn't pair the image of snow with joy! Followed by the thought, there's a lesson here. With winter so close upon us, I need to be able to seek joy in what I like least about winter: cold and snow. I imagine, had I chosen the picture for the article, I would have gone in the opposite direction: warmth, beach, ocean. The Chopra Center is located in California. Are you starting to grasp this interesting twist? They did not pick the image closest to them; they picked the opposite. I would have chosen the "opposite" of Chicago weather. Maybe we both have something interesting to look at!
Either way, I can only work with me and my lesson and am happy to have a head's up that I need to find joy in snow before it comes. To do that, I will have to turn within. I will have to turn within to forge some type of connection for myself that when I see snow, I feel joy.
The article differentiates between happiness and joy.
The Chopra Center writes, "Happiness... is based primarily on circumstances. When we perceive the circumstances in our lives as favorable, then we are more likely to be happy." The list of things that make us happy in infinite. Think of some of the items on your list right now.
Chopra center continues, "What all these things have in common is that they are all external, all circumstantial, and all transitory... this does not make these things or their pursuit bad in any way...They are true blessings and deserve gratitude. But external things are often hard to control, circumstances inevitably change over time, and transitory things come to an end sooner or later.
Therefore, the happiness that comes from these things is bound to change as well."
So, how does the word joy differ and can we have both?
Chopra writes, "If happiness is derived mainly from outer things, then joy is found in the opposite direction. Joy originates from within. Whereas happiness might be considered a state of circumstances, joy is a state of being."
Joy is our true nature. Just as we have chanted in our heads (in a previous class theme), abundance is my divine right, so is joy.
"As we grow spiritually, we begin to come into greater contact with this inherent joy that resides deep within us. We also begin to shift gears in the way we approach life. Instead of trying to generate delight and wellbeing from outer circumstances, we increasingly let our inner joy flow into our life circumstances. " I hope that makes sense. I often refer to myself as either having a spiritual day, which I feel I truly am having most of the time. Or, I say I am having a human day. What I mean by that is I have disconnected from my ability to see things as they are, whether good or bad, and just be. In my human state of mind, things are going wrong and I am recognize that, in turn, making room for the Universe to offer me more of what I am dwelling on...the stuff going wrong! I am usually conscious, during these times, that I simply need to transition back to my yoga state of mind that allows me to detach from results. That creates my peaceful inner self and my joy.
"As our awareness expands, we realize that our particular circumstances don’t matter as much anymore. Instead, our joyful state of being increasingly radiates throughout all circumstances and becomes immune to their constant shifting."
In yoga, we talk a lot about layers and kleshas (states of mind, like anger, jealousy, ignorance, that manifest into an action) and maya (illusion). This is the "stuff" that serves as a shield separating us from our true state of joy and bliss. When we recognize this, these natural states are more easily achievable.
Chopra Center offers the following ways to help connect with joy:
Inner work –"any type of work that opens us to our deeper self."
Affirming our true nature – "This type of affirmation is powerful because we are aligning our speech, thought, and intention to the truth of who we really are." Change the words you choose to use!!! Today is a good day. I am joy. I am strong. I am healthy. I noticed last week my rotator cuff tendinitis is almost gone. The only change I made was to start saying awhile back, my right shoulder is strong and healthy. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Alistair Shearer... "Yoga is a way to restore our lost wholeness, our integrity as complete human beings, by unifying the personality around a center that is silent, unbounded, spacious, and joyful."
Seeing through the illusion of outer appearances –" Our limited beliefs create limited perceptions of the outer world. By recognizing this we can deemphasize the limited picture of reality that our senses are showing us. We can realize instead that behind these appearances stands an entirely divine and blissful existence. "
Exercising the choice for joy – "Because joy is already within us, we do not need to seek it or acquire it – but we do need to choose it! " I read an acronym for the word JOY somewhere. Journey. Only. You.
Giving – "The nature of love is to give. Therefore, giving puts us in touch with our divine nature and opens us up to the experience of joy that resides within that nature."
See joy as the true nature of others –"Other people function as our mirrors. Unless we are also seeing their true nature as joy, we will not be able to fully see ourselves this way either. The mirror never lies! Practice imagining other people you know as being infinite bundles of joy -- and you will experience your own joy rising as well. "
On Yoga & Joy By Dr. Kev (yogaclass.com):
No matter how rough it gets, without yoga, it would be worse.
With it, everything becomes possible, and that is my limitless spring of joy!
Coming full circle, the picture of the branch with snow next to the word joy is a simple reminder to me that we have to choose to find joy in everything.
Yes, Yes, Yes To Life
The following is an audio version of the poem "God Says Yes to Me." I have no rights to this poem and have only reproduced it for content.
(Poem written out at bottom.)
Read this first and then give it a try! Close your eyes and shake your head, no. Then nod up and down, yes. Doesn't nodding yes have a more hypnotic and natural feeling to it? Try hanging upside down in Uttanasana, forward fold; nod yes and shake your head no. Which seems easier, simpler, better?
Saying yes on the yoga mat is the first step in figuring out how to say yes! to life. When we get in the mind frame that we cannot go any farther or a pose is too hard, can't you just hear your ego laughing and saying, might as well give in? Sometimes, we do get too physically tired and we need a break or a sooner svasana than planned, and that, is okay! But, when it is a mental fatigue, disguised by a low-toned judgmental voice, that is your ego. And, you don't have to listen to it, because we have already agreed that nodding yes feels better than shaking our head no.
I like the above poem. Why can't we be a little melodramatic? And, I say, let's wear nail polish on just one hand or maybe just every other finger! And, let's rename our egos "Sweetcakes"! That way, when the thought hits you that you aren't skinny enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, loved enough, or (something) enough, we can stop and say, "Sweetcakes (in a definitive, yet calm, strong voice), I am all those things and more." Then, throw down your yoga mat, hop on board and move! Toss in the positive affirmations while you are at it: I am just right, I am pretty, I am smart, I am strong, I am loved, I am...
And, I'm thinking, yell this out loud! Because, when the neighbors hear you, it just might cause them to stop and say, me, too! And that is the kind of snowballing effect we want in Chicago in winter. I'll take that any day over the white stuff. Any day.
“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
by E.E. Cummings
God Says Yes to Me by Kaylin Haught
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
what if I cavort with squawking saints
forage with a crowd of long legged water angels
sail with a regatta of white pelicans
sing glory hallelujah with the cormorants
drying their wings over the water
and she said Baby I made you for this
cavort as you wish
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
Last E squared Experiment
We moved on, last night, to talk about the last experiment in the book E squared. It has a lot to do with getting rid of any lack of abundance attitude and opening up to all the beauty and kindness around us.
This experiment is EASY! Set aside 48 hours and grab a journal. All you have to do is write down every act of kindness you stumble upon! Be present and aware! The point is that these acts happen every day all around us but we do not see them.
Use the mantra, "Abundance is my Divine right" and see what happens! Come back to my website and post some of your unexpectedly fabulous sightings!
“By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.” –B.K.S. Iyengar
Aparigraha is the sanskrit word that means non-hoarding or non-attachment. It is a word I have used often in yoga class to encourage students to trust that the Universe will provide and to, therefore, let go of attachments we clutch to. On the mat, it is about letting go of our attachment to the poses; to how we think the pose should look. For example, when we let go of how trikonasana, triangle pose, should look (assuming correct alignment), we may find a new sense of liberation on the mat. What if I don't feel like stretching my top arm to the sky? Maybe my shoulder wants to relax with the top arm dropped behind my back...and then, ohhh, the ribs suddenly open a little more, as does the heart energy and it is new.
I like the word, aparigraha; it's fun to say. I have recently felt like clearing stuff out of my house to create space. That is aparigraha. My daughter backed into my car and I my breath never faltered. That's because of aparigraha. However, yesterday, I had a momentary lapse from my yogi mind and lost my temper. Why? Because, I had been inconvenienced when I was in the right. Yes, I know, bad move. Attachment to being right is also a form of hoarding/hanging on to things. And, guess what? I became really mad and the entire insides of my body changed. My blood pressure went up, my cheeks flushed, my heart rate increased and it took me about 20 minutes to calm down. Guess who suffered? Not the person who was "wrong" and couldn't change things, anyway. It was me. I created my own suffering. Without an attachment to being right, there is no despairing consequential result.
In the book, Life is a Verb, the author describes a technique her acupuncturist taught her about remembering the results of aparigraha. You imagine yourself sitting butt naked in a thorn bush. Every time you reach for something you think you want or must have, you feel yourself sinking deeper into the thorns.
Your homework is to sit and breathe and focus on the exhale. You cannot hoard an inhale; you will explode! Allowing yourself to release the breath creates space inside; space needed to invite in fresh air (and maybe a fresh attitude!)
THE BUMBLE BEE
by Marybeth Fidler
a bumblebee flies into my apartment
it didn't mean to be there
and seeing the outside through a glass window
it proceeds to push and push against the glass trying to get where it wants to go
in its panic never moving from its task long enough
to see the open window just inches away
how like the bumble bee I am in my work or my life
i see where i want to go
and in my panic
i forget to look for the open window
so i push and push and push
thinking i should be rewarded for all this hard work
when, in fact, i am so frantic
like the bee against the glass.
*The poem below called, "Being Human", is a must-read! (Or, just above, a must-listen!)
Meanwhile, from the book If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules:
The Ten Rules For Being Human:
1. You will receive a body.
Check! Practice ahimsa with your body; the art of non-harming. In yoga, it is the poses you choose to practice on the mat or the depth of the bind you find yourself entangled in. But, most of your waking time is off the yoga mat. How do you practice ahimsa towards yourself in that world? Do you smoke? Consume too much caffeine or sugar?
2. You will be presented with lessons.
You chose them. In fact, your lesson could refer back to rule #1; your lesson might be in dealing with physical constraints of your body or your mental outlook towards your body. The question is, what can I learn from this, where I am right now?
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons.
This does not mean that you don't wish you could go back and make different or better choices, but what did you learn from the choice you did make? Wouldn't your path be different right now if you could go back? How do you know your new path would be better?
4. Lessons are repeated until learned.
Fun, right? So don't avoid them- face them head on and take care of them now.
5. Learning does not end.
6. "There" is no better than "here."
7. Others are only mirrors of you.
Everyone is here on a journey. So, when someone next annoys you, keep in mind they are doing the best with what they currently know and are trying to muster through their life lessons, too.
8. What you make of your life is up to you.
Do you believe anything is possible? The mind believes what you tell it. We are so good at telling ourselves we are too fat or too ugly and so good at believing it! Don't you think if we told ourselves how valuable we are, how beautiful, how amazing that we would believe that, too? Use positive affirmations to help train your mind and so what you send out to the Universe is what the Universe brings back to you.
9. All the answers lie inside of you.
10. You will forget all of this at birth.
The Sanskrit word, samsara, refers to the cycle of birth, life, death and then birth, life, death and then birth, life, death, etc.
The word, samskara, includes your impressions from past experiences in this life or from past lives.
BEING HUMAN by Naima
I wonder if the sun debates dawn
not wanting to rise
out of bed
from under the down-feather horizon
If the sky grows tired
of being everywhere at once
adapting to the mood swings of the weather
If the clouds drift off
trying to hold themselves together
make deals with gravity
to loiter a little longer
I wonder if rain is scared
if it has trouble letting go
If snow flakes get sick
of being perfect all the time
each one trying to be one-of-a-kind
I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before the die
if they need to teach their young to shine
I wonder if shadows long
to once feel the sun
if they get lost in the shuffle
not knowing where they’re from
I wonder if sunrise and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met
If volcanoes get stressed
If storms have regrets
If compost believes in life after death
I wonder if breath ever thinks
I wonder if the wind just wants to sit
and watch the world pass by
If smoke was born knowing how to rise
If rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right
I wonder if lightning sets an alarm clock
to know when to crack
If rivers ever stop
and think of turning back
If streams meet the wrong sea
and their whole lives run off-track
I wonder if the snow wants to be black
If the soil thinks she’s too dark
If butterflies want to cover up their marks
If rocks are self-conscious of their weight
If mountains are insecure of their strength
I wonder if waves get discouraged
crawling up the sand
only to be pulled back again
to where they began
I wonder if land feels stepped upon
If sand feels insignificant
If trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand
If branches waver in the crossroads
unsure of which way to grow
If the leaves understand they’re replaceable
and still dance when the wind blows
I wonder where the moon goes
when she is hiding
I want to find her there
and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
Listen to her
stir in her sleep
effort gives way to existence
( location of poem: http://isanghamahal.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/a-poem-being-human-by-naima/)