Motivation via Meditation Challenge

I am on an insane deadline. I just opened a business, a Healing Arts center focused on yoga and bodywork. I have 7 employees, 3 therapists renting space, 15 classes, 2 websites, payroll, and a very very long to-do list. I am also finishing some yoga teacher training work, as well as completing a both a 300-hour Yoga Therapy program and a 30-hour program Mentoring for ANxiety, Depression, and Trauma-related stress. My step-daughter has been here, visiting from Virginia, off school. My son is in Honor Band. I am about to go out of town for training, gone for two weeks.  I have homework to finish. I have work work, so much work work. So I when I saw the 30-day Meditation Challenge being offered at It’s All Yoga, I knew this was something I needed to help me find balance within my crazy schedule and very full home life. I also knew that regular meditation would help me focus on all the writing and homework. PLus, I love the teacher. So I signed up.

The first group meditation was great. 20 minutes went by in both an eternity and a flash. Yoga class afterward with Carrie was amazing. I hovered in Chatarunga. I felt FANTASTIC afterward. All day I carried with me this Yoga and Meditation High. The next day, i did not meditate. Or the day after, not even the day after that. Today, I felt the panic rising as I see deadlines looming before me. I sat here at the computer looking for tools to help me get this massive pile of work done. I played Bach, then Beethoven. And i reached out to my Facebook friends, asking for motivating vibes. I needed help.

Then I checked my email. There was a new message from Jeanne, the meditation-challenge teacher. It was sent at about the same I was facebooking for help. She offered some tools, one of them was a video. With her smiling face. It was short and sweet, and among other helpful things gave me permission to meditate for 5-minutes, 3 days this week. I can do that, said I. I felt better suddenly. I noticed a Cat Stevens video on the sidebar. I pushed play and got comfortable in a sitting position and prepared to meditate. I decided I would sit through 2 songs.

I normally prefer to meditate in silence. I usually have no trouble finding stillness in meditation, but I don’t do it very often. So if doing it more often means experiencing some discomfort, I am game. I am willing to move through discomfort to find the benefits of meditation, which are many. Lower stress levels. Increased Peace of mind. Greater ability to focus. Fewer anxiety attacks. Better coping skills. These are just my personal benefits. There is a long list of clinical benefits, but those are not my focus today. no, today I just needed to find stillness for 5 minutes, and I needed help.

“Oh, young one” started playing. My mind was chattering. So many ideas firing. Return to the breath. The body was so uncomfortable. Return to the breath. The belly is so tight. Return to the breath. Two minutes and 41 seconds. Then silence while the song changed, now “Father and son”. More ideas. More returning to the breath. Then, just as the song ended, stillness arrived. Suddenly, breath moved freely up the spine, in a moment of exquisite physical comfort and ease, and the mind became one-pointed. In that one beautiful moment, my mind was still, my body was comfortable, and i could feel my breath in every cell, every fiber, all through my body. Then i opened my eyes, noticed how long that song was, thought about blogging, and came back to my to-do list. But I did so with a smile on my face, an ease to my posture, and an ease of breath.

So now I shall tackle this to-do list. I feel prepared. I feel motivated. Meditation challenge accepted. Thanks, Jeanne. Namaste.


final weekend

i guess its been awhile since i posted here. i haven’t done the homework for wks 8 and 9, but i am going to be gentle with myself and give myself some space to complete them next week. for now i am pretty excited that i am mostly finished with the final week’s homework.

i have alot of stuff to “word vomit”. svadhyaya for example. self-study. i am grateful to mary pafford and gary krafstow for expanding my thinking in regards to self-study. for many many years i have been resistent to journaling. hate the idea of it, i have mentioned that before in this space. but these articles really challenge my notion that svadhyaya needs to be a formal journaling process, and allows room for my rebellious nature to embrace self-study in spite of myself. i actually have been actively engaged in self-study for years, most actively since working to salvage myself through process of divorce. mirrors to my behavior are available in plentiful supply and i have enjoyed my progress in rear-view mirror perspective.

something from the weekend: business talk with tami. the business of yoga. for 2 years i have been preparing to start my yoga therapy business, but have felt out of my depth until recently. the exercises we did during our time with tami were very helpful in defining how i want to offer myself to students/clients/patients. also confronting that inner critic that would expose me as a fraud has become easier lately, the subject keeps coming up. at this moment i have an oportunity to grow my bodywork and therapeutic yoga business into a glorious healing arts center in the heart of my neighborhood, an underserved community waiting for the richness of a multi-disciplinary healing arts center. this last couple weeks of homework/instruction/etc has helped me put my business plan in writing (FINALLY!!) and make reasonable financial projections and turn them into a lease proposal that is being considered at this very moment. this time next month i shall be opening oak park healing arts, a collective of complementary alternative health practitioners with classes and workshops plus a full yoga schedule and onsite therapeutic bodywork. without tami’s defining questions i might still be fussing over how to present my idea, but thanks to the answers in my notebook i had a framework for my mission statement and my personal resume. this is a work in progress, as am i.

weekend #7 reflections

20151020_081806_HDRthis is my initial “brain dump” for the homework sequence this week. i sometimes have a hard time getting started, and this week is no different. but i had a pose in mind, wheel, and i wanted my sequence to build to it nicely and have a nice counter/cooling sequence at the end, so i just started writing down poses. i wrote my peak pose in the middle of the page and started filling in around it. when i exhausted my store of ideas, i went looking through google to fill in the sequence. i also wanted to highlight the basic actions, centered and internally rotated thighs, strong shoulders, and backbends. i am pleased with my result, and though i realize this sequence might be hard for a beginner, my study partner likes challenging yoga so i created a class that might be difficult for some, like me, but hopefully will be fun for eva, and let her come up to her edge a bit.

observations and reflections: writing a class sequence shouldn’t take this long. 2 hours. i look forward to practicing more and getting into a routine of sequence writing so that it doesn’t take all day. i observed bella’s class last friday evening, let it roll, and i noticed that her language consistently came back to her theme and peak awareness. we talked a bit afterward, and she said that it comes with practice. i am excited about team teaching next month with eva and theresa, and the opportunity to practice not only teaching the poses but also developing my own enthusiastic presence. practice practice practice.

post weekend #6 thoughts on letting my insides out

i hate journaling. i feel exposed, and i can’t have that. well, at least in the past, like before right now. it is suddenly dawning on me that to truly embrace yoga and the path i have chosen, and in order to develop and hone my authentic Yoga Voice, even more important than learning how to instruct a person in performing a pose (a skill i am learning but at which feel woefully inadequate), i must be honest with myself about a few things. and journaling is the way it has has to be done, i guess. i don’t even understand why. but yoga study requires self-study, or svadhyaya.

“The aim of svadhyaya is to bring the experience of that immense Consciousness, the Self, to awareness (these words are capitalized here to set them apart from ordinary consciousness and self-identity). Just as we might theorize that one day a wave could discover its watery nature, so a human being may discover the deep Consciousness that is the substance of individual awareness. It is this process of Self-discovery that is the essence of svadhyaya.

But to say that Consciousness may be brought to awareness, or “known,” does not mean the Self is an object, like a book or a piece of fruit. We can never claim to have stumbled upon the Self like we would a piece of loose change in a parking lot. Just as a wave cannot be the possessor of the ocean, the Self cannot be possessed by individual awareness.

Instead the Self must be experienced as the deep basis of individual awareness, and this is possible only when the mind can grasp its own underlying nature (sva) through yogic means. Broadly speaking, we could say that all yoga leads to svadhyaya, but certain specific methods are more closely associated with it. The sages tell us that we are the Self and that to “study” it is to gradually know it. The specific techniques for gaining this kind of experiential knowledge are collectively called svadhyaya.” – from this article by rolf sovic Understanding Yourself: The Path of Svadhyaya.

it feels so uncomfortable. it suuuuuuuuccckkkksssssssss. nonetheless, i shall now begin.

until recently i have felt “not yogi enough”, like a fraud. in fact that is a word i have used in negative self-talk, in the past. that and charlatan. it occurs to me today that perhaps my only fraud is in deceiving myself into believing that it is not okay to simply be a human being, one with faults and bad habits and tendencies to argue, to want to be right, quick to anger, facebook- addicted, bitchy, don’t get together with my friends often enough, personally lazy in the areas of finance and housekeeping, AND i spanked my kids when they were little. i also am a true friend, a great mom, an intense lover, a passionate and skilled bodyworker, a creative force, and a person who genuinely loves and embraces yoga.

i swear alot, and have a dirty sense of humor. i can be quite crass. sorry. i do my best, but it slips out now and then. imagine what i manage to keep inside! speaking of crass, this article speaks for one of the voices in my head: “At any rate, when people ask you how you are at yoga, don’t tell them anything bad has happened to you unless you’re prepared for the suggestion that you look at your misfortune with an attitude of grace and gratitude. And while I think grace and gratitude are both wonderful things, I also think they are attitudes best preceded by bitterness, rage and self-pity.” When i get really and truly pissed, i may never forgive that person who pissed me off. i may SAY i have forgiven, but in my heart i usually hold a grudge. i work on this constantly but until becoming acquainted with sutra 1.33, the part about regarding with equanimity those whose actions appear to oppose my values, i really couldn’t feel it. at least lately. but as of today, i am going to attempt simply noticing these human emotions, and feelings, and behaviors, and just cop to them when they happen. maybe that is how i will confront my edge today. it’s uncomfortable, but not painful. this is yin yoga. i shall now begin holding this pose.

“Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself. It is healing to know all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways. You can know all that with some sense of humor and kindness. By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether.” – Pema Chodron

om shanti.

What would it be like to soften the grip?

i have two close relationships that cause difficulties for me. they can both knock me off-balance, and have many times. the last month or so i have had several opportunities to maintain healthy boundaries, but after getting this homework (well really long before then, but learning sometimes has a curve) i have been considering what it would be like to soften up. to allow their opinions and behavior to not affect me. this feels like softening my grip on my need to tightly control my environment, by trying to control how people interact with me. with my father, i feel pushed by his opinions. but what if let him have his opinions and what if i didn’t mind that his views are opposite my own? with my husband’s first wife, what if i didn’t feel attacked whenever she issues her email manifestos, what if i didn’t take it personally when she tries to change everything? what if i let my husband handle his custody issues, and i stayed out of it? i haven’t tried this yet, but there is no time like the present.

to preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:

kindness to those who are happy

compassion for those who are less fortunate

honor for those who embody noble qualities

equanimity to those whose actions appear to oppose your values

weekend #6

this was a big weekend for me.

i loved our friday evening session with denice. the asana was great for me, nice slow groin and hip work. i tried to use one of her pose sequences in my 60 minute sequence, didn’t quite get it right but i will keep trying. it started with one-legged happy baby, morphed into head to big toe, then into an extended crosses over the other side of the body. using a strap around foot. it felt amazing on the outer hip, and i liked the way denice guided us into a fuller opening by asking us to try lower the sit bone closer to the floor. it worked for me.

i really enjoyed althea’s talk. i am excited about completing my own yoga therapy training, and her talk inspired me. she filled in some gaps around how to apply the knowledge. in particular i really liked her intake form, how she went from the physical body to the layers of the subtle body in her questions. very nice way to inquire.

another thing that made a big impression on me was michelle’s “campfire belly”. my lower belly was sore for DAYS, yet i was happy to feel my body at work. it was a powerful instruction for me, one i will use with students and clients as well as in my own practice. i have been mindful of campfire belly daily since last weekend!

weekend #5 – the subtle body

Carrie’s talk on the subtle body, layering many schools of thought into a larger understanding of yoga and the subtle body. i appreciated her perspective. i remember hearing teachers in massage school say “there is no overlap between the chinese meridians and the western nervous system”. this sounded so incomplete to me at the time, didnt ring true at all, and carrie confirmed in her talk what i have long known to be true. different philosophies around the world developed varying ways of talking about the body, chinese medicine has meridians, ayurveda has nadis, thai medicine has sen lines, and western medicine has nervous system and circulatory system. i realize they don’t correlate exactly one to each other, but for the purposes of learning about the koshas it helps to create a broader understanding.

“Like training a puppy, be kind, gentle, and consistent.” – What issue is arising for you right now around yoga and Asteya?

nischala joy devi offers this translation for Astheya – generosity, honesty. as in sutra 2.37 – Abiding in generosity and honesty (Astheya) material and spiritual prosperity is bestowed.

i steal time from myself on a regular basis with social media and a couple of other intensely wasteful activities. i am uncomfortable with admitting them all. my discomfort increases my discomfort.

if i am to be completely honest with myself, i need a break from social media and some of the other ocd behaviors i do when i can’t or don’t want to focus on what really needs to be done. this causes judgement in my mind.

“When you’re not where you are, you steal from yourself the experience of being alive in that moment. If you do that most of the time, you will miss your life.”

this feels like a good practice for me right now, to keep coming back to the present moment. and treat myself gently, like a puppy in training.

On the mat, in the moment:

  • To minimize stimulation and distraction during class, keep your eyes closed when possible or look at neutral objects in the room (a wall, your mat, or the floor) rather than at other people.
  • In each pose and transition, bring your attention back to the feelings in your body and the experience of breath, over and over. Like training a puppy, be kind, gentle, and consistent.
  • When the mind does wander off, relish the feeling of coming back. Get a felt sense of what it’s like to come back into your body and the joy of knowing the moment just as it is.

anatomy of diaphragmatic breathing

come to a relaxed but attentive position. after your next exhale, notice your inhale entering your lungs and slightly expanding the diaphragm below it. feel this breath as it expands your belly slight. allow your body to relax further and notice the breath leaving the body, slowly from belly to diaphragm to lungs.