Category Archives: Yoga Philosophy
Ok, so I love these rules so much that I had to post a blog about them. Here they are, the Dalai Lama’s 20 rules for living:
1.Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three R’s: - Respect for self, - Respect for others and - Responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
So just a few quick thoughts about strength in your yoga practice. Lots of people think yoga is all about stretching. It’s not. It’s about finding strength within you and without, finding the strength to be flexible, both emotionally, physically and mentally. How is the possible, you ask? It’s really quite simple. Find the emotional courage, the mental hardiness and the physical health to be fully and completely present in every moment of your life. Sound hard? Yep. It’s a skill, just like a muscle you build in your body. So how do you do it? Here are 4 simple steps you can take towards this goal RIGHT NOW:
1. Daily practice. This brings CLARITY. If you don’t have one, get one. At first, it doesn’t matter so much what it is other than something that helps you clear your mind. My favorite methods for this are:
A. Morning pages: If you have ever heard of the Artist’s Way, you know of this practice. It’s three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing every morning that helps you dump the garbage out of your brain, so you have space for everything else.
B. Gratitude Journal: When you focus on the positive, the negative stuff that isn’t real or need to be part of your world falls away. Really. When you can reframe your life into what is positive rather than focusing on the negative, your “mental muscle” for noticing the positive really improves and you start to notice the beauty more completely than the ugliness.When you are naturally more happy, this draws more happiness to you without effort.
C. Meditation: This is the super drug of the yoga world, in a really good way. When you meditate, you find yourself more able to deal with the slings and arrows of fortune and more importantly, make the changes that are important for you and your life. It takes courage to sit and be still, to take stock of how you live your life, as it is not always pleasant. (Nobody ever tells you that, but I think it’s important for you to know!) Nevertheless, the benefits quickly begin to outweigh the negatives, and meditation can become like your best friend. Always there for you, allowing you to be just as you are, in any one moment.
2. COMPASSION. This is essential, both for your path of personal growth and for your community. What does compassion really mean? I think the Dalai Lama always says it best: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Compassion for me means the unrelenting commitment to serving others and our community at the expense of our own egos. Our natural ego is a healthy thing, the thing that keeps us identifying with our bodies and keeping them healthy. When the ego gets out of control, as it often does in Western culture, we consider ourselves the most important thing all the time. This can lead to behaviors that are detrimental to not only the health of others, but also to your own emotional, physical or mental health.
Compassion is not always comfortable. In fact, a lot of times it can feel pretty darn uncomfortable. There is a level of intensity that is above the norm when we deal situations that call for compassion. Maybe you are talking to a difficult friend, who for the thousandth time, is complaining about her lack of satisfaction in life. Maybe you are seeing a destructive health pattern happen for the thousandth time in a relative that just won’t own up to the fact that their behavior is causing their suffering. Maybe you are dealing with someone so in pain or suffering in that moment that they literally just can’t process what is happening to them or help themselves. Maybe someone is just causing you pain. Compassion is a blend of patience, grace, love, awareness, vulnerability and strength. It takes the strong, compassionate friend to stick by someone in crisis, putting their needs first over your own. It also is compassionate to put your own needs over others, when the balance tips too far in the other direction. Just this practice can give you strength in many situations in your daily life.
3. Commitment. No one learns how to be strong overnight. When you figure out a practice you are going to commit to every day, make yourself a tracking system. Know, concretely, when you do it and when you don’t. Some easy suggestions for tracking your practice:
A. Write it down. When you figure out what you need to do, write it down. There is something about translating thoughts and feelings from the ether into the written page that can do one of two things: let you let go and crystallize where you want to go. Be as clear as possible with your goals and ideas!
B. Keep a calendar. Maybe it’s something about getting gold stars on my homework and chores chart when I was a kid, but it really helps me to see my commitments as I keep them visually. Something about being real and in front of me that helps a lot in bringing the habits of strength into more and more of a daily practice. Soon, what seemed extraordinary is now ordinary and part of my routine. This helps me quickly gain control of times when I am not successful, and reinforces the adage that “every day is a new opportunity for change.”
4. Accountability: We need people to witness our goals and to hold us accountable for change. If you make empty promises to the empty air – how has that ever got anybody anywhere? Give yourself the following:
A. Small goals. Give yourself something attainable that is not pie-in-the-sky. Don’t promise the moon, either. Pick something reasonable yet still challenging. One great exercise I learned from the Artist’s Way was Ten Tiny Changes. Write down ten tiny changes you can start practicing today that will help you towards your eventual and larger goal. It can be as simple as “I commit to not say this habitual phrase in conversation.” That small trigger you place in your consciousness can help you promote greater awareness in all situations, and even learn a little about what you habitually do that doesn’t serve you.
B. Community: Have someone to hold you accountable. Who is going to tell you when you miss the mark? Find someone you trust to tell you the truth about how you are doing, and create a container for them to do so in a loving and compassionate way. A weekly meeting or check-in at a designated day or time can help you reset the clock if you mess up, and also acknowledge your successes so you can rejoice in your progress.
If you can put all of these things together, they are a very powerful recipe for change. It can also bring you joy in your transformation when you blend in the element of compassion. The formula for change looks just like this:
CLARITY + COMPASSION + DEDICATION (Accountability + Commitment) = JOY & TRANSFORMATION.
Now get out there and give it a try! Come back and tell me how it goes – the community wants to know!
Serving others. What does that mean to you? For yogis, it is a daily commitment that their actions serve their community – and not just close friends and loved ones. The practice of Seva, or selfless service, is one that deeply permeates the yogic tradition. Some examples of the highest Seva practices have been shown in American society by every day people, going to work, doing their jobs, living their lives as best they can.
It can be difficult to be in the mindset of seva. Our culture is so much about me, me, me and I, I, I that we can get lost in what we want for ourselves and completely forget about the person standing right in front of us. The question I pose to you is – how does that benefit you? When you push aside the person in front of you – maybe forgetting about their feelings or so focused on your own needs that you forget the world around you – do you ever ponder the consequences of that mindset? Too often, we can get completely insular about our own needs and forget that one of the most rewarding paths to happiness is through service to others.
This is a funny practice to talk about on tax day – our taxes are a contentious point of service for many people. We can’t change tax day, but we can change how we feel about service in general. So what does seva look like in your actual habitual mind processes? For example, it means stopping and considering how you can best serve others even when your intention is to serve yourself. So how does service fit into your life? Here are some ideas and thoughts about how the concept of service can be incorporated into your life from my own experience:
1. Slow down and take your time. Moving quickly has its place, but to be in service to yourself, when you find yourself rushing, take 5 deep breaths. Really pause and try to open your lungs deeply. If you take a really deep breath, you can feel your belly expand all the way down into your low pelvis. Repeat the mantra, “I am reconnecting to what is really important in my life.”
2. Take the time to express your gratitude. Even writing down 10 things to yourself that you are grateful for can be a helpful exercise. Many people do this once a day, to keep them focused on what they have in their life, versus what they don’t have. Take the time to talk to the people you are closest to in your life, and give 10 extra seconds to the people you don’t – like the cashier at the drug store or grocery store, or gas station. They are in a position of serving hundreds of people a day, often required to have a smile on their face. Make any service industry professional remember why they do their job by being the example of politeness and patience.
3. When emotions overtake the situation, step back and assess what is really important. Do you need to get a problem solved? How can you serve the solution to your problem rather than your emotions about the situation? Taking the emotions out of the driver seat is a great way to see clearly through to solving the problem. Even if you fail a hundred times to make this happen, keep trying. Being clear about problems is the best way to overcome them. Be in service to the answer, not the problem.
4. Let someone else go first. This sounds obvious, but what about when you’re in traffic? Let that person turn in or merge in ahead of you. In the grocery line, allow the person with fewer items go first. Serve others at the dinner table before yourself. Fold your spouse’s laundry with extra care – and cook their favorite dinner when they least expect it.
5. Consistency. Lastly, one of the best ways to promote selfless service in your life is to be consistently supportive of those in your immediate circles. Being stable and consistent in your efforts of service daily, rather than once in a long while, builds positive energy within your community. Small acts of 10 minutes a day, every day, build momentum of positivity in your life and can affect really powerful change over the long term.
What is one way you practice seva in your daily life? Comment here and let us know how you are serving your community today.
One of the fundamental questions of mindfulness practices is: When do you press in and when do you let go? When do you push your limits and when do you gracefully take a back seat? The answer is at the same time more simple and more complex than you might think. I am finding the answer is that I do both, at the same time. Sounds kind of confusing? Yep, it is the concept of paradox in your mindfulness or yoga practice. I’ll illustrate with a few examples to help you understand what I mean:
Asana or Posture Practice
When I am doing a strong yang energy practice (moving, sweating, breathing deeply and generally vigorous poses), I find that softening my intentions and using certain mindfulness cues can help me achieve this paradox. For example, if I am doing a really challenging pose, say Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose, and I am efforting very strongly with my body, if I relax my eyes and think about softening my heart, the whole pose becomes soft yet VERY strong in a way that is subtle yet very real. It’s the same thing in a less strong pose, say Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose. As I inhale and raise my chest, pull my elbows back, engage my belly, etc., I soften in my intentions in the pose. I might repeat a mantra, “I am whole, I am peaceful.” I am still strongly lifting my body into the pose, but the difference is I have softened my mind and allowed more space in my heart to be easy within the effort.
Put the Practice Into Action
Try it right now with a pose of your choice. Arrive at the proper alignment and form for the pose that fits your body best. Once you have arrived in the pose, take a body scan and see if you are pushing yourself to your edge in this moment. Your edge may be different today from all other days – it is today, right now, that is important. Once you are at your edge and pushing yourself strongly for this moment, take your attention to your eyes and literally allow them to soften. Soften your face, ears, nose, throat and back of your head. Allow that softness to ripple down into your heart. Feel space and ease created there. Stay in the pose for 5-10 more breaths, but come out when you can no longer maintain that sense of ease within the effort. Come to a comfortable seated pose and take 10-15 breaths to reflect on the experience. You may wish to write it down.
Meditation or Mindfulness Practices
Meditation practices are by nature, more about letting go and being receptive to what is, in this very moment, your reality. However, they require a strong push of determination, repetition and dedication to form the habit of using mindfulness techniques on a daily basis. You can meditate here and there haphazardly and find some benefits, but the real juice of the meditation realm of practices comes with the push towards doing it every day. This phenomenon of pushing towards change is called tapas in yoga, and it can be translated as heat, discipline or determination. When I focus on doing my meditation in small chunks (10-20 minutes at a time) daily, I find the same paradox exists. I feel the slow transformation of my perceptional abilities start to change over time (months and months), while I get a daily benefit of a more spacious frame of mind and more awareness towards my treatment of others. I find I can let go of things that upset me more quickly on a daily basis, and over the long term, I change my attitude towards those things that upset me completely. I may do a complete 180 degree turn in how I understand something about myself or another, and that can change my whole world view overnight.
Putting the Practice Into Action
Start by finding a comfortable seat. You can sit in a chair or on the floor with a cushion under your sitz bones, but don’t lie down or lean back on a couch. Make sure your spine is straight and your head is positioned over your spine. You can find this out by leaning forward and leaning back, and when your sitz bones sink down into the chair or cushion (like they are getting heavier in that one moment in time), you have found the point where all the weight is over your spine. Now set a timer for 5 -20 minutes. If you are new to meditation, try 5-10 minutes. First, write down a word that describes how you are feeling before you meditate. Now, the pressing in comes from learning to focus your mind during this time period. For today, use this mantra: Inhale: “I am whole.” Exhale: “I am peaceful.” Pause with the breath out: “I hold my own space.” When you are finished with your time period, pause and reflect on how you feel now. Write down a word that describes your state of being, post-meditation. You can take a few minutes to reflect on this, or journal about the experience. The letting go part happens naturally when you bring your attention to the meditation and let go of all other things that are occupying your brain and body. It’s funny – you are doing nothing, yet everything is happening, dropping away and leaving you clearer and more peaceful.
Paradox, Paradox – Are you everywhere?
Start looking for the existence of this phenomenon in your daily life. What do you have to let go of to make other things happen? What do you have to push into to let go of other things? This can be a very rewarding and interesting mindfulness practice in and of itself. Try it for a few days and come back and comment – tell me about your experience!
So if there is one theme that is posted about over and over and over again in yoga blogs, it’s gratitude. Be grateful for this, be grateful for that and everything will go well in your life. But guess what? Just being grateful in your head doesn’t cut it folks. I’m here to talk about radical gratitude. What is radical gratitude mean? It means being grateful for every piece of grit life throws your way, as well as all the nice, pleasurable stuff. Have you ever tried being grateful for every unpleasant thing that happens to you? What if you tried that today? Here are 5 tips to help you be a yoga warrior:
5. Be grateful for the ability to practice every day. And DO IT. Just get to the mat and be grateful that you can get there. So many people don’t have the ability, awareness or introduction to the beautifully life-enhancing practice of yoga. You do!! So get on the mat, no matter how you feel and do something. Be grateful for the aches and pains, as well as the yummy, delicous, “oh this is my favorite pose” feeling. (Note: And TRY the hard poses for you every day. If you try them once a day, eventually they won’t be hard any more!)
4. Keep asking yourself if you are being grateful in each moment. We want to not be grateful. We want to complain and say it’s her/his/its fault for the way things are going. The truth is, that never helps anyone do anything or be anything they want to be. It’s okay to have that thought, but bust right through it and do something else with that energy. Use it as fuel for the fire in your soul to achieve your deepest desires and dreams.
3. Do your best, forget the rest. When you fumble and fall (which we all do), forget it. Move on. Don’t look back to the past, you aren’t going that way. ‘Nuff said.
2. Have fun with the hard stuff. When everything seems to be so hard and you just can’t feel grateful for anything, find a way to play. Be soft within the structured determination of your practice of gratitude. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, but don’t be overtaken by them. You are in control of your life.
1. Take FULL responsibility for everything that happens to you. And I mean everything. Even if it feels horrible. Ask yourself – how can I learn from this to make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice? Now, if you are thinking, whoa, that is totally unfair, there are things that happen to me that I can’t help. Sure, there are some things that happen to us that are beyond our immediate control – take the recent economy as an example. You and I didn’t make Wall street crash – but the action we can take at home is to be fiscally responsible, protect our finances, learn about smart financing and teach others in our community to be so as well. That is taking responsibility with what is called your “locus of control.” Taking to hand everything you CAN affect does wonders for self-confidence, feelings of security and personal growth. And to do it with an attitude of gratitude? Now that’s radical, dude!
Have a great practice!