Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy (Almost Halloween)!

This morning, I taught Yoga at a YMCA where both children and adults were parading in and out in a variety of colorful costumes, cheery and exuberant.

Whether we dress up as a superhero or a villain, our greatest dream, someone’s horrifying nightmare, our alter ego or just another version of ourselves, Halloween gives us permission to look in the mirror with a slightly different view.

The practice of Yoga continually asks us to examine ourselves. Svadhyaya, self-study, is the fifth of the niyamas, the observances outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Self-study helps us to see how we are placing our feet on the Earth, how we are showing up for our day, how we pay attention, how we commit, where we flail and fail and need to pick ourselves back up again.

Whether we wearing a mask, have painted our face so it is unrecognizable or are simply meeting the world as ourselves, our self (both public and private) is composed of many layers, paradoxes, conundrums. Each day that we meditate, get on the mat, become more aware of our breath and dive into the yamas and niyamas, the restraints and observances that are part of the yogic path, we sift through the many-layered manifestation of this body, this breath, this life. And no matter what day of the year we are practicing, may we uncover our self with the joyful abandonment of a trick-or-treater inviting the neighborhood to shower them with sweets.

May we be sweet in our self-study.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We really do have the ability to create our reality: the reality that is here in front of us as well as the opportunity to imagine a new one. The caveat is that this doesn’t just happen within our meditation practice, by repeating mantra (even if it’s a good, juicy, magical, spell-casting, powerful one), through pasting images on a vision board or even by trading lists and ideas and more with an accountability buddy. It doesn’t happen by complaining, or wishing it were so.

We create our reality through our actions. We create the reality we would like to have in the future by playing around with our present.

This begs the question: what are we doing now? More than chanting, meditating or getting on the mat? It’s not that these activities aren’t important. They are, they’re more than that, they’re vital to being on the path, they rejuvenate and revitalize the body, mind and spirit. They allow those of us in the choir to keep singing. And of course, the peace that we do create within ourselves is the only peace any of us can ever really create.

But more than the ripple effect of this peace, what are we doing with it? There are forces within us and without us that are a far cry from peace. There have been shifting movements in this world that have created more pollution, more heartache, more modern-day slavery, more inequalities, more abuses of rights of all kinds. And how are we supporting or rising up against these? We have the opportunity to make a statement about the reality we want to create every time we shop, every time we spend money, every time we make a decision about what to watch and every time we decide how to vote.

We have the opportunity to transform the peace we cultivate within ourselves into positive action with inroads toward greater justice, love and well-being for all. This is our responsibility as those who have been given this gift of Yoga, of this birth, of these teachings, of the opportunities we have, of everything that was handed to us by our human family.

I was reminded of the urgency of this recently in discussions with friends and colleagues as we’re approaching election day on November 2. We have the great privilege of voting in this country, a privilege hard-won by groups of us who were not automatically given that opportunity. We can create our reality, when we participate with love in our hearts and hands.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

How are we at home? How are we living in a way that we feel at home in our bodies, our living environments, with our families and in our communities? The teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda provide us with information that can be helpful to us to arrange all of the aspects of all of the levels of the way in which we live in order to feel more at home.

As I’ve traveled over the past month, across the desert to Bhakti Fest, across town to the LA YOGA office, to Yoga studios and more, it has been an opportunity to practice the art of making a mobile home. One of the reflections people had at Bhakti Fest was the feeling of being at home, of finding a community of like-minded souls with which to join voices, break bread and cultivate the experience of being at home.

Ultimately, the art and science of Yoga and Ayurveda offer us a method of finding our home in our breath. Our inhalations and exhalations and the spaces between are both the constant in our lives that keeps us anchored in this body, mind, heart and spirit. Our lyrical, rhythmic breath is also the flowing, vibrant, ephemeral, ever-changing creative spark that allows for us to shift our perspective when we need to adjust our stance to live in balance. Our breath is both stable and dynamic and it allows for us to live in the fluid home of this body.

Part of being at home in this body is negotiating the interplay between stability and creativity, between holding steady and dynamic change. And it’s a practice we negotiate lovingly, for best results. When we do, we can find a way to come home, no matter where we are.